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.

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