I had incredibly good luck at the beginning. I was highly paid to write books, which is rare. The movie – which was called Someone Like You – came out in 2001, was based on my first book, Animal Husbandry. Then I wrote two more novels and was very well-paid for those too. The whole time I was riding this wave of good fortune I knew that I was lucky to be one of the exceptions to the rule: Very few writers can earn a living from only their writing.
This past September my fourth novel came out. In publishing, often the more books you write the less you make for each one (unless your books sell a gazillion copies) and that is the situation I’m in now. I’ve been the chief breadwinner in our family – my husband works in special education – so it’s a lot of pressure. With this type of a career you can hit the jackpot – as I did – but it doesn’t happen often. The problem is, I’m always thinking that hey, maybe something great will happen with this next book. (One of my other books has been optioned for a movie, but I’m not sure it’s getting made.)
So despite all that great luck I find myself now at a point in my life and my career where I have to look for a more stable way to earn a living. As a writer you really have to hustle for work -thinking up ideas for magazine pieces; looking for ghostwriting opportunities, etc - and I’m sort of panicking because I’m just not a hustler. Plus, since I haven’t been in the regular workforce for ten years I don’t even know how to apply for a job (do you do it online?) and that makes this scary process even scarier.
Best thing about being a full-time writer and a mom:
The best part is getting to stay home and work in your pajamas and fake yoga pants – I wear yoga pants and I don’t do yoga. And I love that I can take my son to school and be there when he comes home. He is six and I feel like I haven’t missed a thing. When I’m very involved in a writing project I spend the whole day – from the time he goes to school to the minute he comes home – working, but the minute he gets home from school I spend the rest of the day with him.
The other great thing about being a stay-at-home working mom is that I get to straddle the stay-at-home mom vs. working mom issue. Working moms know that I’m the breadwinner and work hard to do what I do; stay-at-home moms know that I’m often there at the school for things like going on fieldtrips with my son’s class.