what's next

Recently I achieved some clarity on a dilemma about my time, my writing, and the direction to take in the near future.

Here's the background. I write for a magazine called Kids On Wheels, a unique, progressive magazine for young people who use wheelchairs. I'm one of three writer/editors who comprise the core of the magazine; we've all been with Kids On Wheels since its first days as a resource guide.

Like all my writing, it's something I do out of interest, passion, and dedication. I do get paid, but a young, specialized magazine cannot afford very much. Over the course of the year, the fees add up, but it's less than half of what I would earn from a large commercial magazine. On the other hand, my experiences with large commercial magazines have ranged from frustrating to hellish.

I like to be paid for my writing, but that's not my primary goal. If all I wanted from my writing was income, I'm sure I could be writing full-time, but my goals are more complex, and more elusive. I want to educate, inspire and entertain my readers (preferably all at the same time); I want to promote progressive values; I want to write about subjects I care deeply about; I want to challenge myself as a writer.

It's a tall order. When I can find the right mix, it's fabulous. When I can't, I enjoy the free time. I no longer take writing gigs just for money, because I learned that, for me, it just isn't worth it. If I'm going to do something only for money, I'll work overtime on my day-job. It's a lot easier.

Kids On Wheels has been going really well, but it's becoming routine. It's begun to feel like a poorly paid part-time job.

So here's the crux of the dilemma. Because KOW doesn't pay very much, I have to work full-time hours (which I do in a three-day work week). But KOW takes up enough time that I don't have adequate time to develop other writing projects. And now that KOW has become routine, it's no longer satisfying enough to be my only writing.

Last year I approached our publisher about turning my freelance position into a half-time salaried job, which would enable me to drop one day a week from my day-job. As I suspected, the funds just aren't there. I go back a long ways with this company - I've written for the adult wheelchair-user magazine, New Mobility, for 10 years, and I know they treat me fairly. They're not bullshitting me, they pay what they can - but that isn't much.

For many months I've been letting the issue sit on the mental back burner, knowing that eventually I would know what to do. That's what's great about getting older, for me. Questions that would have once made me anxious and worried as I tried to force a decision now just simmer away and let me know when they are cooked. (Sorry about that awful cooking metaphor!) I guess that means that I trust my process.

So a few days ago - just before the clock started ticking on my day-job - I knew what to do.

I have to stop writing for KOW, or at least greatly cut back my involvement. It's sad, because I love the magazine and I contribute a lot to it, both in writing and ideas. But it's time to move on. I have several ideas that I need to try. I don't know if any of them will come to fruition, but that's a separate issue, and mostly not in my control. I need to give some other things a shot.

I just turned in my assignments for the spring issue, and the summer issue will be my last, at least for the foreseeable future.

This morning there was, perhaps, a bit of serendipity. In today's Star, there's a big story about girls' issues, which is really a PR piece for a new girls' magazine and website. It sounds perfect for me, and it's perfect timing. They've just launched, and I'm just freeing up time.


M@ said...

Fantastic! I understand what you're going through and I think you're absolutely doing the right thing.

One of the problems is that writing is so close to the writer. If you're not really enjoying it, not really passionate about it, eventually that will show. You can have a fake smile for a while, try to keep your voice sounding chipper, but eventually it will show through. Good for you for recognizing it before that happens. (I've had a few too many jobs where I was just marking time for the last few months I was there.)

It's one of the reasons I haven't been trying to force my way through my latest writer's block. While I would love to bust through it and get this damned novel finished, I know that forcing it isn't going to work. While the work is work and takes energy and discipline, the inspiration has to come from somewhere deeper than that. In the meantime I'll do my paid work and so on. When the novel is ready, it'll come.

Good luck approaching the girls' magazine!

laura k said...

Thanks, M@!

Good for you for recognizing it before that happens. (I've had a few too many jobs where I was just marking time for the last few months I was there.)

Eyup, that's how I recognize it, from having stayed too long in the past. In one example, I used to write a sports column for New Mobility (wheelchair sports), and towards the end I was phoning it in. It showed.

It's one of the reasons I haven't been trying to force my way through my latest writer's block.

You're very wise. It's hard to let things run their course. But I think being blocked is part of the writing process.

Granny said...

It occurred to me that I haven't said hello in ages even though I lurk and catch up on your posts in bunches.

So, hello. I wish you well with the job thing.

laura k said...

Hi Granny, nice to see you. Thanks for your good wishes.