A few weeks ago, David and I sat down and had ‘the money chat’. It happens every 6 months or so, and we both hate having it because it never starts well and always ends badly.
In an alternate universe, it would sound like this…
“Cayles, we’ve had a brilliant six months! We’ve paid the mortgage right down, our renovations are nearly complete and we’ve both been spending within our budget. You’ve sold enough books to send the children to any school we choose and there’s even enough left to take the kids sailing for six months.”
“Oh, David, I’m so glad to hear that. Those 16-hour days have really paid off! Let’s crack open that bottle of Grange we’ve been saving!”
Back on Planet Reality, it goes more like this…
“Caylie. We need to stop spending money.”
“David, I don’t spend money. You do.”
“Yes, but at least I make money.”
“Are you suggesting I don’t work hard? “
“No, I know you work hard. But you don’t bring in any money.”
“Do I need to go back to work? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Not if you turn your book into a best-seller, or school volunteers start getting a wage.”
“But launching a successful book takes time, David! I’m also trying to build a writing career and a journaling business, not to mention having to market it all by myself!”
“Yes, I know that, but we can’t afford to eat. You choose: Self-actualisation or food for the children.”
Point taken, well made.
So, trusting that I’d be sent a sign to help me in the right direction, I telegraphed a message to the universe for assistance. I’m an agnostic pagan, bear with me…
Half an hour later, I received an e-mail from a friend saying she knew of a school-hours job, within five minutes walk of home and school that had my name written all over it. Within 48 hours, I had the job as a proof-reader for an engraver. Four days a week, lovely people, 9am-2.30pm (so I can do school runs and volunteer one day a week) and, more importantly, we can now afford to eat.
Talk about a being-slapped-in-the-head-with-a-wet-fish sign.
The thing is, even though I am ever-grateful to the universe, my new employer and the friend who put my name forward, I am scared that this is the end of my writing journey. I am scared that I’ll be back on the treadmill of ‘working for the man’ (lovely though he is) and not doing something that fulfils my need to make a positive difference. I’m scared that this means I’ve failed.
Last night, in the wake of Robin Williams’ death, I spent the evening watching movies and clips of this wonderful comedian in action. In one of his movies, Mrs Doubtfire, Robin played an out-of-work actor who gets a job in a film studio… packing boxes. Yep, another cliché about the life of a starving artist.
I don’t want to be a cliché. I want to be part of the uprising against unpaid content and publishing houses who only take on well-known writers. I want to prove that self-published authors can make it in the real world.
Fortunately, I know it’s a long, hard road to crack the back of a cliché, and I am aware that I sometimes have to trudge uphill through waist-high mud on my new journey. Much as I hate quoting American actors, I have to give it to Ashton Kutcher, who recently said in a speech to a graduation class, “Opportunities look a lot like hard work.”
So, I have decided to accept the gift of paid, school-hours work with grace and humility. It might not be the job that leads to a lucrative writing contract, but it pays my bills, it brings us out of the red and it gives me the ability to be both mother and provider. The nature of the work also means that I won’t be bringing any stress home, which gives me head space at night to keep on with my writing and creativity. Happy me = Happy family.
I am, therefore, taking this rare opportunity to have my cake and eat it too.
It’s just a smaller piece of cake that’s been made by someone else and can sometimes be a little hard to swallow.
Caylie writes weekly essays on her blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to help people feel less alone through shared laughter, tears and inspiration. She works to transform everyday events into vivid sketches, showing an understanding of what parents, women and people in the community are going through.
Her first book, Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers, is now available for purchase online, at selected books stores and via her website.