Friday, October 5, 2007

I am my own (house) wife

As I attempt to transition from writing novels and scripts to also trying to make a little money, I feel very much like a typical housewife trying to enter the workforce. In some ways, of course, this is exactly the case, because I've been a stay-at-home dad for the past 13 years (while also doing a few other things). Now I'm trying to find a way to earn cash, though I still need to be available for my kids and to handle basic household duties.

In theory, of course, my wife and I could hire people to handle these chores and childcare, but there's a inherent circular conundrum to working a job in order to earn enough money to pay someone to watch your kids and cook your dinner and clean your house in order for you to work your job. And I face the classic housewife's problem that the tasks that I've been performing for the past 13 years, which involve a great deal of carting around children, multi-tasking doctor's appointments, play dates, grocery shopping, laundry, reading stories, bandaging skinned knees. Though I understand how the ability to do all these things would be useful to an employer, it's not clear the rest of the world sees it that way. They prefer employees with skills that are bit easier to document and who come with references written by people who have finished elementary school or are not married to me. Plus most of them don't want to hire someone only for a few hours a day.

What's interesting is that I've doubled-up the housewife syndrome, by having spent my previous years primarily writing plays and novels (and making theatre). In many ways, I've nurtured and sustained these works not entirely unlike I've done for my children. I've done my best to develop them into fully-formed works of art that are now somewhat on their own in the world, interacting with readers, audiences, actors and directors. They don't need me so much anymore. And much like raising my children, experience writing for theatre (and writing novels) is not inherently commercial. Folks who are looking to hire freelance writers for actual paying gigs look at my years spent writing fiction and drama with some puzzlement. "Yes, we suppose he can write, but he doesn't have relevant clips, or references from actual employers." (And I look back at them, suddenly worried that maybe they're right and I won't know how to handle whatever they throw at me.)

I'll find a way to squeeze my way into some sort of freelance work, or some sort of paying gig doing something. Somehow. But like the other former stay-at-home moms and dads, it's going to be a slippery, half-lit path, with lots of stumbles, stubbed toes, and more than a few lost trails. And it's going to take longer than I hoped or expected. (I have a feeling there are more than a few other writers in the blogosphere who can vouch for the same challenges of moving from writing fiction to writing to try to help support the family.)

( So far, I've been very fortunate to get lots of input and support from my friends. I've gotten some very useful tips, advice, and more.)

P.S. I have been putting a little time into, but no luck yet. I've made ten bids so far. It seems a system that inherently favors the employers. The secret bidding on the part of freelancers, seems like it will deeply suppress wages (we don't know where the basement is for work rates). Most of the projects described by employers looking for writers or editors are too sketchily described for me to put together an intelligent cost estimate. I'm guessing that most of the employers are looking for a deep bargain, or are barely qualified to hire anyone to do anything. We'll see.


Dan Milstein said...


No doubt someone's already mentioned this, but have you taken to looking on Craig's List for writing gigs? Either the Boston one or something nationwide, if it doesn't require face-to-face meeting.

My gut sense is that Craig's List is a better resource than one of the formally competitive writing market websites (which, as you point out, seem to be heavily biased against the writers' interests).

jde said...

I am watching your experience with and am hoping you garner good results. Personally, I have stayed away from the freelance bidding sites. It would seem they encourage writers to work for next to nothing. I've had better results pitching magazines, and newspapers directly with story ideas. I am not yet making what I need to be making, and trying to be patient. It's tough! And so, more recently, I've applied to local university jobs, relying on my data geek background. My goal is not to do what I "used to do," but find something that would be stimulating enough for my brain, and offer new sources of material. Of course. :)

There is an eNewsletter that consolidates the Craiglist writer's opps from all over the country. I think it's the Morning Coffee, over at Again, these opps are mixed bag, from what I've seen.

Take what I write with a grain of salt, as unless someone is actually making a living and offering advice, that's what I do. LOL

I've taken to heart an earlier post you made about scheduling time for garnering freelance work. Duh. Why didn't I think of that? Thanks for that.

Rootin' for us both.

patrick said...

Dan and JD, both of your posts are very helpful. I actually hadn't thought to look at Craig's List (I still think of it as a place for stuff). I went and looked at the compiled Craig's List offerings through and saw some potential there. I'm definitely going to keep up with it.

I got my first guru nibble this weekend. I did a little sample/test editing for them this morning, so we'll see how it goes. They're based in France, which is pretty cool, just as a concept. It still feels like a bit of a long shot, but we'll see.

JD--your point about being patient is an important one. It's going to take a while to build up the experience and contacts needed to earn money on a regular basis. And I really need to make sure that I stick with the freelance article writing for some of that income, if I can. It'll build some important skills. I'm also looking at gigs to edit books, but again, finding the experience is going to take a while.