March 14th, 2011 | 11 Comments »

A freelancer has no set schedule. Projects turn up here and there — they’re offered to you, or (if you’re less fortunate) you go looking for them. In my non-fiction writing life, there is more work available than there are hours in a day, so whenever a new project comes up, there are questions to be asked: When does it start? How long will it last? How many hours a week will it take? What does it pay? How difficult is it? At least, those are the questions I’ve always asked. But recently I thought of a new one.

A publisher I’d worked with before called me up. “Are you available in April?” she asked. “I have a project I think would be perfect for you.”

“Is it more fun than porn?” I asked.

A short silence.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I’ve started writing erotica. I’m really enjoying it, and I’d like to write more of it. But of course it takes time…”

This is a woman in her 60’s, very sharp and experienced, a no-nonsense “New York” sort of person. Top of her field. She sounded a bit worried. “Well, we really need someone with X qualifications” [here she rattled off a list that sounded like it had been stripped straight from my resume] “so naturally I thought of you…”

A pause.

“I don’t know. Do you think it sounds ‘fun’ enough for you?”

“Well, possibly… what does it pay?”

“Oh, right. Erotica pays well, does it?”

“Well, you know what they say — the recession-proof businesses all involve liquor or sex,” I said, neatly avoiding the question.

“Can we meet in person next week to discuss it?”

And so we arranged to do so. I’m pretty sure I’ll take the job — it does sound right up my alley, and I’m sure it pays better than writing erotica, at least for me.

Am I the only one who gets tired sometimes of hearing, “Do what you love and the money will follow”? There’s some truth to that, certainly — especially if you love things like tax law, structural engineering, or dentistry more than you love yoga, childcare, teaching, or… writing fiction.

Some fiction writers make money, of course; and those are often the ones we hear about when someone says “writer.” But there are plenty of writers out there, good writers, who can’t make a living out of it, or not much of one. They might work other jobs, or share expenses with a spouse or other type of partner.

I think it’s more accurate to say, “Do what you love, and you’ll wind up loving what you do. Which may or may not pay.” However, that is an important consideration. I am fortunate enough that some of my writing, the non-fiction part, does pay the bills. Once they’re paid, though, I want a bit of fun. Perhaps when I’ve written (and sold) more erotica, it will pay more, to the point where I can devote more time to writing it, and it will spiral slowly up. Or it may not. It may remain an outlet for creativity, for playfulness, for enjoyment–for fun, in other words. And that’s important. If I don’t schedule time for fun, fun is going to get shoved aside.

Therefore, I’m going to take fun into consideration now, with all the other factors, when I consider how to spend my work time.

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