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MelancholyMan
06-06-2008, 05:54 PM
I'm an engineer. I work in the defense industry as a rocket scientist. Since day one I've hated it. About ten years ago I started writing as an outlet, with a hope that someday it might help lift me out of my career. This hope isn't crazy but I also know that it isn't very practical. But still, it is a hope, and if you've seen my favorite movie you know what Red said about hope.

Even though I don't care for my work, I'm very good at it when I want to be. Yet I've not been as successful as I might for obvious reasons. And when I'm really working hard on a book (I write mainstream and YA thrillers) I really hate my work. When I'm less involved in a literary project I'm more content... or, at least I'm not thinking about how much I hate it as much. You all know the drill. Either way, I've not been successful as a writer either. I feel I could be published in time if the planets line up someday, and I've had a lot of good feedback from Beta readers over the years. But we know that drill too. Oh, and I'm a 42 year old with three kids who'll be entering college all too soon.

So my most recent conondrum is this: I've been given an opportunity to change companies and become an executive. A program manager of what could become a much more lucrative job. The money is better. It is more vacation. But it is going to be a lot more work. I can see that now. And it is work that I hate. But it could also help me get where I need to be financially - believe me, I'm not there right now. But I know it will kill my writing. At the same time, what is my writing? Ten years gone with nought but three manuscripts gathering dust and a head full of story ideas. Wouldn't it just make a lot more sense to honestly assess my chances of ever getting anywhere with writing, against this opportunity staring me in the face? Isn't a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? Doesn't providing for my children at some point override my own dreams?

I'd really like to hear from others who have faced these dilemnas. I know I'll be miserable as a program manager, but when all is said and done isn't it better to be miserable with money in your pocket, than less miserable and working as a octagenarian Wal Mart greeter?

-MM

Susan B
06-06-2008, 06:37 PM
If the money in the current position is adequate, I'd vote for staying put. It seems to allow you to do both, provide for your family and have energy and spirit enough left over to write.

A job you hate is never a good idea, writer or not! To move into a position you'd hate even more doesn't make sense.

I can identify with some of this, though in much more muted fashion. Although I do find my work rewarding to a degree (I'm a psychologist) it has become less compelling in the past 8 years, in the face of growing passions for music and then writing (a very early dream I set aside long ago.)

My husband and I agreed I could cut down on my "day job" to 3 days a week a couple years ago (when I went into private practice) in order to make a final push to complete my first book and get it published. It's due out in January. I had hoped to continue in this fashion, devoting time to promotion efforts and to working on my next project.

But now we are facing a crisis with my husband's job situation, where he's facing an uncertain future. So I now have to step up my own "day job" efforts. It's the complete opposite of what I'd planned at this stage in my life (late 50's). I am not happy about it, but I figure that's life. I'm trying to feel grateful that I re-discovered writing and have a book coming out--and that I have some control over my work life.

As for responsibilites for kids--yes, we have faced that too. Both kids out of college, but one had a serious health crisis and long convalescence a year or so ago, and still not completely on his feet financially. And then there's aging parents....

Bottom line: Most of us have to figure out how to combine writing with other life demands. If you need to write, you will find a way to do it. You have obviously been writing successfully, so you have found a way to maintain a balance that seems to be working for you, at least at the level of meeting both sets of need.

I'd also ask (since you describe yourself as melancholy) whether you are happy when you write--or if you have done other kinds of work where you feel happier.

Good luck!

windyrdg
06-06-2008, 06:57 PM
No one can tell you what to do, but I'm willing to chime in with a few thoughts.

As long as you have children at home you have an obligation to put their needs ahead of yours. However, our society has created an entitlement system for kids that's unrealistic. They don't have to go to every camp, take every class, have their own car as soon as they get a driver's license and go to college on your bank account. (Our five children all worked, bought their own cars and paid their own way through college. We're strong believers in independence and tough love.)

Why did you train to be an engineer in the first place? Revisit those motivations, dreams...expectations. Were they unrealistic, or are you simply a square peg trying to fit into a round hole? Perhaps another engineering job would make you less unhappy.

What about your stress level? Is it the job you hate, or the deadlines?

My theory on money has always been that everyone has their own threshold of necessity. (One person MUST have a big screen TV and the newest computer gear. Someone else is happy with older equipment, but can't live without freshly ground coffee every morning.) Once you achieve your basic threshold, all the money in the world won't make you one bit happier. Evaluate your threshold. Is it realistic? Achievable? What do you think you need that you really only want. Chasing the almighty dollar will not bring satisfaction, but living on the brink of starvation won't either. I've always said that it's not the high cost of living as much as the cost of high living.

Evaluate your writing. Why do you do it? Enjoyment, escape, pursuit of fame and fortune? We would all like to be published, but only a select few will ever make it. The cold, hard reality is that neither you nor I will probably ever make a reasonable living from our writing. (I think the operative phrase is, Don't give up your day job.) That said, we all need a dream and, if writing is yours, don't give it up easily. If nothing else, your books can be a legacy you leave to your children and grandchildren.

You might want to check Randy Ingermansen's website and blog. Google Snowflake Method and you'll find him. He has a PhD in Physics and left a fulltime job to concentrate on writing. Two caveats: A) He still consults and, B) His income comes from teaching writing, not from the writing itself. Publication gave him the credentials to begin teaching writing classes. Take a hard look at what he's done - his website, blog and newsletter archive tell the story - and ask yourself if you would be any happier being in his shoes.

Perhaps your writing will remain a part-time thing until you retire. How could you arrange things to retire earlier than you otherwise would? What would you be willing to forego now (with your wife's approval, of course) to gain more free time later?

It's too bad that you're so unhappy. Life is a journey, not a destination and happiness is an inside job. At the risk of offending you, I'll suggest you pray about it. God has a plan for each of us. Sometimes our problem is that we insist on driving when, in fact, we're just supposed to go along and enjoy the scenery.

Good luck no matter what you decide. I'll be praying for you.

MelancholyMan
06-06-2008, 06:59 PM
I haven't really reached a balance yet. To write, I have to shirk my work at my job. But at my current job it is not so demanding that I can't get away with this.

But I love to write. Amazingly I can sit at the same desk, facing the same computer, at the same time of day, and when I write I finish the day energized and enthusiastic. Engineering on the other hand, same desk, same computer, etc, just sucks the will to live from my soul. Putting the two, too much together though is a recipe for meltdown I have learned. I walk a pretty tight rope most of the time.

As for MelancholyMan, it is partly descriptive but more a nod to the "Moody Blues" whose music has been to me such an inspiration for so many, many years. Melancholy Man was the title of one of their songs. Not my favorite of their songs but it fits.

As for why I became an engineer, it was along the path to getting a Ph.D. so I could teach at a university. But the kids came along bam-bam-bam and kind of cattywampused that one in mid-school. Been down hill from there. But I can really get by with not a whole lot. Don't have a lot of materialistic wants other than not having to do this damn engineering job anymore. And I stress alot about my kids and providing for them. Probably more than I need too but that's what it is. And being able to retire someday, which unless something changes drastically, isn't going to happen. So I just sort of wound up being a square peg out of necessity and hammering it into the hole has sort of dinged up the edges.

Thanks,
-MM

C.bronco
06-06-2008, 07:05 PM
I would take the new job and view it as a way to transition into something that might be more appealing to you. The exec. experience could translate well into other industries.

I usually don't write until after my son goes to bed.

Best wishes, from someone who is also in flux.

Irysangel
06-06-2008, 07:33 PM
You always find time to write if you truly enjoy it. At my last job (well, my current one too) I would skip taking 'breaks' and just work on my novels. I edited at lunch. I stayed up late to write. I wrote on the weekend, all weekend.

You find the time. That being said, I work 40+ hours a week at a corporate job. I don't love it either, but it pays the bills nicely and causes me less stress than having no income. And that's pretty important. Less stress over money always helps the other stresses.

Tburger
06-06-2008, 08:39 PM
Bird in hand. I know this is more complicated than that but I have a very pragmatic view when it comes to money (I have 3 kids all under the age of 5): money is a good thing to have. Right now, you have a real chance at furthering your career. I've read your work and it is good, but you're not established yet - you probably will be, but not yet. So for now, the writing career doesn't exist. Not yet. This is a decision you have to make on your own, and deep down you know the right one.

Another thing to consider: every experience you have can add to your quiver of writing ideas. A new experience like being an exec might give you info, characters and plots that you otherwise might have never imagined. Not that your imagination isn't ALREADY good, but I'm sure there are things out there you've never seen, etc.

Good luck!

astonwest
06-07-2008, 02:00 AM
Being an engineering manager myself, I'd say stick to the money. Play your cards right, and you can retire in time to still enjoy a writing career with money to spare.

As I tell a lot of people, I work for the money, so I can enjoy the time away from work...

MsJudy
06-08-2008, 03:36 AM
I dunno. I've never been able to make myself do something I didn't enjoy. So I kept searching until I found a day job I really, really like. Turned out that the job has actually helped me be a better writer. (I teach first grade, and I write for kids. Neat.)

My advice? Find a way to like what you do, because you make a lot of money at it, or start looking for another way to make money.

But then, I live in a mobile home and I'm still driving a 15-year-old Civic. So maybe you don't want to take my advice. Or maybe your kids would rather you didn't listen to me, at least until they finish college.

NeuroFizz
06-08-2008, 04:15 AM
I can only speak for myself, but my kids come first. Period. It was part of the deal when I decided to father them. That includes setting them up in situations that give them the best chance to be successful in their lives (which includes college if they decide they want to go that way). It's easy to say because I love my job. But even if I hated it, I would still do what I had to do to give the young 'uns the best leg up for their futures. There is also the issue of health, dental and vision insurance for them. And I want to ensure their financial security should I drop dead. I am their dad. I had a choice. They didn't.

xiaotien
06-08-2008, 04:25 AM
this is so tough, MM. and i feel for you.
my hub works really hard too, he has a
tremendous sense of responsibility for our
two little ones to provide.

i assume you have to work at home too?
that there is that much work? is there any
way you could manage writing maybe 15 - 30 minutes
a day? perhaps take an hour on saturday and
sunday?

i think as long as you "keep the dream alive"
you are doing well. we are totally over worked
in our society and we don't cater enough to our
passions. and it's clear to me writing is a passion
for you.

you really have to keep at it. as long
as you still want it and it brings you joy,
don't give up on it.
it may not be able to be top priority in your
life right now, but don't let it go entirely.

that'd make me sad.
and it'd make you sad, too.

dianeP
06-08-2008, 05:14 AM
No one can tell you what to do, but I'm willing to chime in with a few thoughts.

As long as you have children at home you have an obligation to put their needs ahead of yours. However, our society has created an entitlement system for kids that's unrealistic. They don't have to go to every camp, take every class, have their own car as soon as they get a driver's license and go to college on your bank account. (Our five children all worked, bought their own cars and paid their own way through college. We're strong believers in independence and tough love.)

My theory on money has always been that everyone has their own threshold of necessity. (One person MUST have a big screen TV and the newest computer gear. Someone else is happy with older equipment, but can't live without freshly ground coffee every morning.) Once you achieve your basic threshold, all the money in the world won't make you one bit happier. Evaluate your threshold. Is it realistic? Achievable? What do you think you need that you really only want.

This is all so well said.

Can I ask what your kids think of this? Do they know about your dream? Do they share it? Do you come home unhappy and stressed? What do they think of the added work load? I don't mean for you to burden your kids with your dreams or financial responsibility, but I just can't help thinking about my own mother and how I would have done my part to at least help out.

I don't know how relevant this is to your situation, but I thought I'd throw this in. It touched me a lot when I heard it.

A four-year-old boy cried as his father prepared to go work the nightshift. They rarely saw one another anymore.
The father said, "But I have to go work, to pay the bills and buy groceries."
The little boy said, "I'll eat less, Daddy. Please stay home."
The next day the father went back to the less-paying day shift.

Sometimes its not all about the money.:)

MelancholyMan
06-09-2008, 05:57 AM
Thanks so much, everybody. Such a mixed response. More than I could have imagined.

My kids are so incredibly awesome. My oldest son is 15. He plays soccer and does well in school. My second son is 14. The kid is a genius - along with the baggage, whew! I'm not going to have to pay for him to go to school, of that I'm certain. My youngest son is 13. He's so different and unique from the other two. He 'owns' a production company, Bim0 Productions. You can see his stuff at www.youtube.com/bimoproductionsTM (http://www.youtube.com/bimoproductionsTM) . It's kid stuff but fun and clean. Your kids will probably like it. He hopes to go to New Zealand someday and work with Weta Workshop. And my wife is wonderful even if she isn't someone who can help me with my writing. But they are all totally on board with my 'dream,' as I am with each of theirs.

All things considered, we live a relatively frugal, but happy life. Indeed, it is pretty much perfect. The only flaw is how much I hate my career, and it causes about the only problems we have. But maybe that flaw is there for a reason. Something about cake if I remember right.

I think I know what it is that I have to do.

-MM

xiaotien
06-09-2008, 06:08 AM
good luck, mm!!

/bootay shake!! =)

addendum : and you survived three boys? WOW! ;*)

tho really, i'm not sure three teenaged girls would be
any easier, haha!

RoccoMom
06-09-2008, 01:54 PM
You always find time to write if you truly enjoy it. At my last job (well, my current one too) I would skip taking 'breaks' and just work on my novels. I edited at lunch. I stayed up late to write. I wrote on the weekend, all weekend.

You find the time. That being said, I work 40+ hours a week at a corporate job. I don't love it either, but it pays the bills nicely and causes me less stress than having no income. And that's pretty important. Less stress over money always helps the other stresses.


I agree. I write five hours each Saturday and Sunday, and edit my books during teh week. I go into work early and edit, i edit on lunch and breaks, sometimes i even write if it's quiet and no one bothers me.

While I'm not crazy about my day job, it's not too stressful (it's not the work, it's the people, the people!) and it allows me lots of time to write. Plus, i'm on my own, n o husband, so it's only me with the bills! Besides, why would i give up medical insurance and a job that provides me with so many future plotlines?????

You'll make the right decision...for you.

Little Earthquake
06-09-2008, 06:48 PM
If the money in the current position is adequate, I'd vote for staying put. It seems to allow you to do both, provide for your family and have energy and spirit enough left over to write.

A job you hate is never a good idea, writer or not! To move into a position you'd hate even more doesn't make sense.

IAWTC.

At the end of your life, do you think you'll say "Gee, I sure to regret not taking a better-paying job," or "Gee, I sure do regret abandoning a hobby that I loved for the sake of the dollar?" I'd be willing to be you're more likely that choose option B. Don't let go of something you love, even if it's not making big bucks for you. Your family appreciates your financial support, but they also appreciate it when you're happy and whole.

crimsonlaw
06-09-2008, 07:43 PM
I'm piling on somewhat because I'm just going to echo what everyone else has said. But, sometimes piling on can be a good thing!

At the end of the day, the decision is a simple cost/benefit analysis. The hard part is quantifying the costs and benefits, especially when you are essentially comparing two types of freedom (more freedom to write vs more economic freedom). This is an oversimplification of your situation, but from what you have said thus far, I don't believe it to be an unfair simplification.

One factor that should be taken into consideration is how either job will affect your disposition. If making more money means you're less fun to be around at home, that may not be the wisest course of action. I was lucky when i was young because my father both loved his job and was very successful at it. Looking back, if I had to choose one or the other, I'd rather do without so many vacations and new toys in exchange for a dad that was fun to play catch with.

Take some comfort in the fact that there really is no wrong decision here. You are going to make the decision you feel is the best decision for you and your family. Unfortunately, life is a game of incomplete information. You don't know what the future holds down either path, but you do have the ability to make a very good educated guess. Think on it, pray/meditate on it, get some advice from the people you trust most, then trust yourself. You have a excellent history of making good decisions, as evidenced by your little ones (if teenagers still qualify as little ones), so do your best not to worry and second guess yourself. Things have a tendency of working out for the best if you just let them.

As a PS, the Friend Chicken trilogy from Bin0 Productions absolutely cracked me up!

Blondchen
06-09-2008, 07:55 PM
My husband and I have had to deal with this alot. What has helped, is keeping sight of the larger goal and then figuring out which option gets you closer to it. For some, that goal is as simple as "I want to buy a new house," other times its more complex - "I want to retire by the time I'm 50."

If writing IS the goal, then assess how the new job vs. the old job brings you closer to that goal. You have to be very honest with yourself. Staying at the job may give you more time to focus on writing, but perhaps the new job - with the higher pay - will give you an opportunity to get out of you career path altogether much sooner than with the old job.

It's tough, I know.

astonwest
06-10-2008, 03:38 AM
At the end of your life, do you think you'll say "Gee, I sure to regret not taking a better-paying job," or "Gee, I sure do regret abandoning a hobby that I loved for the sake of the dollar?" I'd be willing to be you're more likely that choose option B.But when you get to 55 and can't retire until you're 67 (or later), I'd bet you'd think "Gee, I sure regret not taking a better-paying job."

HeronW
06-10-2008, 04:46 AM
If you need to support yourself, keep working and keep writing--the words will always be there. Use your work as fodder for writing: Characters, office politics, projects, wierd stuff the layman would never hear of.

MelancholyMan
06-11-2008, 10:33 PM
I told them no thanks and can now sleep again. :sleepy:

-MM

MsJudy
06-12-2008, 02:29 AM
I told them no thanks and can now sleep again. :sleepy:

-MM

Yay!

Decisions are SO hard. That's why I try not to make any.

People hate going to restaurants with me.