Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Want the Money, Honey

By Amy

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.


Melissa Amateis said...

Well said. I'd like to pay off my credit card bill with my writing, too. Someday I hope to do that - but in the end, that's not what gets me in front of the computer. It's all those great characters who won't leave me alone!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Amy, I love this. And you're so right--if we don't love our characters, our own stories, how in the world can hope readers will?

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Melissa, wouldn't it be a relief? Ah, well, at least I escape the real world in a good book.

Judy, isn't it true? We must be faithful to the story first. I was recently writing a scene and I wanted my character to go in one direction, she, however, chose another. We tussled all night, but in the end I let her have her way. She was right. Gosh, to anyone other than I writer I'd probably sound demented.


Gail said...

Just wanted to take second to tell you that you ALWAYS touch me with your writing and I am SURE you touch many others and will continue to do so. Gail

Larramie said...

Regarding your first novel, you admitted: "Nothing had ever made me feel as complete as when I typed the words The End. And simply reading those words, Amy, brings back that feeling -- which will always be enough for me.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Aw, Gail, coming from you -- one of my favorite storytellers -- that means a lot.

Larramie, isn't it something? I'd love to read your book someday. No pressure.


Larramie said...

Let's put it this way, Amy. I relate very well to the woman you wrote about last week! ;)

Therese Fowler said...

Amy, I believe your time to receive charming notes is coming soon. Along with the funds to pay off that credit card.

Both aspirations are worthy and realistic.

Lisa said...

Amy, I have such respect for the way you honor your art. I look forward to seeing your words in print with conflicting emotions of patience and excitement.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, you are truly an enigma.

Therese, thank you for your faith in me. It means the world.

Lisa,it's hugely encouraging that you would believe that. We shall see.


John Robison said...

If you continue to chase your dreams, and keep your goals in sight, and stay focused . . . one day the credit card bill won't matter anymore.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

You're right,John, you're absolutely right. And aren't you the perfect example? You're living the dream.