Thursday, March 15, 2007

Do You Like Your Job?

I am driving my teen-aged son home from school (it is a luxury I afford him because it's an 8 minute car ride and 45 minutes by bus, and it's one of the perks of working from home) and my son asks me the above question. I'm kind of shocked, because he has seen me work since he was a toddler (I used to have the office in the home with my business partner, and one day my son picked up his Playschool phone and said, "Lori Perkins, Lori Perkins.")

I love my job. I think everyone I know knows that I love what I do. It's a really great way for me to combine the skills that I've learned over the years - as an editor, sales person and a business woman. And the best thing about being an agent is that I have no boss (other than the marketplace) telling me what kind of books I have to take on.

And I get to work from home and work with the coolest people in the universe. We are all book fiends, whether we're writers, agents or editors, so we love the same things.

So I was surprised to have my son ask me this question, but then he followed it up by saying, "well, no one wants to be a literary agent when they grow up" (he wants to build robots and has been doing that since he was in 5th grade, so I think he was wondering about his own career path). I told him that when I was his age, I wanted to write, which I have done, quite successfully - I've published four books, edited two fiction anthologies and probably published 2000 articles, and been paid for all of them. I was the publisher of my own newspaper in Manhattan. But the real problem with writing is that I can't guarantee that I'll consistently make the income that I make as an agent as a writer.

And then I told him that I don't believe in the starving writer mythology. I believe that writers should either make enough to live a middle class life from their work, or do it part-time for the fun, and not the money. So when I write, I write for fun and the money goes for the extras.

And then he said, "Well, you don't write and you're not the editor, so what do you really do?" and I tried to explain how I manage a writer's career and get the work ready for an editor to buy it. And he said, "Well, then, you're the middle man." and I said, "yes, that why my blog's called agentinthemiddle," and he laughed. But I was really glad that I was able to explain it all to him in a way that really made sense to him.


Rachel Mork said...

My son is 11 and he is writing a book also (fantasy, of course.) We work in the office together each on our own computers.

One day he asked me why I was revising my book again if no one had paid me to do it. I answered that it didn't ring true yet, and the story needed to be told even if it never got published. I confessed I'd go crazy if I never got the story on paper, that writing is an obsession that is rewarding in and of itself.

I hope to someday make enough to pay the bills, but even if I never do, I will never stop writing.

James Goodman said...

I also drive me son (he's 9) to and from school. I'm not sure which of us enjoys the change more. At my old job, it was a regular occurence for me to work seventy plus hours a week. We didn't get to see much of each other. Now, I've landed a job where I do most of the work from my home and I have to say, it's the best office in the world. :D

Where else can you spend most of your work day in house shoes or barefoot if the mood strikes you.

As for aspirations, my son is still at the age where his dream job changes weekly (if not from day to day). I have great hopes he will decide to make a career in th publishing industry, but this week he wants to be, "You know, of those guys with the tank on their back that swim into those sunken ships and find tons of treasure."

Ah, if only it were that easy.

Anonymous said...

"I believe that writers should either make enough to live a middle class life from their work, or do it part-time for the fun, and not the money."

This is so true. This is what makes a professional writer, as opposed to someone who writes. When it's a business, you see writing as your work, not so much as your passion, although it may be. You work, and you do it every day. You do it to achieve an end of publication, and hopefully, you do it on a contract.

Sam said...

I've always worked as a freelance illustrator and writer, always from home, and my kids have been pretty cool about it.
The hardest job to explain wasn't mine but my husband's job. He's a professional polo player. My son once told his teacher that his dad rode horses for a living.
The teacher called me and wanted to know if my husband was a cowboy, lol.

Nicole said...

>>And he said, "Well, then, you're the middle man." and I said, "yes, that why my blog's called agentinthemiddle,"

I think that's what's called a good, one-sentence hook. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I've always worked freelance since I've had children, and plan to go back into the city when they're in school (I live in a NY suburb).

I've had the best of both, and have enjoyed it. The only reason to go back are those pesky college tuitions that loom over the horizon.

Anonymous said...

You have a very good voice as a blogger.

Rural Catholic Woman said...

My teen daughter and I have the best conversations in the car. Since she is still in the school where I teach, I hear much more about the personal lives of some students than I might otherwise. It's during these times that I remember how compassionate, fierce and insightful she can be.

She thinks I'm nuts to work with 7th graders. I think she's nuts for wanting to work with preschoolers. Different talents, different loves.

Anonymous said...

I've reached middle age, and I've always worked for myself. Not always been easy, but I only had to answer to one person.
As time passes, I realize how many people really, REALLY detest their jobs. They dread going in the morning, and spend the day looking forward to leaving. Almost as if they were prisoners.
But at the same time, they don't, won't, can't quit, because of responsibiliites, etc.
My life hasn't been easy. I don't get paid vacation, or paid sick days or holidays. Everything comes out of the same pocket. If I don't work, I don't eat. I feel I've earned the right to complain about taxes, etc., when I do so, because as a sole proprietor, I pay the whole shebang.
I've lost patience with those who complain, and moan, and groan, and who meanwhile have enjoyed all the benefits being a corporate creature allows.
So I can truly say I love my work. I adore my work. My work is almost as good as my play.
But if you take a paycheck from someone else, don't you dare complain. Get off your arse and do something else. You owe yourself more, and you owe the person whose paycheck you accept more.

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