Saturday, March 14, 2015

Suzanna Linton Guest Post

"Quitting My Day Job to Live the Dream"

In one of the few romantic comedies I enjoy, When Harry Met Sally, Harry (Billy Crystal) says to Sally (Meg Ryan), “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

That pretty much sums up my decision to leave my day job and write full time, with me as Harry and my writing as Sally. However, this is a blog post, so maybe I should elaborate.

My day job was working part-time as a library assistant for the Reference Department of my local library. My job consisted in helping people sign into their email, answer phone calls, and research some of the most random questions in the history of man. And, every now again, I looked up a book.

From a writer’s standpoint, it was a dream job. I only worked half a day, leaving me entire afternoons or mornings to write, and when I did work, I had a front row seat to human nature. (Seriously, the best way to know someone’s true nature is to see how they treat their waiter. Or, the library assistant at the Reference Desk.)

However, as time went by, I grew increasingly discontent. It was a mix of not being suited for customer service work and office politics which often left me on the firing range no matter what I did.

In my writing life, I was trying to get an agent or publisher to take notice of Clara and having zero luck. So, in a fit of frustration, I designed a cover, formatted the manuscript, and published it on Smashwords. Then I started learning what being an independent author was all about. I discovered I had, essentially, jumped into the middle of the major battle of a role-playing video game without knowing how the controls worked.

As I scrambled through a crash course on author platforms, things at work continued to deteriorate, not only with the public but also with my fellow coworkers. My panic attacks and bouts of depression, though lessening in frequency and magnitude thanks to medication and therapy, led to misunderstandings and missed work. A change needed to happen.

One Friday last year, I managed to offend the same coworker for the third week in a row. As I sat at the desk with the tension between us charged enough to set hair on fire, I thought to myself, “I could be writing a blog post right now. I could be promoting Clara. I could be doing any number of things I need to be doing if this whole indie author thing is going to work. Hell, I could be reading and it would be better time spent than this.”

It was my “Harry” moment. I realized that I wasn’t going to get any better at customer service and it probably didn’t matter that we were getting a new library director. Even if things turned sunny and I was given a position away from the Reference Desk (something I had been trying to do for months), I would still be discontent because I would not be doing what I was meant to do. And, perhaps, that discontent was part of the root of my problems with depression and anxiety.

On that following Monday, I put in my notice.

Eight months later, I'm still doing what I love. The rest of my life has started. And, I find myself to be a very different person and very different writer.

Firstly, I'm more confident. When working at the library, I was never sure if what I was saying would be taken well or what sort of person was about to call or approach the desk. But doing what I love and what I know I'm good at, I feel more confident about what I'm doing. I feel more sure. I rarely have panic attacks and haven't had a severe case of depression in months.

Secondly, I'm more committed. When I worked at the library, I couldn't wait until the next break or the moment I could go home. However, now, my husband has to threaten to take my phone or laptop away from me. I love what I'm doing, so I look forward to getting to work in the morning and it's hard for me to leave it at night.

Finally, I'm more serious about my writing. That's not to say I wasn't serious about it before but I have time now to act out that seriousness. I have the time to study writing, read books and articles, and practice through exercises or journaling. Beforehand, my days were taken up in working, housework, and other activities. What time I had for writing was limited.

Yes, there is a measure of uncertainty. Sometimes, I worry finances might force me back into the realm of the day job. Yes, sometimes I get depressed or a little anxious over a current project. But I still love it. I have a second novel out, Willows of Fate and I am so excited about it. I wouldn't change a thing.

The rest of my life has started. I am living the life of a writer. And that is enough.