Thursday, March 21, 2013

Paula Altenburg: Perks of Being A Writer

People often ask me what it’s like to be a writer, and I always tell them it’s not much different than any other job I’ve had.  I have office hours I try to maintain, deadlines I have to meet, and paperwork that has to be done. There are tasks I hate and ones I love. Even though I now manage a staff of one, motivation is still an issue. There are days I don’t want to go to work either, but the very act of dragging myself to the computer and forcing me to sit there almost always results in something being accomplished. I set daily and weekly goals, just as I did when I went to work for someone else.

But there are perks to self employment and being a writer.

1. As well as writing I also do the bookkeeping for my husband’s business, and this is tax time. I love how it coincides with the release date for The Demon’s Daughter.  There’s nothing that can suck the joy out of a sense of creative accomplishment like preparing year end financial statements and giving away hard-earned money.
I’m sure you’re wondering why that’s a perk.  Yesterday, I fed a Revenue Canada tax auditor and three elected, money-wasting government officials to demons.  Their deaths were messy, horrifying, and immensely satisfying, but also fictional and in no way personal.  I’m a writer, not a sociopath—although the line can be a fine one some days.

2. I can work anywhere. We live on a major river in rural Nova Scotia and my husband made me a fabulous place to work in our backyard.  
My outdoor office
Now I can sit in my outdoor office in the summer and watch eagles flying overhead. The deer come right to our deck. I’m not as crazy about the coyotes, but they’re still fun to see.
In the winter I can sit in my indoor office or take my laptop and a warm blanket to the living room and put my feet up.
I also spent three weeks in the Turks and Caicos in November with my sister, who was living there. I wrote for two weeks and then took one week for vacation. Not a bad deal at all, considering that gave me three full weeks of evenings in the Caribbean.
And evenings in the Caribbean are sweet. 
Me on the left, with my sister
I would never have been able to take advantage of that opportunity when I worked in an office for someone else.

3. I can work in my pajamas, or even in bed. This is both a perk and a downside. I have a terrible preoccupation with deadlines and commitment. If I’ve told somebody I’m going to deliver something on a certain day, I’m going to deliver it. When I went to an office I always felt horribly guilty about sick days. Now I can get work done even when I don’t feel well, and that makes me feel better. On the downside, it doesn’t take much to convince me I don’t feel well enough to get out of my pajamas.
*Cough, cough.*

4. For the most part, I set my own goals. Writers need phenomenal time management skills because they usually have several projects on the go, with a number of different tasks attached to them. When I sign a contract, I negotiate delivery dates based on what I believe I can realistically achieve, not on what I see other people achieving. There needs to be a bit of a challenge to it, though. Nothing helps me meet a deadline better than unadulterated panic.

5. I’m not sure everyone who isn’t a writer realizes this, but writing is hard work! I love the sense of achievement I get from doing the work myself, particularly when it’s not something I’m especially good at. The harder it is for me to do, the more I enjoy it when it’s done. I volunteer to do workshops for my local RWA chapter when I have a problem with my writing. Presenting it as a workshop forces me to look at every aspect of the problem and analyze it, then put together a coherent solution that sticks with me better.

6. I really enjoy the teamwork.  This may seem kind of odd considering I’m talking about the perks of self employment and writing, but I’m delivering a product. I work with other writers who are often first readers, and they’re the first point of contact for social media marketing efforts. I work with an agent, editors, and the publishers’ publicity departments. Understanding that everyone has a viewpoint that needs to be respected is important. While I own responsibility for my product, and the biggest reason to see it succeed, no one wants it to fail. My editors don’t spend hours going over my manuscripts and offering constructive advice so they can have a laugh over the terrible reviews later.  Writers (and publicists) don’t want to share links to my books so their own readers (and clients) can question their taste.

I especially enjoyed all the teamwork involved in writing The Demon’s Daughter, the first book in the Demon Outlaws trilogy, coming March 26th from Entangled Publishing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.

So I guess I can add “excited anticipation” as one of the perks.

I’m curious to hear about other people’s work. Life is short. We should all get personal satisfaction from it. Are you a writer? Something else? Do you love it, whatever it is?

Paula Altenburg lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now enjoys the freedom of working from home and writing fulltime. Paula also co-authors paranormal romance under the pseudonym Taylor Keating.  Visit her at, on Twitter @PaulaAltenburg, and on Facebook


Taryn Blackthorne said...

Great post, Paula! and I'm jealous of the pictures of you and your sister! *looks down at her pjs* excuse me while I go change:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Paula, can you tell us more about your new book "The Demon’s Daughter" . I would love to add it to my TBR list. the cover is gorgeous!

Mary Kirkland said...

Great post, love the cover of that book!
As for your question, I'm a freelance writer and write articles about how to care for small animals for the Yahoo Contributor Network.

Pat Cochran said...

I'm a wife of 52 years, a mother of 4,
grandmother of 10, ex-newspaper colum-
nist, a voracious reader, and what my
Honey calls a "professional volunteer."
Not a lot of free time there, but it
would have been fun to try writing!

Pat C.

Mary Preston said...

I don't write, but since I only work part time, I do have time for the stuff I enjoy.