Time For A New Outlook

Four months!! Waaaay too long. I’m still around, I promise. Eight months pregnant, only one more to go. And let me tell you, it has not been an easy ride. I’ve still been writing, I’m just a lot slower and less focused than usual. Besides having baby constantly on the brain, there’s something about being pregnant that’s made me think differently about every aspect of my life. It’s easier to see what’s truly important, and these last months have been something of an eye opener for me. I’ve come to some major conclusions regarding how things are going right now, all of them involving my career.

By day I’m a medical transcriptionist. I’ve been in this field for just over 5 years now, and for most of that time it was honestly enjoyable. The hospital I worked for treated their employees well. Their transcriptionists were well paid and well appreciated, and I loved my job. Unfortunately, last October (and I may or may not have mentioned this in a past post already, so apologies if I’m repeating myself) my hospital deciced to restructure their transcription department. Specifically, they’d chosen to rid themselves of in-house transcriptionists and instead obtain this service by outsourcing their dictations to an outside company. All in the spirit of saving a few bucks. And hey, I understand that ultimately they’re a business and to them that must have seemed a sound business decision at the time. But me, I felt abandoned. For years they insisted we were appreciated, hard workers, an asset to the company, etc. Then, suddenly we were kicked to the curb. They announced their decision to us in the form of a transcriptionist’s meeting, turning the entire thing into a sales pitch for the company that they intended to outsource to and giving us no more than 2 months to either make our transition or make other arrangements, whichever we decided. I was basically screwed either way, but ended up transitioning to the outside company. I knew that our finances would be much lower than we were used to. It’s been seriously rough – we went from me being able to solely support our family on my income alone to panicking at the end of each month and scraping quarters together just to make rent. I make less than half of what I made at my previous job. But it has taken the better part of a year and the impending birth of a second child to fully understand the impact of this job on our lives.

I simply can’t do it anymore. The benefits are ridiculously high, and I have to work my fingers to the bone just to hit minimum wage with my productivity. And as it turns out, the medical transcription field as a whole seems to be heading downhill. Most hospitals and clinics, as I understand, are doing the same thing my hospital did. There were some transcriptionists in my department with 20 to 30+ years of experience who are making the same amount of money as an entry level Wal-Mart or McDonald’s employee. It’s not right. But such is the world we live in.

And so, miserable as my job is, I have made the decision to get the hell out. Though I can’t bail without backup. Not with a family to take care of. This is where my other career-oriented decision comes in.

I spent a long time looking for another job. Even $9 an hour would have been a major improvement. I looked at everything from medical records to housekeeping at a hotel to Starbucks barista… even transcription at a different company. As long as I was making even a little more with manageable benefits, we’d be all right. But then I’d be right back where I started – in a job I hated while I beat myself up for not working hard to follow my dream. And it occurred to me that all this time I could have been working toward my writing dreams. I had the time. What I didn’t have was the motivation. I went on and on about how crappy my job was, feeling sorry for myself because I just couldn’t make the writing thing happen, when the truth is – and it stings a little to admit, that’s for sure – it was absolutely, 100% my fault that it hadn’t happened yet. If I really wanted to be a writer and quit my job, I could have done it. I just… didn’t.

Which leads me into something else that was difficult to admit, even to myself. I had no motivation and I didn’t want to write. My stories didn’t grab me like they should have, I was never excited to sit down and write. In fact, I’d begun to avoid it. It was starting to sound like a chore, and I had to drag myself kicking and screaming through my scenes just to get them done. It took some time and effort to figure out what the hell was going on, but the reality is this:

Writing wasn’t fun for me anymore.

Writing had become a worry for me, filling me with anxiety and dread. I’d become fixated on the end product, constantly convicing myself that my story was garbage, that it would never sell. I was plotting it wrong, using the wrong words. I would surely get laughed at, or reamed on review boards. All of it was worry, and all of it was blocking me from actually allowing my creative self to just do its thing.

Then I came across a website that completely altered the way I think about writing. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but this writer has singlehandedly changed my outlook on my writing life. Here’s the blog:

Dean Wesley Smith

In a nutshell, he’s a very successful writer who has used both traditional publishing and indie publishing (self publishing), and his advice is absolutely recommended to anyone who has lost some of the fun in their own writing. It’s worth a shot, at the very least, to try to recover that spark of excitement that our stories should give us. And it’s certainly not for everyone. There are some who live and swear by traditional publishing, love the process, and are extremely successful doing just that. Totally fine, everyone is different. I know sometimes the traditional vs. indie thing can be quite the debate. For me personally, as I read and absorbed the information and advice that Dean gives, amongst other successful indie writers, I felt like I had finally discovered my path. The light came on, and that spark of excitement returned. I didn’t have to try to please editors or agents, didn’t have to try to land a contract with a big time publisher. I could do exactly what I wanted to do, write exactly what I loved to write and nothing else, and I didn’t have to worry about what others thought about me or my writing. And all of that was ok. There are many, many authors that are doing just that, making a living writing. Because they love to write. I didn’t want writing to feel like a job or a chore, something I had to do to pay the bills. I wanted to be passionate about it… and finally I found a way to do it.

Before now I’d been researching and weighing the pros and cons of indie vs. traditional publishing. I’d been on the fence about it, indecisive, and to be perfectly honest afraid to make a decision one way or the other. On one hand, I’d always understood the traditional publishing route to be where the “real” career was – slaving over that first novel, seeking out and landing an agent, that painful waiting period while the agent tries to sell your story, then if it’s sold there’s some more painful waiting until your book actually comes out. I was so ready to do it if that’s what it truly took, but I have to admit just thinking about the process stressed the hell out of me. On the other hand, though I was in love with the idea of freedom that accompanies indie publishing, I was worried that if I took this route I’d be less respected, and surely have a much smaller fan base (if any fans at all).

But I’m not confused anymore. I don’t want to stress about something I’m supposed to love doing. I’m going to write for me. I’m going to write all the damned time, practice my craft, self publish, and move on to the next story.

A career in writing is no longer just a dream for me. It’s an inevitability.