Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me That Being Unemployed Was Going To Be So Much Work??!!

Unemployment Beach Large 2

I simply must be doing something wrong.

As some of you know, I quit my jobs a couple of months ago. Yes, I said “jobs” and yes, I do mean all of them, even the private tax and bookkeeping clients. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it an adolescent rebellion, call it a cry for help; I don’t care, just don’t call upon me to do your financials anymore!

I didn’t kid myself when I made this decision. I knew perfectly well that being a full-time writer was going to be just as much – if not more – work than being an employee, and also that the pay was going to be a lot less, a starting salary of zero dollars per annum being fairly easy to beat. But I thought, heck – if I’ve written half a million words in two years while I was working my day jobs, imagine what I’ll be able to do when ALL of my time is my own!

No, no, no! And no!

The sad fact is, in the two months since I’ve been working at home, I’ve barely written anything at all. Ironically, I simply don’t have the time.

It started to go bad about the middle of June, just two weeks after I kissed my last job goodbye. I decided to release several free eBooks of some short stories and essays that I’ve written. Now eBooks aren’t really that hard to put together once you know how to do them, but they do take time. There’s the interior formatting, writing and assembling the front and back matter, and let’s not forget the all-important cover design. Of course, my logic was, these are free eBooks; I’m not about to drop hundreds of dollars having professional covers designed for books that I intend to be permanently gratis, so I supposed I should just suck it up, learn some basic image-manipulation software, and design them myself. Easy, right?

No, no, no!

I suppose you might say my foray into graphic design was more time-consuming and less rewarding than I had hoped, although I did at least get the job done and was relatively pleased with the results. I’m also confident now that I can assemble a fairly decent-looking free book cover or fancy picture-tweet when called upon to do so, which came in incredibly handy last week when the books came out. More on that later.

However, learning some basic cover design turned out to be only the first crack in the iceberg. My dream of being a full-time “writer” really started to come apart a few weeks later, when I decided to record audiobooks of my forthcoming short memoirs, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened and Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. Doing my own recordings sounded like a fabulous idea. There’s a certain appeal, I think, in having a memoir read by the person who wrote it, and in some ways it actually sounded like less trouble than auditioning narrators and coordinating with the one I chose.

No, no, no!

Well, okay, maybe. If you’re in it for the long haul, I would say it’s generally worth the trouble, particularly since, if you’re your own narrator, you earn both shares of the royalties – assuming you sell some books. Here’s the problem. It’s not just the money you have to drop on equipment and soundproofing; it’s the time you have to spend learning what type of equipment and soundproofing you need, and what kind of setup and software you want to work with, not to mention the many hours it may take to construct a home studio if you don’t want to fork over the cash for a professional space, which I did not.

And then, of course, you still have to record the books. I’m going to do a whole separate post about all of this sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience may prove invaluable to any of you who are considering recording your own audiobooks, and I want to be able to describe the process with more objectivity than my current overwhelmed-and-exhausted state of mind will permit me to do. For now, let me just say that deciding to build an audio studio from scratch and then record two books in the four weeks before I was supposed to go out of town for two months was not the smartest decision I have ever made.

Finally I had made enough progress where I felt comfortable making my annual trek down to Ventura County. Although I desperately needed a break, I didn’t kid myself about this trip, either. I planned on working the entire time I was there; I just figured it would be nice to work on the beach for a change, and enjoy some ocean noises and views while I was at it. I even bought one of those keyboard protectors for my computer so I could start the intro to my next memoir, The Long Road Home. I took a picture that I might have shared with you, but I found something strangely sad about a woman in a bikini sitting on the sand in a chair with a laptop, so I deleted it. Not, perhaps, my most relaxing week at the beach.

But the real problem was that while I was down there, I received an offer from videoblocks.com for a week’s worth of free downloads of stock video footage, up to twenty clips a day. Great! I thought. I’ve been meaning to begin assembling some video trailers for my upcoming books; this will give me a good start.

No, no, no!

First I had to research clips that I thought I might want. Then I had to wade through the seemingly endless results to find the few I thought I could actually use. Then I had to download them, which, what with the lousy wireless signal I had at my motel, took numerous attempts. And finally, of course, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the clips I was finding weren’t quite what I’d had in mind. And that maybe what I really ought to do is just buy a video camera and some basic recording equipment, and shoot the footage I want myself.

At this point, I’m sure you can already envision the horrible hole into which I’ve dug myself. Because now, of course, not only do I have to learn how to use this wonderful new camera, I have to learn how to edit, and add text, and captions, and music, and oh, by the way, then I have to go searching for music I want to use, and what if I can’t find what I’m looking for?

Forget it. My skills on the clarinet were never that good. Besides, I’ve taken music theory and I know I don’t have what it takes to be a composer. I suppose I could use music that’s in the public domain, but who would perform it? Somehow I’m not convinced that two minutes of me humming Beethoven’s Greatest Hits is going to inspire the mood I’m seeking for my trailers…

And if all that wasn’t enough? My free eBooks finally came out last week. Frankly, I hadn’t planned on doing much to promote them because I figured they’d be mere drops in Amazon’s vast bucket of indie-published work and would entirely escape notice. I was merely hoping to get some reviews, and maybe earn a few new readers. You can therefore imagine my very great surprise when all five of them, without any effort on my part, landed in the Top 100 Free (and some as high as the Top 20) in their respective categories – which, granted, isn’t saying much, not when Amazon has categories as narrow as “Kindle Books – Kindle Short Reads – 30 minutes or less – Romance.” Still, that’s certainly way better than NOT appearing in the Top 100, so I thought, oh, what the heck, I wonder what would happen if I did do a little promotion? Several hours a day of it later, I was in fact able to get each book into the Top 20 in its category, which is, of course, very cool because that means you’re on the front page of the Top 100 list, which means more people see your book, which means it gets more downloads, and so on – it’s a partially self-perpetuating cycle. I’m actually going to do a whole separate post about this, too, sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience with this was tremendously educational and I truly have some awesome and very concrete insights to share.

Unfortunately, since I used a third-party publisher instead of going through Kindle Direct, I lost most of my “new release” window – which I will explain in this other post I will someday write – and in the last few days my eBooks have subsequently lost a ton of ground in their rankings, which takes some of the satisfaction out of putting in the time to promote them. The best performers (for the curious) were my romance shorts “Anything Can Happen” and “The Sublet,” which reached #9 and #10 respectively in their category, although the eBook version of my essay “Is Your Anxiety Real?” climbed as high as #16, and my short story “Squirrel Revolution” did well enough to rank in Literature and Fiction as well as SciFi and Fantasy. Links to the Amazon pages are below if you want to check them out.

Each of these free eBooks is, or soon will be, also available on ITunes, Kobo, etc. – I simply haven’t had a chance to assemble the links yet. How lazy am I? you may be wondering. Well, not very. Fact is, I’ve been working my you-know-what off nearly round the clock trying to get things done to the point where I can take them with me. Because you see, this past Monday was when I was scheduled to leave on my big trip through Canada and Alaska for the next couple of months. That clearly didn’t happen, for the simple reason that although I can edit on the road if I must, I can’t very well record audio in my truck or out in the noisy wonders of nature. And if I still want to do this trip – and gosh darn it, more and more ever day, I do – there are certain things I am simply going to have to let go. I accepted this a couple of weeks ago, when I took days off of Twitter so that I could get other work done. Late last week I finally closed the windows on all of the blog posts I had hoped to read from the two weeks prior, so that now I have no idea what’s going on with any of the people I’m following (I hope there haven’t been any major disasters). And, as I mentioned, I gave up on the idea some time ago of actually doing any writing – except for tweets.

But there are certain things I cannot let go. Packing, for example. Rather an important detail, particularly since I plan on sleeping in my truck a fair portion of my nights on the road and therefore won’t have the space to simply “bring everything,” as I often do. Picking a route? Not quite as vital – although I probably ought to have at least the first day planned. But then there’s the shopping, and the laundry, and figuring out what clothes and books to take, and organizing all of my wonderful new office equipment so that it doesn’t get squished or bumped around but is readily accessible when I need it. And then I still have to install that fancy new voice-to-text recognition software I bought so that I can dictate while driving – one more thing I have to learn how to use.

But that, of course, is the one saving grace of this whole dreadful summer of overwork and underpay. Because as stressful as this “holiday” is going to be, with as much work as I will be hauling along, and as many projects as I’m now committed to complete, there is one aspect of it to which I am eagerly looking forward, and it has nothing to do with any activity I have planned, any sights I want to see, or any scenery I intend to enjoy. Because when I climb into my truck on Sunday – perhaps, at the worst, on Monday – and begin wending my way north, there will be one aspect of being unemployed for which I can be truly grateful. I will finally, finally, have time to write. And do you know what I say to that?

Yes, yes, yes!

***

NOW AVAILABLE! The following FREE e-Books by author Lori Schafer.

Anything Can Happen: A Romance Short

“I figured I’d better backtrack fast before he started thinking I liked him or something. But it’s hard to backpedal when you’ve got your foot in your mouth.”
Is it really over when it’s over? A self-contained short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Anything Can Happen JPG

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Anything-Can-Happen-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WVGA/

The Sublet: A Romance Short

“On my other side, a man I’d never expected to see again was crawling into bed with me.”
When there’s nothing tying you down, how do you decide whether to stay or go? A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Sublet JPG

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Sublet-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WVDI/

Careful: A Romance Short

“On bad days I wondered how old people ever even did it. Sometimes walking seemed like too much effort, let alone all the aerobicized contortionism that went with sex.”
How older people do it. A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Careful JPG

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Careful-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WUHA/

Squirrel Revolution

A whimsical look at the long-term effects of human activities on our furry little neighbors. Short story / speculative fiction.

Squirrel Revolution JPG

29 thoughts on “Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me That Being Unemployed Was Going To Be So Much Work??!!

  1. Elizabeth Hein

    You may not have written many words during the last few months, but you’ve learned so much. The covers you created look very nice. Just think how well prepared you are now for the next time.

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  2. sandiedocker

    You may not have written much, but you’ve sure been productive. I’m a stay at home mum and I still get all excited when I actually get the chance to write. So much other stuff in the way.

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  3. Jayne Denker

    Wow! That actually sounds super-productive! When I first quit my job, I lost months and months to just housecleaning and grocery shopping, leaving the writing completely abandoned for way too long! (I’ve since learned how to budget my time.) Kudos!

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  4. Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie

    Dang life always gets in the way, doesn’t it? Makes me mad sometimes when a week goes by and I reflect on what I DIDN’T get done. Does this make me mad?

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Do I get really disciplined the next day and write my tail off?

    No, no, no!

    Is this a nice problem to have?

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Thanks for linking up to the August Hump Day Blog Post, Lori! I always enjoy your blog posts – and am so grateful that this post came with such great goodies!

    #ThanksForTheBooks!

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  5. Charli Mills

    At first I wanted to weep…it sounds too close to my decision to go 100% writer, only I went 50/50. Half client work (business writing like annual reports) and half fiction. I didn’t know what the blazes I was doing, but I kept panicking in a forward direction. One day I got fed up with the business stuff and focused most my efforts on fiction (they say to use the 80/20 rule as in 80% what you love and 20% what you need to do to eat). I now think crazy ideas like, I could crowd-source a table, right? I’m inelegant in my pursuits, but I’m pursuing. Kept one client to stay fed and keep adjusting the plans as I go, keep writing, keep finding other brave souls who are, too! Think of “unemployment” in two ways: one, as graduate work, two as building a business. If you were paying to learn how to do all these skills, you’d still be unemployed and deeper in student loan debt. If you were starting a business, you have to give yourself at least three years to be profitable and you’d have business start-up debt. I can’t wait to hear where you are in three years (debt-free)! :-)

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      That’s exactly how I’m trying to look at it, Charli – and by the way, I totally thought of you when I finally made the decision to do it. It’s not the first time I’ve been self-employed – just the first time I embarked on a venture in which I literally had no idea how much (if any) money I could make doing it. I’ve got all kinds of backup and contingency plans, none of which are any more stable or secure. But at least I have them!

      As miserable as it was, it’s actually fortunate that I worked all those jobs for a while, because I’ve certainly earned some time off from the grind, and it’s nice to have a little financial cushion to sustain me if the worst happens – not for three years, but maybe two, if I pinch. It is daunting, though. When I was young, I thought nothing of leaving the workforce to go out on my own. I’m not so assured now of being able to jump back into it whenever I want. But I figure, what the heck, this may be my last shot at something I truly want instead of something I merely need – and goodness knows I’m not getting any younger ;)

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      1. Charli Mills

        I’m now living life-after-cushion and it’s still working. My hair has grown long and my pjs are getting holes, but I haven’t had to give into “a real job” like the ones friends still send me links to. Funny how it freaks out other people. We have skills to fall back on, but keep on keeping on with the writing because you are so right–it’s your shot, it’s my shot, it’s the shot anyone can have if they take it. And if you miss the target, re-aim! Keep shooting!

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  6. Paula Reed Nancarrow

    You have described this experience so accurately, so perfectly. I discovered something very similar when I moved into full time freelance work, though it wasn’t fiction writing. What I learned is that I am always – ALWAYS – more creative when I can pay my bills. Even if I don’t have all the time I want. In fact, I am often more creative around the structure of a daytime job, even though the grass usually seems greener near the folks who have given theirs up. What I think would be ideal – for me- is to be able to afford to live on 20 hours a week wage slavedom, and write around that. I supposed that is as close to retirement (do you want fries with that?) as I am going to get. Have a lovely trip. And remember: you can be funny and lovely and fine in any scenario.

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      You’re exactly right, Paula. I actually had the 20-hour-a-week thing going for a while, and it sure seemed as if I got a heck of a lot more done – not to mention the comfort factor of still making enough money to keep food in my belly. I also think there’s something to be said for not confining oneself to one type of activity. Although I’m a bit burnt out on mathematical work, I can absolutely see myself wanting to pick it up again one day. I think I would find it a refreshing change – much as I find writing a refreshing change now.

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  7. TanGental

    You make it sound a bit like my laundry heap; it’s always there, it’s always the wrong mix of whites and coloureds and things that need boiling or hand washing but never quite enough or too much for a load and then someone comes to stay and it explodes with towels and sheets and duvet covers and stuff… And then there’s the bloody ironing and the shirt I really need for tomorrow that I hadn’t banked on needing for a week… Yes yes yes to writing; no no no to laundry.

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  8. Brianna Soloski

    I was unemployed from June 2008 to October 2010. It was in 2010 that I finally found my footing and started my own freelance business. Now, at nearly the four year mark, I’ve starting to see some success. It is in doing the icky work, the not so fun stuff, that I have found my clients and found a way to survive as a freelancer.

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Thank you for those sobering yet reassuring remarks. It is easy to forget sometimes that the grunt work serves a purpose – which is, of course, why we do it. What an abundance of patience you must have! I really admire that.

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      1. Brianna Soloski

        I had to learn patience. I’m the most impatient person around. I also had to learn not to back down. If I’m owed something, I fight until I get it. The irregularity of freelance pay doesn’t allow me to quit my day job, but the work is becoming much steadier.

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  9. Norah

    Oh Lori, I’m exhausted just listening to you. But I know what you mean. Every time I think I’m getting closer to my goal, there’s something else I have to learn or do – the writing keeps on getting pushed further back into the corner and all the other things pile up in front and hide it! Enjoy your trip. Get your writing done. Yes! Yes! Yes!

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      That’s exactly what it’s like – sticking writing in a corner. Bad writing! Time out for you! The worst part is, I actually enjoy some of the auxiliary stuff. I mean, who doesn’t want to make a book trailer? Sounds fun, doesn’t it? But definitely a distraction.

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