I must start by saying 2008 was the best year I’ve ever had! I wrote and sold a novel in the space of ten months. I garnered great reviews for my published novel. I established a significant online presence and attended a major mystery convention where I met and networked with others in the industry. Just to name some highlights. Some people would look back and say it was also the worst year we’ve ever had, with both of us unexpectedly laid off in March and our 401Ks devastated.

So at the beginning of 2009, I’m struggling with a weighty decision. I just found out that the health insurance I was counting on through my husband’s new job will cost $575 a month—and who the hell can afford that? So I have to rethink my strategy going forward. Is having health insurance important enough to make me change directions and get an outside job?

The thought breaks my heart. The best thing about 2008 was that I was able to focus on my novels—to put writing at the top of my to-do list for the first time in my life. Even the freelance work I did moved me closer to my goal of working exclusively in the fiction writing/editing industry. I believe a job, even a part-time one, will move me away from that goal. And looking for a job will be a major time suck.

So I’m vacillating. My mother wants me to get a job with insurance and security. My sons say to follow my dream—that I’m healthy and I’ll be fine. My husband is smart enough to stay out of it, accept as a good sounding board.

My thinking (at this moment) is to give myself more time and keep the momentum going. To finish the novel I’m writing (March is my goal), put it on the market, then reassess the situation at that point. I also plan to look into joining writers’ associations that offer insurance. (Does anyone have any experience with these policies and their cost?)

Meanwhile, here are my writing goals for 2009:

  • Write 1500 words a day, 5 days a week until my new novel is completed.
  • Outline the next (fourth!) Jackson novel between now and March.
  • Sign a publishing contract for this novel (the third in the Jackson series).
  • Sign a contract for my standalone thriller, The Baby Thief.
  • Write the fourth Jackson story before the end of the year.
  • Attend Bouchercon and possibly ThrillerFest (if my credit card mileage points allow).
  • Blog twice a week, write/develop a speaker’s presentation, and write three magazine articles (among other things).

Now that I’ve put that all down in writing, I realize that achieving those goals depends on having the freedom to write first, edit/clean later.

What are your goals? Any opinions on my dilemma?

  1. Follow your heart.

  2. I decided not to define writing goals this year (no 5- or 30-minute free write a day, no set number of poems to start or finish each month). I did set goals for sending work out, but I want to slow down on my writing and dig into it more deeply this year, without forcing it. We’ll see how that goes.

  3. Fourth, fourth! Now send me something to edit. LOL.

    I would rather you found $600/month in added income to pay for your husband’s company health coverage, unless the job you find is something you’re dying to do anyway.

    My goals are to finish at least one project per month of my own writing and get them off my desk post-haste. Also, to edit one mystery manuscript per week of another author’s writing for a total of 40 mss in 2009.


  4. I have some new writing goals that include spending more time on my speaking events and focusing my efforts on getting my books published with a more reputable publisher. Although I’ve been able to do quite a bit with my current publisher, I’m aiming to take my mystery series, The Rona Shively Stories, a bit further this year.
    Some other goals have to do with networking more and using the advice I get from marketing blogs and experts to achieve more brand recognition.
    It’s amazing how much free advice is out there and how effective it actually is. Thank god for social networking.
    Best of luck to you, LJ.

  5. While you are following your passion as a writer you can add “google adsense” to your blog, money. You may need to add more blogs, more money. I wish you the best of luck with your next book. I’ll be looking for your first one to read. Hugs

  6. This is a dilemma I’m facing, too. A couple of different options you may want to explore: the Author’s Guild offers insurance program for writers. http://www.authorsguild.org – I don’t know the costs, but it’s something to check into.

    You might check into the Society of Professional Journalists, too. http://www.spj.org. I’m less familiar with them, but I think they have insurance options available for members too.

    Hope this helps.

  7. You live your life the way you must and let God guide you. It will all work itself out the way it is supposed to.

    By the way, since you do so much for your readers I thought I would try and bring a smile to your face. Some say awards mean little, but when they come from the heart, hopefully they mean more. I recently accepted a Premio Dardos Award from Jane Kennedy Sutton (http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/). I would like to offer this award to you.

    You can find out more on my blog at http://karensyed.blogspot.com

    Happy new year.

  8. Being young and healthy isn’t a guarantee you won’t need insurance. I spent $60,000 on medical expenses because someone ran into me. Without insurance, I wouldn’t have been able to get the therapy.

    Your health is too important to gamble with.

    Just my two cents.

    Now, for the important stuff.

    Congratulations on your successes.


  9. Don’t go without insurance. It’s not worth the risk. You’ll find a way to do both, even if you have to slow down a tad.

  10. LJ, have you looked into purchasing an individual policy with a high deductible? I don't know if OR allows those to be sold or not (WA didn't until '02), but it may be affordable enough to be a temporary compromise. I'll poke around online for a few minutes & see what I can find for you.
    — Holly G. (HollyMVG on Twitter)

  11. Hope I don’t sound too harsh, but from a purely outsider’s perspective, you should definitely get a real job. It’s not so bad. Stability is the foundation of good writing. You can’t concentrate on writing if you’re worried about how to pay for health insusrance. So get a M-F 9-5(not something with unpredicatable hours) that comes with insurance and a steady payckeck. That still leaves you plenty of time to write. In fact, you’ll probably make even better use of your writing time since you’ll be forced to use it wisely instead of being confronted with endless amounts of time and then really feeling the pressure when you’ve got nothing to show for it with a deadline approaching.

    Also, your 2009 goals come off to me as somewhat robotic and uninspired, like that’s what you think you should do, like a laundry list of tasks spit out by the BestsellerWriter2000 program that you think will lead to the bestseller lists, when really you (or anyone else) have no idea.

    Also, and this is one a lot of if-only-I-didn’t-have-to-work-a-day-job-I’d-be-a-besteller types fail to realize, you will expose yourself to a variety of new people and situations when you get out into the real world, and that can only help by feeding in to your books (not directly, but insofar as writers should be exposed to new situations to stimulate new ideas).

    Best of luck in ’09.

  12. I agree with the above anon. Make absolutely sure that your writing is on par with your dreams and ambition. It is, you say? If so, then where’s the paycheck? If it’s not there, you probably have a ways to go, because publishers do pay for books that sell.

    But I’ve heard it said that, barring the unlikely event of a smash hit bestseller, you need 5-6 steady backlisters before you should seriously consider quitting the dayjob.

    Finally, I took a look at your Amazon numbers…you’re not there quite yet. You’re in the game, but if I were you, I wouldn’t give up the day job jsut yet, especially if it means no health insurance.

    Hope this helps.

  13. I’m a nine-to-fiver first and a writer second. Even without children, I often struggle to find the time I need to write.

    On the other hand, going without the insurance is not a risk I would recommend to anyone. Medical bills can be sudden and add up quickly.

    I’d recommend exhausting all your options before returning to work for the insurance, but do get the insurance. I too have heard that the Author’s Guild offers decent rates to its members, but I have not done the research to share the actual numbers.

    Good luck in your search and your dreams.


  14. I’m not sure this is an either/or situation. I would look for other options regarding health insurance. I’m self-employed as a freelance writer and my husband owns his own business. We’re in our forties with no health issues. We pay about $325 a month on the “catostrophic” plan. We don’t have dental insurance. Even our dentists said it wasn’t necessary.

    You could also look for ways to boost your income a bit.

    I would NOT gamble and go without health insurance. Yes, you’re healthy now, but things happen and you don’t want to lose everything you’ve worked for.

  15. “Even our dentists said it wasn’t necessary.”

    That’s cuz they don’t care as long as they get paid! They don’t care how you pay them, as long as you pay them. They inherently don’t have your best financial interests at heart. Never listen to a dentist for financial matters, only for dental matters. Ask your finance advisor how to pay the dentist, don’t ask your dentist how to pay the dentist!

  16. Some of these anonymous comments were, uh, interesting. For the record, I was laid off my job, so it’s not a question of whether I should give up my day job. And the idea that I might encounter endless amounts of free time made me laugh out loud. Because I do, in fact, work as a freelance editor and evaluator. In fact, I spend more time doing paid work than my own writing.

  17. Well, since you were laid, off, you should find a new job with insurance. Trouble is, it can be hard to find part-time jobs (since you already have your own freelance editing/writing work)that pay insurance. But it sounds as though the ideal job for you would be about 20 hrs per week, fixed schedule, with health ins. That would allow you to work 20 hrs per week freelance, for a total of 40, leaving another 20 per week or so for the novel writing.

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