Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big life changes & new project (also: thanks!)

Well, it's finally happening. I've just emailed my boss at work to discuss what's called "downshifting" in business parlance, that is, work less time for less money, while devoting more attention/time on the things that are actually meaningful to me. In other words, cut the things that anybody can do and replace them with things only I can do. Everybody can edit a financial report. Only I can write my stories.

I had to go against quite a bit of my deep-seated programming. I like security. I like money (not for its own sake, but for the things I can do with it--pay off my house faster, go travelling). I like the independence of being able to say, "Fuck this, if writing doesn't work out, I'll do something else." Fact is, it's what I've been doing for nigh-on twenty-five years, I think it's safe to assume that I'll continue doing it for a little while longer.

The economy is another factor. My current job was never meant as more than a "Notnagel" (German, lit. "emergency nail" = emergency solution). I was much better paid in banking, and I took this job as a stepping stone to return to banking, get some financial qualifications (which the people here promised me and that haven't materialised as yet) and overall have a fairly easy life.

Well, after about 10 months, I have to admit that the financial industry won't be re-hiring in research/editing any time soon, so I might as well be "stuck" here for another few years. I'm not moaning. The last 18 months gave me time to focus more, though I was more productive in my banking job (thanks to an environment here where I struggle to focus on anything for any significant stretch of time).

I had to kick what I call my "real-life ambitions" out of my head. Writing is the focus of my life, no question. I don't really care about much outside of it. I won't have a brilliant career in the "real world". I've seen and met people who had them, and I'm not even sure the trade-off in time in worth it. Certainly not as somebody's employee. (A writing friend who quit her day job said she'd resented "making some asshole rich" - quite.)

In addition, in the last six months, my writing income has reached a level and consistency that'll allow me to make that step with likely no negative impact on my overall income. Originally I was going to play it safe and cut two Fridays a month, but I will be much happier on a four-day week, with the eventual intermediate goal of cutting the time I do fairly useless and routine things in an office to 2.5 days a week (largely for the pension benefits) in the next 2-3 years.

That said, I'd love to go full-time as a writer, possibly throwing in some freelancing as a coach and writing teacher, to "pay it forward" and spend more time with real-life flesh and blood people. It's a goal for the next 5-10 years.

I don't know yet what impact this'll have in terms of productivity and what I'll write. It's clear that the money is in contemporaries, but, although I love them, maybe only 25-30% of my ideas are contemps. I'll have to make sure that I'm not selling out in the larger game of Making a Living as a Writer. I don't think I could. When the Muse grabs me, there's extremely little I can do about it.

What I will have to do--and I think that's entirely possible--is to significantly up my daily wordcount. I'm incredibly inspired by working this past week with LA Witt. We wrote a 67k first draft in 5 days. Granted, there's research holes, and editing will take a while, but even if it takes us a few weeks to fix what we've written, writing a novel in 5 days is extreme sport, yet I had so much fun. We're looking at either a March or July release date for it, so there's time.

In essence, I think I can sustain my income and my joy in life if I manage one release a month--that includes all the sequels and prequels I've promised. Hard work and being productive is really just a habit, and I'll do what I can to fulfill that quota.

The game-changer for me were my increased sales and much larger royalties, and feeling I have much more control over my "brain children" than I've ever had. I'm already happier and more productive than ever. Now it's time to push this harder and make the most of the opportunity.

What it absolutely comes down to is, I'm losing my independence in some psychologically significant way. It was that writing was almost like feinting in fencing, playing, testing the waters, but now I'm committed to the attack because my royalties ever since Country Mouse and Dark Soul are no longer "pocket money", but a crucial part of my overall income. This makes me vulnerable. It feels like a huge risk, but I think it's time to give this a go. I finally have the courage.

Above all, though, and after this extensive piece of navel-gazing, I have to accept that I have a new boss: You guys. I'm already buoyed and humbled and gratified by your love and support. Meeting my readers, online or in the flesh, is a source of huge joy in my life. Now you're my employers AND my friends/supporters.

I'll do everything I can to say "thank you" for your past and future support--for enabling me to reclaim my time from the corporate world so I can write and publish more books.

Thank you so much. And here's to the future! 


  1. I've discovered your books a little ago and I'm totally in love with them (right now I'm literally swallowing Special Forces).

    I with you the best of luck in this new project, success, muses and happiness and I'll make sure to contribute with my pesos and reading <3

  2. This is very brave. I'm a complete whore to security; any threat to that puts me in panic mode (or straight bitchy). I'm currently working for a bank (QA) and this industry is all upheaval, all the time lately.

    Selfishly, however, I couldn't be happier :) I read the Special Forces series in 3 days and those characters are still rattling around in my brain. I'm looking forward to more books from you, so I won't say anything to discourage.

  3. Good Luck with your journey and adventures in writing and life, Aleks.

  4. Go Aleks! Go! And good luck :)

  5. Such a hard decision to make. I'm grappling with that right now and it's a constant war between the security of a fulltime job and the sadness i feel at being there full-time, week after week after week. It's not that I have a terrible job--in fact, I probably have an enviable one, but sometimes a job ends in your head long before you're able to walk away from it. Then it's like breaking up with a lover and continuing to share a house. It's wonderful that you have been able to get some independence with your writing that will allow you to cut back on your "day job."