Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing for Love or Money with Guest Blogger: Margaret Fieland

Win an print copy of Sand in the Desert 
& meet author Margaret Fieland 
today at the Book Boost!

She's here to discuss the business of writing and here's what she had to say...

Do you want to earn your living as a full-time writer? Do you fantasize about having the entire day to devote to your writing? Have you thought through what this would mean? I have.

My mother was an artist who specialized in portraits in oils. Back in the 1930's, when she was in art school, her teacher advised her not to become a commercial artist. Why? Because, he said, she had too much talent. In the end, she married, continued to paint, give her work away, and take care of me and my sister. She believed she would have been happy as a commercial artist. The only two pieces of advice were to keep my money in my own name and to always be able to support myself.

Unlike some, I did not always know I wanted to be a writer. In fact, the idea never crossed my mind. My choice was to become a professional musician or not, and I decided on no. Music, like writing, is a chancy profession where it can be difficult to make a living. In addition,  I didn't want to spend all my time on music. I ended up as a computer software engineer, a profession I continue to practice today.

I love poetry, and I have every intention to continue writing it, but in a lot of ways I'm lucky I don't have to earn my living as a poet. Few poets do. Since I don't appear to be headed for "best-sellerdom"--I would have to supplement my income by teaching, editing, ghost-writing, opening a writing services business, or one of the many other ways writers earn enough to live on. Right now, I choose not to do this. Might I at some future date? Sure. Back in 2005, I was absolutely, positively, sure I'd never, ever, write a word of fiction.

I've written poetry as far back as I can remember, but I didn't become serious about it, or take myself seriously as a writer, until about 2005, when I wrote a poem I wanted to keep and to share. This led me ultimately to organizing my writing and to the Muse Online Writers Conference, where I "met" Linda Barnett Johnson, joined her writing forums, and started writing fiction. I wrote my first novel, a children's chapter book, in a weekend, and then spent the next year and a half or two years learning enough to make it publishable. It will be out next year. My novel, Relocated, has just been published by MuseItUp publishing and I've got a book of poems that I wrote to go with the book published through CreateSpace.

What am I missing by not writing full-time, and what can I do about it? Well, first of all, I'd love to have more time to devote to in-person critique groups and writing conferences. Could I manage this? I have vacation time that I could devote to this, there are several conferences that take place every year in the Boston area, and we could manage the money if it were a priority.

And there we have it: I haven't made it a priority. This past spring, with a fair amount of trepidation, I participated in a workshop at the annual Mass Poetry Festival. Not only did I have a blast, it opened my eyes. I managed to make the commitment and follow through. I gave up a weekend with my family down on Cape Cod, and I drove from my home in Millis to Salem and back on both Saturday and Sunday by myself. But I did it. I hope that I can participate again this coming spring. I'd like to present a workshop, so I'm now considering what I could present.

It's certainly possible to make a living as a writer, just as it is possible to make a living as a musician, and for a while I fantasized about retiring and writing full time. But several things hold me back.

I do better with structure and organization, the kind I get from having a job where I have an office I can go to, a boss I report to, and a schedule I need to keep. I like that. I'm good at the work, I enjoy it, and it pays well. I need the accountability. I'm far, far more productive when I have little time to write than when I have a lot. I type fast, over fifty words a minute. I succeeded in finding the time to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the past two years, and to complete it successfully. Most poems, mine included, are short. To quote Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, "Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself - it is the occurring which is difficult." 

If I decide to earn my living as a writer at some future time, I know I could make it work. If you're reading this, and you want to, I say go for it. Just have a clear idea of the pros and cons.

A Note From the Book Boost: Nicely thought out post, Margaret.  I, for one, am glad you've decided to write fiction (even though you once said "never").  Best of luck with the release and the poetry.  Please come back again soon!


When fourteen-year-old Keth's dad is transferred to planet Aleyne, he doesn't know what to expect. Certainly not to discover Dad grew up here, and studied with Ardaval, a noted Aleyni scholar. On Aleyne, Keth’s psi ability develops.

However, psi is illegal in the Terran Federation. After a dangerous encounter with two Terran teenagers  conflict erupts between Keth and his father. Keth seeks sanctuary with Ardaval.  Studying with the Aleyne scholar Keth learns the truth about his own heritage.

After Keth's friend's father, Mazos, is kidnapped, Keth ignores the risks and attempts to free him. Little does he realize who will pay the cost as he becomes involved with terrorists.

Excerpt (edited for length):

I gazed across the table at Orodi. My heart thumped. I needed to say something. Orodi looked pretty and sweet. “Mazos says I can come tomorrow afternoon to start learning glass blowing. In the meantime, would you like to go for a walk this afternoon?”

Orodi smiled, and her eyes crinkled at the corners. “There’s a park around the fountain in the center of the city.”

Shaffa swallowed his bite of stew. “It’s lovely, lots of flowers and trees, and hidden grottoes simply perfect for two.” He slapped me on the back. “You’ll love it.”

I frowned at Shaffa. “Isn't three or four more usual?” Embarrassment filled me, but I asked anyway.

Shaffa grinned at me. “Two is a good start.”

Shaffa loaned me his bicycle, a sort of mauvish pink like his sister’s. Orodi jumped on hers and started down the street, with me wobbling after her.

Don’t believe what they tell you when they say you never forget how to ride a bicycle. I hadn’t been on a bike in years -- Washington, D.C, had too much traffic and no bicycle paths -- and it showed. Fortunately, the other cyclists gave me a wide berth, and I steadied by the time we reached the park

“I’m sorry I’m such a poor rider,” I lamented as we pulled up to the park, ashamed of my poor biking skills, and wondering what Orodi thought of me now.

“You’ll improve,” Orodi smiled at me, and I realized she didn’t mind.

We parked our bikes in the rack in front of the park entrance. Orodi took my hand and pulled me along one of the paths into the park. “Come on, we have to visit the fountain first, and you need to take a drink. Afterward we can go explore a little.”

As Shaffa said, they made a park from the oasis, with a red ground cover, short and thick, and beds of flowers. Several paths led into the park, winding out of sight behind purple rocks. The umbrella trees provided welcome shade.                         

I stared at our clasped hands, enjoying her soft skin against mine. Orodi’s hand appeared broader than mine, but my fingers were longer. When I glanced up, she smiled at me.

“You’re going to kiss me. I know the perfect spot.”

My mouth dropped open and my face flushed. Orodi laughed, and I observed the mischievous glint in her eye. Excitement bubbled up my throat, but nothing came out of my mouth. We walked along in silence until we reached the fountain.

The fountain had a large basin made of shiny purple stone. Water spouted from a hole in the center, reaching a height of eight feet before splashing back down. Scattered along the rim, men and women dipped their hands in the water and drank. I trembled as I gazed into Orodi’s eyes, wondering what would happen next.

Want More Margaret?

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Margaret Fieland said...

Kerri, thanks for hosting me today.

Heather Haven said...

Wonderful thoughts you've shared. I started writing in my twenties in NYC doing ad copy (Babo, the foaming cleanser to mention one), then moved on to radio commercials, which I loved. I wrote a couple of plays produced o-o-b'way and thought I was on my way. However, making a living at writing is very, very tough. Life took over and I didn't get back to writing until my forties, when I started the Alvarez Family Mystery series. I have no regrets, but time certainly zips by when you're living your life. aren't we glad we got to do it at all? A resounding YES!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Margaret. I love what you posted here and especially,your mother's advice. I wish I had started writing fiction sooner, but life had other plans for me. Congratulations and many sales to come!

Wendy said...

I agree with you, Margaret. I was more productive with writing when I worked full time. Being retired has stinted my 'growth'. I'm not so well self disciplined as I'd like to be, but NaNo gives me focus. Congratulations on your new novel.

Anne Westlund said...

Hi Peggy!

I hear you about structure. It's harder to add the structure to write than you can imagine. One day I'll get it right!



Heidiwriter said...

Congratulations on your book, Margaret! Yes, the discipline of being a full-time writer is an issue. There are so many things you can think of doing instead!

But, keep on writing!!

Shirley Corder said...

Thanks Margaret for an interesting slant on the subject. I was "forced" out of my full-time career as an RN, so turned to writing. I believe it was the correct decision for me, but there's no way I could live on what I make. I'm always in awe at full-time writers who make a living with their craft. I'd love to!

Margaret Fieland said...

Shirley, I asked a writer friend, a fairly successful one IMO, and he told me he made about half his income from his writing -- he's a humorist -- and the rest from repairing appliances.