Friday, August 15, 2008

Quitting My Day Job!

My big announcement that I’ve been dying to tell you for a couple weeks now is that I’m quitting my day job! Now this doesn’t mean that IWBYJR is selling insanely well (I have no idea how it is selling, I don’t think you get regular updates on these things unless you are best seller) or that I have a big, cushy multi-book deal lined up or anything. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that I’ll be making my living entirely off writing; I’m not anywhere close to being able to do that. Nope, I’m quitting the full-time office job to go back to bartending part-time at the Beacon Pub. So yeah, I guess the subject header is a little misleading as I’ll still have a part-time day job. But it’s a step. A big step. It’s giant leap of faith that someday I will be able to make my living off writing, so retirement funds and paid vacations and great health benefits be damned, I’m going to structure my life so that writing can be my primary focus. It’s liberating, it’s exciting, it’s freakin’ terrifying.

I’ll share all the stuff that has been floating around my brain for the past couple weeks in a moment here, but hopefully I made the right decision because it’s done. I put in my notice a couple weeks ago (was waiting to announce until I got my Beacon schedule so I could share it with you, but that’s still a bit up in the air. However it looks like Sunday and Thursday nights are a sure thing), we’re having my goodbye party today, and my last day is next Friday August 22nd. I’ll probably start up at the Beacon again on Sunday the 24th. If you wish, you can come to one of my upcoming readings and celebrate this with me! I’ll be at the Tamale Hut in North Riverside (8300 W Cermak), Saturday around 7:30ism and at Quimby’s in Chicago (1854 W. North Ave) on Tuesday the 19th at 7 pm.

Now let’s analyze!

The Pros

  1. More writing time!!! This is the main reason why I’m doing this. I’ve been struggling for two years now—since I took my full-time office job—to find time to write. I go home from work every day, take about an hour break to eat and zone, then write until I go to bed. I also write during every spare moment on the weekend and I took vacation time to write. This wasn’t ideal because I’m a binge writer and if I have 8 hours to write I’ll use them and use them well, but if I have two or three, I’ll waste most of them on the internet, but it worked for awhile because I forced myself to be really disciplined. Then everything fell apart in late May when I had to start devoting so much of my time to promoting IWBYJR. With the exception of my once-a-week writers group, I haven’t actually been writing. And I’m a writing junkie. When I am not writing, it makes me irritable and depressed.

So I had choices to make. I could either write less and put out books more slowly; I could do a lot less promotion and be far less attentive to my fans and readers, or I could stop working full-time. If I seriously wanted a writing career, I knew I couldn’t choose either of the first two options. Luckily, the Beacon opened their beer garden a month ago and Scott, the owner, was more persistent than ever about asking me to come back. I realized that if I worked four shifts a week, mostly nights, I would have four full days a week to devote to writing and writing related-business. Right now I don’t even have one day because of all the errands and chores that pile up on the weekends. So yeah, it’s a big improvement.

  1. More time for my loved ones. As you can imagine from the grueling schedule above, I don’t have much time to see my friends and family. I see my writer friends once a week, but I’m lucky if I see my best friend once every three weeks. Even my boyfriend who I live with hasn’t had all that much time with me as of late. Fortunately, he’s understanding. Everyone pretty much gets that I am doing the equivalent of working two full-time jobs right now. But that doesn’t make me happy. When I was growing up, my father was a workaholic and it seriously damaged our relationship. I swore I would never be like that.

This hit me particularly hard when Marcel passed away. I’d just been in St. Louis, but hadn’t had time to see him. If I hadn’t had my day job to worry about I could have gone down earlier and had that time. I beat myself up over that quite a bit. I had to stop sacrificing time with the people I love. Three of my friends died suddenly within eight months. Life is too fleeting. I knew this before we lost Marcel. In fact I was looking at my health insurance options when I got the news. And I didn’t make my decision out of grief, but I can’t help but think it would be a decision that Marcel would approve of.

  1. Sleep and sanity. As I’ve mentioned quite a bit (and will now have time to blog about one of these days), I’ve had serious struggles with insomnia since I was 13 years old. This year I used acupuncture to break free of my dependence on sleeping pills, but I’m still only averaging 6 hours of sleep a night when my body wants 8. Why? Because my circadian rhythms do not align with the 9 to 5 (or in my case 8:30 to 5) world. I don’t want to go to bed at 11 and get up at 7. I want to go to bed at 1 or 2 and get up at 9 or 10. Forcing myself to do otherwise is not working. And it’s unhealthy. And it’s driving me insane.

Emotionally I have been running on empty since the end of June. I don’t get enough sleep. I didn’t have enough time to grieve the way I needed to grieve. I’m up til at least midnight every night trying to finish things on a never-ending to-do list and then I can’t shut my brain off to sleep. I can’t keep going like this without a complete nervous breakdown and I had a nervous breakdown in my teen years and it was not pretty. I won’t keep steering myself toward that.

  1. I hate looking professional. Maybe this sounds superficial, but as a creative person it really upsets me. I have this closet full of clothes that I fucking hate. I spent money on said clothes instead of clothes I actually like and that drives me nuts. I kept my hair “normal” for two years. When I put that streak of pink it to celebrate the book release, it felt so good. It made me feel like me again. No one at work has said anything about it, but I think that’s because I’m leaving or because it’s summer. When I started running meetings again in the fall, I’m not so sure it would fly. And I’m sick of having to limit my tattoos to places I can cover. My boss doesn’t really care, but others would take me less seriously and that’s lame. I suck at doing boring professional makeup, so I stopped wearing makeup at work. When I paint my nails, I like to let it chip off, partially because I’m lazy and partially because I’m weird and I like how that looks. I just can’t pull off the office thing. Except when I worked at Columbia where they didn’t care if I wore a t-shirt and jeans. I miss my t-shirt collection. I’m thrilled that I get to start wearing it again while I bartend where my only clothing issue is finding comfy shoes.
  2. Office work is not very inspiring. I didn’t want a writing-heavy job because I like to conserve my writing energy for the writing I enjoy, so I took an office job because I figured I could do it, get good benefits, and go home at the end of the day and write. But it’s draining in its own way along with being a time suck. Bartending was physically tiring, it drove me batshit crazy sometimes, but even on the bad days I came home with interesting stories and ideas.
  3. Time to read. I have like zero time to read right now. It takes me ages to finish a book. This adds to my feelings of general unease with the world as I’m used to at least an hour a day to read. I’m really looking forward to reclaiming that.

Mixed Feelings

  1. My commute. To a large degree, I hate my commute. Most days the CTA is the bane of my existence. They suck so much at keeping to a schedule, they’ve given up on even having one. Trains are supposed to come every 6 to 10 minutes during rush hour. Mostly they don’t. Especially when it’s freezing out. But I like the friendly CTA guy at the Medical Center stop. I like the people watching on the train and my walk from the train to work, though people-watching at the bar is just as good.. I like the peaceful walk past the cemetery between my house and the train. I like the time to just think while I listen to my iPod and I do come up with a lot of stories that way. My commute to the Beacon should be much easier in theory because it is about two miles from my house and a five minute drive. Um, but I don’t have a car. And I don’t want a car. So I’m going to be relying on getting rides or borrowing cars or taking taxis. I’m happy to walk or roller-blade in the summer, but winter….So this might be mildly inconvenient.
  2. My gym. My favorite thing about my job (besides my friends at work) is the gym. It is literally like 50 feet away from my office. I go there every day at lunch. It’s super cheap and convenient and I love love love the free classes they have. I’m in the best shape of my life right now and I don’t want to lose that. There are no gyms convenient to my house. Not without a car and none would be as cheap as my current gym. So two days ago we went and bought an elliptical. It’ll be down in the basement, right in front of the TV, the ideal set-up for me. I can workout and watch whatever I want on TV and be able to use my own shower when I’m done (major plus, public showering really grosses me out. I do it, but I don’t like it.) But I am still going to miss my classes. I think DVDs are going to be my substitute. I have a great kickboxing DVD, but I need more for variety. I really need a good one for abs. Recommendations please!!!!!
  3. Kathy. I’ve come to really like some of my colleagues, especially Kathy. She’s one of my closest friends now, so it sucks to leave her. I know we’ll still hang out, but I’m gonna miss seeing her as often as I do now. This is always the hardest part about a job. I still have my goodbye card from Columbia on my desk because it was so hard to leave those folks. But I’m still close with all of them, so I know my friendships from UIC will survive too.

Scared Shitless

  1. Money. I’m salaried right now. I know exactly how much money I’ll make each month and I like this guarantee. Given I’m not paid that well because I do work for the state and part of what has irked me about my job is that I definitely should be earning more, but I’m used to what I make and I’ve budgeted around it. Bartending is hit or miss. I have a minimum that I need to make each week. The owner is confident I can make it. I’m fairly confident and I do have savings to fall back on, but I’m almost thirty. I’m getting sick of living paycheck to paycheck. I’d like to afford to travel more and visit my out of state friends. I’d like to pay off some debts. Plus Scott (my boy) is finishing school so he’s not in the best financial situation. So this is scary.
  2. Benefits. I’ve got great ones right now. I found insurance for a reasonable price, but it is not nearly as good. I really hope I don’t get seriously sick or injured. And I’m going to miss dental insurance. And I probably should be thinking about retirement more than I do (again, nearly 30, have about 3K for retirement… not good). And paid vacations are nice, though having a boss that understands that I need to take off when I need to take off for writing almost balances that out.
  3. What if I fail? I don’t want to be a bartender forever. I want to write full-time. It’s the only thing that makes me happy. Everything else I seem to lose my patience with after a couple years. But what if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t sell enough books? What if no publishers want to buy my future projects? What the hell do I do? It sends me into total emotional upheaval just thinking about it. I mean, I have a plan B, library science school, but…

Ok, so those are pretty much my main thoughts. Feel free to share yours. Unless you think I’m totally stupid to do this, that might be a little bit upsetting to hear. Encouraging words are appreciated, especially from people who have taken a leap like this. Advice on budgeting both time (so I do get the max out of my writing time) and money is excellent. Workout DVD recommendations rock. Promises to visit me at the Beacon and tip well are good, too. And if you were holding off on buying my book, now would be a great time to go ahead and buy it, lol!

Happy weekend! It’s one of my last seeing as weekends will be workdays for me soon!


Ameya said...

Congratulations! This sounds like it will be a much better fit for you :) Hope it all works out (i'm sure it will)!

Steph said...

Steph! I'm so proud of your courage to do this - you're well aware that things could go wrong, but you're setting your eyes on what you really, really want. Regardless of the risks, I think you're totally awesome for doing this. May your writing full-time dream come true!!


Diane said...

Woohoo Steph! 4 days a week to write sounds brilliant. I know exactly how hard it is to fit in writing with the full-time day job.

I'm pleased your book is coming out in Australia. I will try to get a photo of me with it somewhere very Aussie and email it to you!

Now I've tagged your for a sci-fi meme. Please visit my blog and follow the instructions.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thank you for your support Ameya, Steph, and Diane. It means a lot to me.

Diane, I would love to see a very Aussie photo of you with the book! That would be so cool. And I will check out the meme and hopefully have time to do it this week!

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