Writing Full Time: Living the Dream, or Not

Last week, I was interviewed by podcaster, mystery novelist, and artist, Joanna Vander Vlugt. Joanna’s podcast, JVCArtStudio From the Dressing Room. We discussed all sorts of things about writing and the writing life. Please check it out  at: https://anchor.fm/jcvartstudio/episodes/Mystery-Author–Debra-Purdy-Kong-e16s9ns

Now, I need to thank blogger Jacqui Murray for today’s post. We were discussing a topic on her blog, which gave me the idea for this one. Thank you Jacqui!

I know many writers dream of writing full time. It was mine, too. I was lucky to have that opportunity for three years when I left the world of retail and took time to decide what to do next. By the time I ventured into security work, I was more than ready to return to part-time work, and not just for the steady paycheck. You see, I never intended to write full time permanently.

The truth is, some of my best ideas for short stories, essays, novellas, and novels, came from real-life experiences. In the podcast, Joanna and I discussed Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, because it was the book that most draws on my experience. When I was a criminology student, I volunteered at a youth detention center and kept notes for a paper I’d be writing for a course. Let me tell you, those notes came in handy when I started that book two decades later.

I’ve found plenty of inspiration and motivation by simply going out in the world. Whether through employment, fitness centers, volunteering, socializing, hobbies, writing events, or riding public transit, there are endless opportunities to pick up snippets of great dialogue, create a character, or define a setting.

During those three years, it turned out that I wasn’t that much more productive than I had been when working part-time jobs. I’d learn to become efficient with time management. If I only had forty-five minutes to write, then I got down to it. If I had a whole morning, I’d browse the net and answer emails before opening up the WIP. The point is, you don’t have to be a full-time writer to be a productive writer.

Even if you’re writing world-building fantasy and science fiction novels, your stories still need conflict, relationship, and dialogue, and ideas for your plots can certainly come from real life.

If you’ve already put decades into the workforce and have done plenty of volunteering, hopefully you have notebooks full of ideas, bits of dialogue and setting notes. Still, there’s nothing like a change of scenery to help you get a fresh perspective on your work, to see or touch or smell something new. And wouldn’t it be great if the best of those moments were woven into your manuscript?

If you find you’re at your best writing full time, then go for it, but take those breaks, try something new, a new exercise regime, a new recipe, a new place to visit in your own locale. You might be amazed at what’ll it do for your writing.

How I Spent My Break

If you’re looking for free mystery and suspense novels, I have one more BookFunnel promotion I’m taking part in this summer. This one ends on August 1st and there are nearly seventy authors participating. My Casey Holland mysteries, Deadly Accusations (#2) and Beneath the Bleak New Moon (#3) are also free, but only through BookFunnel’s newsletter campaign till Aug. 1. You can find the whole roster of books HERE.

I’m not sure that writers truly ever stop writing, even while on holiday, but I sort of managed it. I didn’t look at my urban fantasy for eight days, which became kind of difficult after four or five days. The thing is, when your mind is relaxed and all is quiet, ideas pop up.

This is how I found myself working on characters and an outline for the paranormal mystery I’ve mentioned in the past. It was great fun exploring ‘what-if’ concepts and creating characters. It was even more fun coming up with ideas for monsters. I’m trying to stay away from old familiars like vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, at least with this book. Creating monsters is a whole new challenge in my writing life, but I’ve read a couple of good books on the topic.

Speaking of reading, I read a terrific how-to book called Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw. She goes through the basics of writing a crime novel, but takes it further in the second half of the book by offering helpful advice on marketing, publishing, and promotion. I especially liked that she went the extra mile to provide a list of awards and competitions to submit to, and a list of sites to help promote your work. Although I’ve read my share of how-to books, I always find that reading these books sparks ideas for current projects.

Last, but definitely not least, I spent a great deal of time with little Ellie, who’ll soon be one year old. Last week, she learned to crawl up a couple of steps and had her first ‘swim’ in the lake with her mom and dad. I’m always amazed by the astonishing changes during a child’s first year of life, and can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

She’s hold a favorite new toy, a bowling pin.
She loves her food.

An Inspiring Family Conversation

Cartoon of Girl WritingI don’t often discuss my writing projects with my family. In fact, many writers I know don’t discuss their work in general, some because they feel it might jinx it or diminish their enthusiasm. Others believe that non-writing friends and family wouldn’t be interested. Let’s face it, there’s a reason no one’s made a TV show or reality contest about novel writing. It’d be pretty boring to watch.

My husband, daughter, and future son-law are all accountants, and my son is a science major working in the tech field. You can well imagine that my job doesn’t really fit into conversations easily, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me that no one’s ever asked “how’d your writing go today?” Most days, the answer would be pretty vague and monosyllabic.

This weekend, my daughter was helping me add hyperlinks to my ebooks and later, while we were having dinner she asked when my next book would be published. She also asked me about my creative process. She wanted to know if I create a situation, incident, or plot and then weave my series characters to fit that, or do I look at my characters first and create a situation to fit them? It was a great question, which launched a discussion about the creative process.

You see, my husband also paints water colors as a hobby. My daughter is a terrific writer and articulate communicator in her own right. She exceled at novel analyses in English classes and wrote songs and played guitar in her late teens. Both my husband and daughter have friends who are professional artists, so creativity isn’t completely foreign to their world.

It was a fascinating discussion because I learned things about my husband’s hobby that I never knew (he often gets up at the crack of down and experiments with drawings before he leaves for work), and I learned how my daughter’s friend arrives at the themes and decisions that appear in her paintings.

Through the half hour or so we spent sharing experiences and ideas, I became more excited at the prospect of finishing my current WIPS, of exploring topics in ways that I hadn’t considered in a long time. It was enlightening, inspiring, and a great boost. Isn’t it amazing where inspiration comes from?