Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Should You GO To College

 I have a job I love but financially it's really more of a side hustle since I also homeschool a third grader. I'm a fiction ghostwriter (mostly romance novels and business parables) and an author. The bulk of my income comes from the former. I'll never be good enough at marketing to rely on the latter, and I'm okay with that. I always say I like to write. If I wanted to market, I'd have an MBA instead of a MFA.

And that brings me to my point, the kind of advice I wish an older person would have given a younger me. Should you go to college? Maybe.

But it shouldn't be a default. I entered school with the idea that without a degree people literally didn't get jobs with livable wages. There may be some truth to this, although I know people who didn't go to college and out earn me significantly. But what we don't talk enough about is that the opposite can also be true. You can go to college and come out with enough debt that while you're being paid a higher wage, your standard of life is the same. You're also delayed in starting your career four years, because a lot of people can't handle working full time and school too.

So, when should you go to college?

When you know exactly what you want to do. "I want to be a lawyer." --> Not yet. 

"I want to be a corporate law attorney." --> You're not ready but keep thinking.

"I want to be a corporate law attorney who redefines X elements of Y industry. I'd really like to work for Z Company."  Now, you're ready. Get your undergrad in a field related to either law or Y industry. Intern in the summer. Consume media and information about law and Y industry when you're bored. You've got this.

Where should I go to college?

Somewhere really specific. Like insanely specific. The more specific the program the better. If you want to major in English decide what you want to do. Teach? Write? Edit? Read?  Once you've decided that get more specific.

"I want to write fiction." 
Great. Literary or genre? Or your so artsy you consider literary a genre?

"I want to write literary fiction." Great. Go for an old school with a name. I hear there is a good place in Moscow Iowa.
"I want to write genre fiction." Great. There is a program in PA and one in KY. Although, I think KY only has an applicable in program in post grad. 

The point is we have to change the conversation. You shouldn't take enough debt to buy a car to "get a piece of paper" because you think it will get you a job. You should do it because you've found what you love and you want to learn more about it. You think you've mastered what you can, and you're ready to go deeper. You can't get any further on your own. You tend to get more out of things that you put the most into. You're more likely to do this if you're on your way not floundering through life because you're not sure what else to do and getting a degree seems to be the next logical step.

If you've found your path and you're trying to fulfill it, you won't regret your degree. You'll get where you're supposed to be. If you take a degree because it's just step two, you may not be happy with it. 

I realize this post has nothing to do with fiction or ghostwriting, but I love processing my thoughts in writing. And after this much work, I had to hit publish. Besides, I need to make sure it's in the archive, so I can refer back to it in a few years when my daughter is older.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

At your funeral, everyone talked about how you had been a social worker for twenty-five years or something like that. 
A quick inventory of my life felt like I was months from 33 and had accomplished nothing. I didn't change anything. I wasn't ready.
New Year's Eve I had a huge fight with Emil. It struck me that not only was I thirty-three with no accomplishments, but if I ever got divorced, I wouldn't be able to support ELF. You told me to get a teaching license in college. I didn't listen. I generally thought if you said something I should do the opposite. So, I set out to get a teaching license. It was difficult since I'd already failed once.
On the one year anniversary of your death, I took the P.P.E. 
I think I missed two questions. Emil and I agreed I would student teach, because it's the quickest path to the license, and I got laid off trying this the first time.
I finished student teaching in December, and my goal was the be in my own classroom on the second anniversary of your death.
I wasn't. 
COVID19 happened. Schools closed for the year. I hadn't found a job yet, and Emil didn't want me to come in contact with a hundred and twenty kids a day.
I decided since I had to have some time at home I'd check out freelance writing. Someone posted for a fiction intern. I applied not expecting to get the gig. (I know how the writing world works. You never get the gig.) But a few questions on the application struck me: 
How long have you been writing fiction? Ten years. 
What awards or honors have you received for writing? I have a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. A Missing Peace was published by Harlequin Escape in 2013 and His First Lady was published by Limitless Publishing in 2019. I've self published a couple of novellas and two of my editing clients were USA Today Bestsellers.
Wow. I had accomplished things. Just not the kind of things you get paid for, and I had spent ten years of my life doing something. 
A surprise came. I got the gig. I'm making about fifteen hundred dollars a month writing from home. I know it's nothing but I couldn't be working full time right now anyhow. And I think it can grow.
I remember the weekend before you died, you told me I was just writing the wrong thing. I wasn't. I still write romance. I was writing for the wrong audience? As soon as I shifted from original fiction to ghostwriting I noticed a change. (But I'm almost afraid to publish this, because the truth of the writing world is luck can change at anytime.)
But for now I think I'm okay. I may even be able to make this work. I wish you hadn't left me, and I'm sorry I fought with you for all those years. 
I hope we see each other again, but I'm not sure. I've lost my faith in the struggle.
I love you, Mom.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Covid-19 Diary #4: A blob of introspection

We've agreed to homeschool the ELF, meaning I'll homeschool ELF next year.
We're also attempting to start an info graphics business, and I'm really hopeful/excited about it. I'll be writing scripts and if I combine that with my freelance writing, I'll FINALLY be making a living writing. Like ten years of work will have paid off!
I'm starting a freelance project today I'm nervous/excited about. It's an awesome opportunity, but the writing style might be a stretch for me.
Today seems to be a day of fresh starts. Probably the biggest change yet? We're planning a move to California when this is all over. I don't know if it will actually happen. I think there is at least a 50% chance it won't, but planning it is getting me through quarantine.
This is almost like a bucket list item for me. When I was young, I planned to go to LA and be a movie star. I couldn't afford to move to LA, so I moved to Dallas instead. (A lot closer to home and a cheaper move.) I started college as a theater major and wrote a lot of my own scripts. I performed and people would compliment the writing not the performance.
This annoyed me, so I decided to go to law school. Yeah, I don't know how I made that leap either except that I was on five cable stations for protesting tuition increases and it seemed like my political future was stronger than my theatrical future. I dropped out of law school a couple of years later and took to writing really bad literary fiction. I took a job as a paralegal and got grounded in the practicality of life. My husband approached the topic of California a couple of times and I shot him down because it's so expensive.
This happened two more times.
And finally I realized two people who want to live in California are hiding in Austin, because I'm afraid of the cost of real estate. But we make things work in every other scenario. There is no reason we can't make this work too.
Releasing fear gave birth to the plan.
How are you doing with the quarantine?

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Covid-19 Diary #3

I'm behind with everything.
I signed up for a write a novel in a month class then booked a big ghost writing gig I couldn't afford to turn down. However, there has been a delay in receiving the information packet to get started. I should have been chipping away at Her Chief of Staff. Sadly, I've done nothing.
I signed up for a class on writing articles for children's magazines and so far haven't got past the concept. One concept.
I'm also behind in my happiness class with no real motivation to keep going.

I have been doing yoga daily, at least for five days. LOL.
I'm also considering becoming Buddhist. Did you know the word Buddha means teacher? I mean this fits right in with what the strengths inventory said and I'm a teacher. Maybe. It's kind of hard to swallow that I finished my license in December and this junk started in March. I'm not sure I should be in a classroom in the fall. I'm high risk and have the ELF to consider.

I've enjoyed being home with my family but I'm really sick of all the uncertainty. I just need a calmer more straight forward path.
How is your quarantine going?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Happiness Class: Gratitude Journal #1

For my "The Science of Well Being" class this week I'm supposed to be keeping a gratitude journal, list five things I'm thankful for every night.
It's Thursday and this is my first attempt at doing it.
Since class is on Monday, I'm not off to a great start, but here goes:


  • My husband who has always supported me even when I'm wrong. 
  • My daughter. She's pretty much my life.
  • I'm not able to sub, but my husband's job still seem secure at a time when a lot of people have lost jobs.
  • I'm a homeowner (or the bank lets me pretend to be), and I don't have to worry about maintenance people or landlord showings bringing germs inside my home.
  • I had time to write a story this week.
  • I decided since I have to live regency, I might as well dress for dinner and it was fun.
  • I got paid to write Saturday! #Win
  • An editing client asked me to help her package a book.
  • I planned my nephew's virtual birthday. This is something I would not have done w/o a quarantine.
  • We had a pizza and movie night.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The COVID-19 Diary #2

I'm having a harder time staying positive today. I'm whacked my schedule. I'm up all night and exhausted all day. The pollen is high. My allergies staged a mutiny, and I only made through 8 minutes and 37 seconds of my 24 minute work out today.
But I didn't want to push it. I can't go to the doctor, because of COVID-19(have to throw that in for context in case this becomes the next Diary of Anne Frank. Yeah, right.) so no no asthma attacks today!
It's the second week of my science of well being course, which I'm actually looking forward to.
Last week because of this course, I learned my greatest strength is my love of learning. (I'd liked my greatest strength to be something more quantifiable but whateverz.)
And to be happier I needed to find 7 ways to use my strength, so I learned:

  1. How to design t-shirts (This was completely accidental. I signed up for an Udemy course on passive income.)
  2.  How to sell t-shirts on merch
  3. How to sell t-shirts on teespring
  4. There is a plug-in for your blog that will automatically build your newsletter.
  5. How to put a class on udemy
  6. Canva has free artwork and fonts for design
  7. Woman's World got a new editor and now has a fb group for writers.
I also paid attention to what I learned and how I learned it.
I had no intention of designing t-shirts but since I'd paid for the class I stuck around for the information. It's actually kind of fun. I'm going to keep doing it until I have 100 designs. By then if I haven't sold one, I'll throw in the towel. I don't feel like a quitter since selling t-shirts was never part of my plan. But there is too much free time right now and it was a fun thing to try.
I learned about the plug in for the blog from a friend. But last week was the first time I sent a newsletter that got a response, so I think I want to keep trying to write them myself at least for a while. If nothing else, it's good practice.

Since we've all been forced into this pre-industrial lifestyle, I want to wear lounge clothes and commit to leisure activities all day then don a sparkling dinner dress every evening and pretend I'm in regency England! 
What are you doing this week?

Monday, March 23, 2020

The COVID 19 Diary #1

I'm taking a FREE class on the science of well being from Yale through Coursera.
If you need to be happier during our bleak time, you can find it here.
And I'm actually thankful for ELF's dance school today. Because of the virtual classes, she got two hours of interaction with other kids.
I managed to do a barre workout but got no writing done. My homeschool endeavors are going well today. As promised, I'll include a picture of tomorrow's checklist in case you're following along at home. I'm relying on ABC Mouse a lot right now. If you need a subscription, you can find that here and they are doing a special for $45/year which you can break into 3 installments of $15. If your child is older, their sister company Adventure Academy is available for the same price right now. (I have a second semester 2nd grader and wish I'd gone with Adventure. I've contacted ABC Mouse to see if I can get switched over, but for now I'm using this.)

How is your isolation going? 
P.S. As part of my course on the science of well being, I need to come up with 7 different ways to use my "signature strength" a love of learning. LOL. Not exactly what I would think of as a strength. Help me out! What are seven different ways (that I can do right now in isolation) to use a love of learning?