In this day and age, in this economy, I know that I am hardly unique in having been laid off; companies everywhere are "downsizing", fighting to stay afloat and doing whatever they have to do. I just fell into that lucky 10% margin.
Once I got past the shock, the initial rush of panic, the sense of loss and betrayal, I realized I'd actually just been given something I've fantasized about for years. The gift of time. If I had the courage to accept it.
My largest handicap as a writer has always been time. My job paid the majority of the bills, but we also run our own small business, a business we've run successfully for more than 20 years, now. It generates income, but not enough to live off of; it's largely a labor of love. As with every other business in this economy, especially small businesses, the last few years have been a struggle, and it seems like every year the struggle gets harder. Rise or fall, it takes up a fair chunk of time. When you run your own business, you don't work 8 to 5; you work when the work needs to be done, and you work until it's finished.
In the less-than-copious free time I squeeze in between juggling 2 jobs, my family, ordinary life maintenance tasks, and my social life (HA!), I write. In the past 20-odd years, I've finished 9 novels, dozens of short stories, 3 collections, started my own press 3 – no, 4 years ago now, published or re-published my works and put it out there for public consumption, and launched 2 websites related to same. I've been working on a non-fiction project of mine for several years, now. It is extremely research intensive and has been very slow going. I've had editors express interest in it several times over the years, and last year a publisher asked for a treatment, my summary, outline, chapters, etc. He wanted to see the entire manuscript when it was finished.
But it's still not finished.
I've sometimes wondered if it ever will be. Riding the bus to and from work, or lying awake at night staring at the ceiling, I go over and over the same question: how can I make more time to write? Will there ever come a time when I can just sit down, undisturbed, and work on what I want to work on, without being answerable to what seems like the entire rest of the universe? What do I have to do to get more time? Am I kidding myself, hanging onto my dream of writing full-time?
And suddenly, it's been handed to me. Or…has it?
On the one hand, my health insurance goes away, and considering it's now illegal to not have insurance, I will have to come up with it somehow. My salary paid a big chunk of our bills. Yes, we have savings, enough to live off of for a while, but that's for emergencies; in our line of work, retirement is not an option. We both plan to die in harness.
On the other hand, with my severance package, there's enough for me to spend the time finishing my book before I have to look for another job. Or…what if this is it, my big moment, my longed-for opportunity? What if I actually can live off my writing?
Do I take the chance? Do what I've always dreamed of? Take the leap and become a full-time writer and see if we can survive?
Naturally, the very next day, my former employer upped the ante by calling to tell me of a newly vacant full-time position in another department, and asking me if I wanted to apply for it. Same pay, no loss of seniority, all my benefits back as they were.
The clock is ticking. And I have no idea what I'm going to choose. At my age, finding a job is not as easy as it was 20 years ago. Do I pull the Disney routine and go after my dream, or make the safe, sane, and solid choice?
What's the difference between "courageous" and "idiotic"?