After my first child was born, my husband and I decided (well, I decided) that we would take a vow of poverty so I could stay home with her. Life was ethereal, all kittens and sunshine. *Sigh* Fast forward a few years, two more babies, and I found myself in the umpteenth dawn-of-the-dead feeding wondering how we were going to pay the credit card bill.
Over coffee the next morning, I told my husband, a reporter, my brilliant idea to make $millions$: I would write a book. My plan was to start as a freelance writer, get myself a column, and then use that as a springboard to write a book. I'd always liked writing. In college, I would churn out my weekly 30 page history paper the night before. It would be a cinch. Oh, and I didn't want to use any of his contacts, I'd do it on my own. To his credit, he took it well.
"Okay," he said, "but don't write for the money. Write because you love it."
Obviously he had not seen the credit card bill.
Of course he was right. I realized this after I started freelancing, about the time I somehow convinced my editor at the Boston Globe to give me a Sunday column. I loved it. No, it was more than that, it filled all of the empty places within me -- voids I hadn't known existed. I was nearly there.
Soon thereafter I started that book, a fictionalized version of my column about the drama of suburbia. I craved my writing time; a few hours among my characters left me euphoric. Nothing had ever made me feel as complete as when I typed the words The End. It wasn't a particularly good book -- it lacked high stakes, a truly sympathetic protagonist, adherence to craft -- but it proved to me that I had found my passion. I'd forgotten all about the money.
Now that I've completed a second, I live, eat and breathe what my husband told me all those years ago. When I was querying and one of the hottest agents offered representation, conditional on my changing a major plot point, I thanked him for his time and interest -- I was truly honored --but declined. He might have sold my manuscript within days, movie rights, too, but I didn't want that. I needed to maintain the integrity of my story. Whatever happens, I'll never regret my decision.
These days my dreams are more sanguine. I'll never earn an extravagant lifestyle from my writing; it would be enough if it were self-supporting. It would be enough to receive letters from readers telling me I'd touched them, that they had taken time from their lives to inhabit my worlds. That would be inestimable.
Still, I'd like to pay off that credit card bill.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007