29 April 2008

The Walk Home

It couldn’t have been more whimsical if it had been Mr. Tumnus with a pan flute walking with Lucy. After the brief moment of the scene, I half-expected to look in my rearview mirror to see him skipping next to the boy.

The boy was average-looking. His tawny skin seemed to glow from the afternoon sun, and he dragged a weighted backpack with him, worn low on his back because that’s what all the boys did. He knew his father didn’t like it, but they compromised, and he wore khaki pants and button-down shirts to school every day. He was sure when he went to high school his father would relax the rules. He looked a little tired, which was to be expected after a full day of school that included forty-five minutes of full-speed kickball in the gymnasium. He was dreading the end of the walk home when he’d have to sit at the kitchen table to work out math problems while his mother chopped vegetables for dinner.

He walked an even pace with the man, but was careful to leave space enough between them so they could have been mistaken for two strangers instead of father and son. He wasn’t ashamed of his father by any means, but he was getting to the age that he recognized the strange smiles people used to look at his father.

His father, on the other hand, did not recognize those smiles. In his traditional mind, he believed people said what they meant, so, to him, smiles were smiles, and not masks for pity and snobbishness.

This afternoon was like many others to the man. He insisted on walking the few blocks from their small house to the corner to meet his son every afternoon. Often that brief walk was the best father-son conversation the two had, and the man was not going to give that up simply because his son was letting adolescent American boys tease him about his protective parents.

“It is not that I don’t trust you,” the man told the boy once. “My father always picked me up from school, and his father before him. It is valuable time that not every father can afford.”

This afternoon the man brought his flute along as he left the house. It was an impulse; he saw the instrument laying across the table and his hand reached for it in the same instant his other hand reached for the doorknob. As he walked to the corner he tuned the flute, playing stylized scales and a warm up piece he’d learned too long ago to recall the tutor’s name or hair color.

Every few steps he stopped to pull the headpiece out a little more. His son waved to him from across the street, and when they met, they embraced briefly before turning to head back the way the man came.

On the walk home, the man continued playing the flute, testing his fingers on snatches of childhood songs. As he walked, keeping the pace his son set on the uneven sidewalk. He hunched to the side as he walked, contorting his body around the flute, spooning it.

His son didn’t object, knowing his father would give reasonable explanation for why it was important for them to play and listen to music on the walk home from school. The walk wasn't long, and they would be home before his father started into the operas.

The music echoed in the trees that lined one side of the sidewalk, mixing with the calling of the birds, who seemed curious at this man who was trying to sound like them. On the other side of the duo walking, a long line of slow-moving cars carried children home, and as they were stopped periodically to allow the crossing guard shuffle knots of stimulated children across the white striped bridge painted on the street. The drivers and passangers swiveled their heads to take in the pair in the few moments they had to look, and then the father and son, lost in their world of flute music, were just a memory.

28 April 2008

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I've begun reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The back cover says:
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness--featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

I am only at the beginning of the novel, but I'm already enjoying it very much. It's strange and drawing me in the way A. S. Byatt's stories do.

More as it develops, of course.

23 April 2008

So You Think You're a Poet? Part Three: Punctuation

As you're probably learning, there are many aspects of poetry that make it what it is.

Imagery creates vividness, and helps readers draw a connection between themselves and the poet.

Line breaks/structure help certain images or phrases or lines stick out to the reader, since the mind pauses, even for a split second, at the end of a line.

Punctuation is important in a similar way to line breaks/structure. Punctuation also causes the reader to pause, but it is a heavier pause than a line break.

For the purposes of example, I point you to my magnetic poem, "confess, dead!"

This is how it appears in the picture of the magnets:

confess dead
break her ideal manacle
voice cliches & plant success
would you do a white naked girl
perfect in sweet thought
howling aching burning memory
dig out the strange precious vacuum of old curses

This is how it appears after I added punctuation:
confess, dead!
break her ideal manacle!
voice cliches & plant success.
would you do a white naked girl--
perfect in sweet thought?
howling, aching, burning memory
dig out the strange, precious vacuum of old curses.

To quote Dana:

It's really awesome how punctuation changed the entire feel. When I first read confess, dead! it fell flat because I wasn't looking at the punctuation: confess dead just doesn't have the same oomph as confess, dead! So you're not just a wizard with magnetic words, but with punctuation as well!

I agree. Thank you. In the first version, the ideas sort of run together due to the lack of punctuation. But in the second, the reader pauses for breath, for reflection, at every comma, period, question mark, and dash.

Just as you should carefully consider where to give the reader pause in line breaks, you should equally as carefully consider where to give the reader pause through punctuation. After all, it works both ways.

In E. E. Cummings's poem "Chansons Innocentes: I," punctuation is used to slow the reader down a bit. In the first line, for example, there is a dash. It reads:
in Just-

And immediately, the reader stops to think about what that means.

Before you start putting commas and dashes everywhere, though, remember that punctuation can also have the opposite effect (whether intended or not). In William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow," a lack of punctuation is used to keep the reader moving through the line breaks to reach the end of the thought.
so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with

beside the white

It's true the line breaks create a bit of pause as the eye moves to the beginning of the next line, but these pauses are not nearly as significant as those created by punctuation.

There is a story I heard quite some time ago about a poet who worked hard all morning in his office. At lunch, a friend asked him, "What did you do all morning?"

"I added a comma," he answered.

That afternoon, he worked just as hard, and at supper, the same friend asked, "So what did you do all afternoon? Add another comma?"
"No, of course not!" the poet said. "I took it out."

22 April 2008

Happy Earth Day!

As a writer, I use a lot of paper. I know, I know. Not entirely Earth-friendly, but I do recycle whenever I can, and when I have paper I can't recycle, I cut up the paper and use the backs of the quarter-sheets as notepaper, bookmarks, etc.

Today at work, I held class with half the lights off in an effort to conserve energy (as many other teachers did).

And on May 22nd, I'll be celebrating the first "But Earth Day Was Last Month" Day! I'll be wearing my organic shirt, conserving energy, and not using any paper all day to remind myself (and others) that every day is Earth Day!

I encourage you to join with me in this effort to make the Earth a little greener, and perhaps start trends that can continue the rest of the year!

Happy Earth Day! Think green!

19 April 2008

From Hobby Writer to Freelancer in 223 pages!

I'm finising my reading of Michelle Goodman's Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. It's an amazing little resource!

It was encouraging to me to see that Goodman recommends the plan I already have in place: start part-time and move into full time. She offers great advice at time management, self-promo/marketing, and at the end of each chapter, she includes an "Action Plan" of three to five items to help you get to the next phase in realizing your dreams.

I've got a to-do list for the next few weeks; hopefully I'll be able to keep myself on track while still getting work done at my "day gig." The year is winding down, and I'll be trying to keep myself from getting burned out before my last day.

One of the next steps in my pursuit of a full time freelance career is to establish a website. As soon as it's up, believe me, it'll be linked here!

So for those of you who just can't get enough of me, take heart! I'll have more soon! In the meantime, feel free to check me out here!

Happy scribbling!

18 April 2008

So You Think You're a Poet? Part Two: Structure/Line Breaks

This month my freshmen classes are reading and studying poetry. One particular bit of advice I’ve given them is to pay attention to the structure of a poem. Poets insert line breaks for a reason.

There are many poets whose poetry attests to this:
Walt Whitman, E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and others. Each line break is treated with the same reverence as an image, a title, and any form of punctuation.

When I was in high school, I didn't know much about the structure of poetry. So when I wrote a poem (I use the term loosely), I broke the line when I got to the end of the page. The only indication my poems were, in fact, poems was that each line was capitalized. And, in my young writing mind, I thought I was writing poetry.

Careful consideration must be made in the decision to create a line break, or to structure a poem in a particular way. Look at this poem by E. E. Cummings. In it, he uses line breaks and structure to add to the whimsical atmosphere of a spring day in the park. Now imagine the poem as a prose poem, or having been broken at the end of a thought or sentence.

My college poetry professor told us to be sure our line breaks served a purpose in the poem. What do you want the break to accomplish? Or, for that matter, what do you want the lack of break to accomplish?

A line break, especially to readers who have not studied poetry as much, is a pause. Yes, if there's enjambment you should continue reading as if it were on the same line, but when seeing it on the page, the mind still pauses for a split-second as the eyes move to the beginning of the next line. That said, where do you want your readers to pause, even if briefly, to think about what they've just read? Consider the poem below by William Carlos Williams, which has been altered (though the words are same):

so much depends upon
a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain water
beside the white chickens.

Now close your eyes for a moment and picture the image just described. Can you see it? Okay. This is the proper structure:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Close your eyes again. Now what do you see? If you're anything like me, the image was very different.

When I read the first version, I see a red wheelbarrow on the ground next to a few chickens. And the wheelbarrow is wet. In my mind, it's an entire image.

When I read the proper version, the image develops as I read. First, I see a bright red wheelbarrow, upside down on the ground. It's wet and you can see the water rivulets on the sides of it. It's large and it's all I can see. Then, my mental camera pulls back on the scene, and there are three white chickens, so bright in the sun you can barely stand to look at them, picking at the ground next to the wheelbarrow. And despite the brightness of the chickens, my mind still goes back to the wheelbarrow, fire-engine red, upside down, shiny from the water.

If Williams had structured his poem in any other way, I very much doubt I would love it as much as I do. But because he took time and consideration as he wrote to create the perfect image in the line breaks, it is my favorite poem.

When you write a poem, be careful about how you write it. Don't let it fall flat because you didn't structure it the way it should have been structured. Be aware of what you're presenting both visually and mentally with every line of your poem. All the imagery in the world couldn't save a poorly formatted poem.

And now that I've worried you, go! Write! Worry over whether or not to start a new line!

And happy scribbling!

16 April 2008

An Epiphany Revisited

I was reminded again today of how much I would like to write full time. As I was sitting in my classroom during the last period of the day, I told my students to quiet down and read, as they were supposed to be doing, and as I was telling them to quiet down, their voices rose over mine so they could be heard as they finished their sentences instead of reading.

Really? I had to, unfortunately, shout to be heard, and when they heard my tone they finally went back to reading, but in that moment I came to a realization.

While I enjoy teaching very much, and could see myself in front of a classroom for years to come, it is not what I want to do with the rest of my life.

There is something wonderful in teaching. I love being able to share my passion for language and literature with open minds. I love being able to contribute to the education of young people. I love getting paid to read and write! And I have more good days than bad days. My students, many times, are responsive to my discussion questions, they have good insights into the literature, and they don't complain (much) about the work I assign them.

However, it's not what I want to do with the rest of my life.

I am not so young and naive that I think adulthood is getting paid way too much to have fun all day every day. I paid my own way through college, and I know sometimes you have to do what you don't want to do in order to pay the bills and/or get to the place where you can get paid to have fun all day every day.

To be honest, it made me a little jealous last night when my husband was talking about being able to stay home today. A small part of me was jealous because I was tired and wanted to sleep in, but most of me wanted to stay home so I could scribble all day. And, unfortunately, it didn't get better this morning.

Even when I was standing in front of my students today, I was thinking about what I need to do to get my freelance work going. I was thinking about how to liven up one of the sections in my coffee house book. I was thinking about the fact that my writing to do list is much longer than my work to do list, and not because I have less time to write each day than I do to teach.

I am in the process of preparing to do what I want to do with the rest of my life. I just hope my heart can hold out until then.

14 April 2008

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Don't forget to carry a poem with you on Thursday, April 17th for the first national Poem in Your Pocket Day! If you'd like some recommended poems already formatted for carrying, go here.

I will be carrying "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams.

11 April 2008

So You Think You're a Poet? Part One: Imagery

When I took a poetry writing course in college, one of the things my professor beat into our heads—and pens—nearly every day was the use of imagery. If I didn’t learn anything else about poetry, I learned that imagery is important. Imagery is important. Imagery is important. Imagery is important.

In poetry, imagery is used to transform the telling of an event into an experience that readers can relate to. Instead of reading about eating a watermelon,
Charles Simic puts us in a summer day when he writes:

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

When poems have vivid sensory imagery, readers are much better able to draw on their own experiences as they read because they aren’t faced with the vague notion of “summer,” but remember eating watermelons at family picnics, perhaps standing in a row with siblings and cousins, leaning as far back as possible to catapult watermelon seeds across the lawn where a young cousin is waiting to measure distances. See how much better imagery is?

One of the great things about imagery is its ability to create such a variety of experiences and draw on such a variety of memories for the reader. However someone remembers an event or experience, the poet can draw on that by touching all the senses in imagery. Take the following as an example, which will be written in prose for convenience. Start with the sentence: “It was the first morning of her honeymoon cruise.”

Now let’s add imagery, beginning with visual.

The enormous orange globe was just peeking over the vast glassy ocean, the water barely parting as the stark white ship sluiced through it, churning up creamy, bubbling foam in its wake, the only sign of its passing the barely visible waves radiating out from the back of the ship like arms opening to the world waiting for the ship’s return. The curtains were pulled mostly closed, and there was a glow coming from behind them, though the room was still dim.

Let’s add auditory.

Unlike other mornings, this one was not punctuated by commuters on the highway just outside, children calling to each other on their way to the bus stop, birds cackling to the squirrels from the safety of the trees. Instead, this morning was accompanied by the soothing soundtrack of a rhythmic Whoosh! of that green-blue water kissing the sides of the ship, the occasional floating laughter from the balcony above, footsteps in the hall outside on the way to breakfast or the pool or the spa. Occasionally, her husband’s breath caught in his throat, causing him to snore lightly.

How about olfactory (smell).

Though the balcony door was closed, there was the faint smell of saltiness in the air that mixed with the light, clean scent of the stateroom, and called to mind hotel rooms on the beach. She could smell her husband’s cologne, left over from their romantic dinner the night before.

Let’s add tactile (touch).

There was warmth where her husband’s form was curled next to her, the weight of his arm flung across her stomach. The pillow was sunken in on one side from sleeping, and now her head tried to roll a little to that side, closer to her husband. If she closed her eyes and stayed very still, she could feel herself shifting slightly back and forth as the ship moved through the water.

One more: gustatory (taste). Sometimes this one’s a little hard.

Her mouth had the familiar morning dryness to it—something that didn’t change with the addition of her wedding ring—but she could detect a hint of salty moisture in the air when she opened her mouth to yawn. She was looking forward to ordering breakfast—there was nothing like fresh, ice cold strawberries and thick, sweet cream spooned generously over them.

There. Isn’t that better?

Imagery is important in poetry. And the more specific and concrete the images are, the stronger they are. Don’t just say “a pen.” Tell me if it’s ball point, roller ball or fountain. What color ink is in it? Is it a click-y pen or does it have a cap? Does it have a logo? If so, what? The more you tell about an image the more vividly your reader sees it, and the stronger the writing is.

A good writing exercise I do for imagery (in poetry as well as prose) is to take one small image: an ink pen, for example, and write about it using all five senses with a minimum word count (or line count for poetry). Granted, this gets a bit interesting when it comes to gustatory imagery, but it’s a fun exercise, and it forces you to look at the tiny details of an object when you write about it, particularly if your minimum word/line count is a bit high.

An alternative to the word/line minimum is to write for four minutes and fill an 8½” x 10” sheet of paper with as much specific, concrete detail as possible. This is fun, too, because of the time restriction.

Remember: imagery draws in a reader, and gives the reader specific things to focus on and use to draw on his or her own experiences to your poem, your experience.

Happy imagery scribbling!

07 April 2008

How do you keep from not writing?

I remember when I was in college and working on my senior thesis (in my over-ambitious mind, I thought it a brilliant idea to write a full length novel during my senior year of college to be due during finals). Being young and full of life, I was able to write for three days on one night's sleep and a bag of coffee. Being a senior I had a relatively easy course load, and was able to write often, and for long periods of time.

And still, I wasn't able to finish the novel I started the summer before.

Since then I've matured a bit, and become much more fastidious in my professional and personal lives. In hindsight, I'm envious of Younger Me for having so much time to write, and angry that I wasted so much of it on mindless escapes from reality. Now that I'm out in the "real world" (or whatever reality a paradise landscape and M & M Mouse as neighbors can provide), I would love to be able to have as much time as I did to write.

Over Spring Break last week I stood on the edge of a stage and let myself fall into the pit. Metaphorically. In four days of writing, I finished 103 pages of a stage play. I've been elated that I was able to keep the TV off, set my class projects aside, and sit in front of my laptop with nothing more than a cup of strong tea and an idea for so long. It was reminiscent of November!

This weekend, however, as I was preparing for this week's classes, I found myself swallowing a hard knot of dread in anticipation of days away from my beloved book, and had visions of drowning under an insurmountable mountain of ungraded essays while my laptop was decorated with dust and cobwebs.

After a day and a half of wondering how I would meet my deadline (June 30th) for the coffee house book I'm writing, I was finally able to summon sense enough to smack myself with an inkwell (yes, I have inkwells lying about for smacking) and remind myself that while it is, in fact, April, I need not imprison my "make time to write" attitude to November. If I can write over 50,000 words in one month while giving unit tests and getting ready for my first Thanksgiving as a wife, why can't I finish my book by June 30th during units that involve considerably less grading? Silly to think I can't!

As a result, I've created for myself a handy-dandy daily writing schedule to ensure I maximize the free time I thought didn't exist due to being masked in procrastinating the grading process, watching television, and personal hygeine. Granted, I will still be showering, but with a specific writing schedule, I find I already feel much better about my writing life.

I know Younger Me would cringe at the thought of a strict writing schedule. "Just write, man!" (Yes, Younger Me is a bit hippy-ish.) But as I've graduated from late-night runs to Steak 'n' Shake and marathon Mario Party 6 competitions to renter's insurance and a pension plan, I've decided it better to graduate from writing sporadically to a real writing schedule.

Having a writing schedule doesn't mean my writing is taking on some strange heretofore unknown appearance of being confined. Instead, I'm able to use the time I have in a more productive way to increase my writing output and still have time to play with the slightly demonic cat who gnaws on toes if left to her own devices too long. And because I'm more definitive in my starting and stopping times for my writing, I find myself planning ahead for what I intend to work on during each session, which just adds to my productivity.

I have been told many times by many writers that being a writer is about making time to write, and using the time you have to write. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. It's what you do with those hours that makes the difference.

Creating a writing schedule might be a good idea for you if you feel like you never have time to write. Even if you manage an hour a day, that's an hour more than you thought you had. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you're creating your schedule.

Be realistic. Sure, it'd be great to write eight hours a day, never need a bathroom or coffee break, and have the first draft be final draft quality. It'd also be great to have a huge beach house and get paid to look at the view every morning. Unfortunately, life isn't always like that. So when you create your writing schedule, remember that you may actually have to go to work, eat dinner, and do laundry once in a while. Try to give yourself as much writing time as you can, but don't sacrifice the rest of your life, either.

Be flexible. While it is helpful to create a writing schedule to help keep on track and ensure you have as much writing time as possible, sometimes it's not always possible to stick to your schedule. NaNoWriMo is a great example of this. Being in November, there are a couple of days of writing that conflict with Thanksgiving and family time for most people. This past year, I purposely wrote extra for a week leading up to Thanksgiving Day so I wouldn't be conflicted between reaching my word count and spending time with my family. When I created my schedule, I left room on both sides of the block of time to give me some flexibility. Things come up, and you have to be willing to work with it.

Remember: life comes first. This goes along with being flexible and realistic. While I love writing and would gladly give up doing anything and everything unnecesary to progressing my plot in favor of scribbling, I am also aware (somewhere in my ink-addled brain) that I do, in fact, live in the real world (see above), and I can't keep writing while the cat is triumphantly clinging to the curtain rod and crying for me to come rescue her from this new, scary spot in which she's gotten herself stuck. Life comes first. I, for one, am not willing to neglect my husband in favor of writing.

Set a minimum writing goal. My current writing goal is to finish writing my coffee house book by June 30th. With my new writing schedule this is very doable, and I find the goal is helping to keep me motivated as I write. This is also the intention of things like NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy: to give writers something to work toward in order to prove to themselves they can do it (whatever "it" happens to be). When you set a goal, it gives you something to look toward, something to work for, and helps remind you of why you've set up a schedule in the first place. I could go on and on about writing goals, but that's another blog entirely, so for now, you'll have to settle for this. And this. And this. And this.

Whether you create a strict writing schedule or not (and whether you stick to that schedule or not), just keep writing when you can. Every day I have about half an hour of lunch time that I often use to scribble or research at work. It's not on my schedule, but I've gotten a lot of great work done that way! And even if my schedule went up in flames tomorrow, I'd make time to keep writing, and somehow, I'd finish my book by June 30th. And with the passion for writing I know is somewhere inside you, you can achieve your writing goals, too.

Happy scribbling!

06 April 2008

So You Want to Be a Writer...

I recently had the privilege of realizing how badly I want to be a full time writer. I am a full time teacher right now, and though I greatly enjoy teaching literature and grammar and writing skills to students who are only in my classes because the state mandates they take four years of English to graduate (a policy with which I wholeheartedly agree), my heart pumps ink through my veins, and my fingers ache to be resting lightly on my laptop keyboard each day.

I am a writer.

When the frustration at not being able to write gets particularly strong, I try to remind myself that other far greater authors held more than full time jobs and managed to scribble out best-selling books without complaint. I try to remind myself that, compared to many, I have a good writing schedule—I get weekends and holidays off, as well as summers. I try to remind myself that it could be a lot worse.

It doesn’t always work.

There is something in me that must write. Even when I’m standing in front of my students giving them lecture notes about a literary period of history, or the definition of a heretofore unknown vocabulary word, I feel my left hand itch a little bit, silently begging me to sit at my desk with a pad and black ink pen, and let it swirl and scratch the paper to create a world, a person, a story. In the seven-minute passing period between classes, I find myself taking notes to work on a story that afternoon, reminders to edit a certain scene a certain way, or creating a new character. I eat lunch in my classroom and use the time to write. And when I get home in the afternoons, I write.

But it just doesn’t seem like enough.

I discussed this feeling with my incredibly supportive, loving, and totally sexy husband, who told me he doesn’t care what I do as long as our bills get paid. (What a dreamboat!) So I’m exploring my options as a writer to see what I can do to write full time and still ensure our family financial needs are met. It won’t happen tomorrow or next week or maybe even this year, but with my husband’s support and, sometimes, prodding, I will be a full time writer.

And that’s what it comes down to for me. I am a writer, and while I’m happy pounding into the heads of teenagers that you use “who” for people and “that” for everything else (Ex: “Dana is the one who let me write this blog, and writing is the topic that I covered.”), I know I won’t be truly happy until I can say I’m a full time writer, be it freelance or otherwise. So I’m taking the necessary steps in my life to ensure that which is a dream right now becomes a reality in the foreseeable future.

That’s one of the advantages to being a writer: YOU ARE IN CHARGE! Yes, you may have obligations that fall outside the realm of writing (you know: showering, eating, feeding the cat), but when it comes to your writing career, you will always only get out of it what you put into it.

If you’re happy scribbling stories on the weekends or on vacations and submitting them to literary journals once a year, or relegating your writing life to reading The Writer magazine, by all means, be a hobby writer. But if you’re like me, you look at people around you as characters, and catch snippets of conversation in line at the grocery store, which then continues as a scene in your head in the car on the way home. If you’re like me, writing isn’t a hobby that will one day be “something I did when I was younger.” If you’re like me, you’re a writer, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes in your life to write.

Writing full time isn’t for everyone. Some people can’t (or shouldn’t) write full time because of their financial obligations, while others would find the lack of time constraint overwhelming to the point that they would be unable to be productive. Some people, though, would see being a full time writer as exactly the motivation needed to keep writing, to keep submitting, and to bring home a real paycheck based on the ideas that started as two names scribbled on a cocktail napkin during Girls’ Night Out.

Before you decide to take a black permanent marker and scrawl “I QUIT” across your boss’s forehead, there are a few things you may want to do to make sure you’re making the right decision.

Talk to your partner. If you are in a relationship, it’s important to keep your partner “in the loop,” particularly in a decision this big that would affect him or her. If you’re not in a relationship, but you do have a roommate (or two), you may want to mention to your roommate you’re considering a career change that may or may not affect your income. It would just be a courtesy.

Look at your finances. This may seem like an obvious step, but it’s definitely an important one! You can’t expect to write a story, submit it, and suddenly be a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Sadly, it doesn’t quite work that way. So before you raid the office supplies closet with that big box the new printer came in, make sure your budget can handle a sudden drop in income as you’re breaking into writing and finding your way.

Consider the “why”. Why do you want to write full time? Is it because you absolutely positively cannot imagine not writing all day because writing is that important to you, or did you have a bad week at work and just want to get out? The “why” is an important part of this decision. You don’t want to use writing as an excuse to get away from a difficult work situation. Something you should do is look at how you feel on a good day at work—do you still want to write full time, even when you come home from work loving your job?

Decide if you want a clean break, or if you want to shift into it gradually. Because of my situation, I am going to start doing freelance writing part time for a while, and work up to doing it full time. While I’m writing part time, I intend to keep teaching full time. A big part of the reason I’m doing this is because of our finances: I want to make sure I can make enough money writing to do it full time. By writing part time first, I can establish clips and a reputation, so when I make the switch to full time, I won’t be starting with nothing.

There is more to making the decision to write full time than the few points I’ve outlined here, but it’s a start. And it’s a decision that should not be made lightly. Yes, you would have the freedom of your own schedule, being your own boss, etc., but there is work involved, and you have to be prepared to work hard as you’re getting started.

Okay, so you’ve read my opinion on all this, and you’ve decided this is really something you want to do. Great. Now what?

Well, if there’s one thing writers are good at, it’s reading and researching, and that’s what you need to do! The Internet offers a variety of great resources for people who want to write full time, particularly as freelance writers. In fact, there are lots of great places to advertise your services or to seek freelance jobs.

http://freelancewrite.about.com/ offers a community of information including articles about freelance writing, forums to connect with other writers, and links to helpful products and books to help you along. It even has a list of sites to help you get a freelance job!

Lots of writers’ communities/forums have freelance writing sections to help answer your questions, find work, and expose scams. Not only that, joining a writers’ forum helps you network with other writers.

Whatever you decide, whatever else you do, and as cliché as it may be to say, make sure you stay true to yourself and your writing. Trust yourself. If you don’t feel right about it, don’t do it! You’ll be glad you didn’t.

And whether you decide to send a scanned photo of your butt to your boss in an email that reads “I QUIT” 700 times, or you decide to keep scribbling on the weekends and on holidays, the important thing is to keep writing!

Happy scribbling!