My mom told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t consider fiction-writing to be a viable career option. And she knew what she was talking about. From the time I was four or five years old, she nurtured a novel-in-progress. When I was eight, she sold her first, and by the time I was a teenager, she had four published books and an ABC Sunday Night Movie based on one of her stories. It was because she was a fiction writer, not despite it, that she advised me not to become one—she knew exactly how bitter the ups and downs of the publishing industry could make someone.
Unfortunately, genetics are stronger than maternal advice, and I have found it impossible to resist the compulsion to write fiction. Sure, I can bottle it up for a few years at a time. But ultimately it always gets the better of me, and I find myself doing it again, despite all my mother’s warnings.
I see my mother’s point. You want the very best for your children. You want them to be happy, and not just in manic spurts. You want them to have money, and not just a few thousand dollars at advance time. And you want them to have friends, preferably real and not imaginary ones.
However, I can already see that trying to talk my six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter out of their genetic legacy will be as challenging for me as it was for my mother.
They fight over input devices—both the decrepit laptop and the thirteen-year-old Palm Pilot—not because they want to play computer games on them, but because they want to write stories on them.
I’ve mentioned my own predisposition for writing in bath crayon on the shower wall. The other day I got in the shower and discovered that my daughter has the same predisposition. She had written, “The key to writing a good stories to think about it.”
The other day I idly said to her—trying to make conversation— “I’ve got a great back story for this novel, but I need a front story.” And she said. “The hero and heroine are walking along, and there’s this village, and the village is threatened by a huge fire-breathing dragon with golden scales. Then the hero and heroine save the day. The heroine comes along with a giant chicken and distracts the dragon into thinking there’s food. Then the hero comes along with a giant spear. He plunges it in [I think, She’s perhaps a future romance writer!] and saves the day. Then the villagers thank and thank them and give them lots of gold and jewels.”
I won’t try to talk them out of writing, because it doesn’t work. Instead, I’ll emphasize the fact that there are jobs you do because you love them and jobs you do to make money. If you’re lucky enough to have a life that includes both these kinds of jobs, you’ve done about as much as anyone can hope for. If you find one job that covers both territories—well, hang on tight and don’t let go.