Sometimes “no” is the right answer.

In early February I started a job at the Register-Guard, our local newspaper. I work 19 hours a week with no benefits, and I have one responsibility: write copy. It’s perfect (except for no health insurance). I work three days a week and write chunks of my novel every morning before going in. I supplement this income with freelance editing and manuscript evaluations.

Three weeks after I started, a full-time job opened in my department (special publications). Of course, I applied for it. In this economy, it makes sense to seize an opportunity for a nice steady paycheck, plus health insurance. Part of me really wanted the job too. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to concentrate my money-making energy into one place. As a freelancer, I’m scattered in many directions at once, and it gets a little crazy. I also wanted the health insurance and the security. Not that anyone working at a newspaper has job security.

But I didn’t get it. And when my boss told me I had not been chosen, I have to be honest and admit that my first physical and emotional reaction was relief. It would have meant a major lifestyle change. It would have meant that writing novels was no longer my primary focus. The job would have come with a lot of responsibility. It’s not the kind of position you can walk away from at the end of the day and forget about. My husband thinks it would have made me unhappy.

I see this as a sign from the universe that I need to keep novel writing as the focus of my life. It’s scary and exciting and insecure. But I’m wrapping up edits on the third Detective Jackson story this week. Early readers love it. By Friday the manuscript will be in the mail to an editor at a major publishing house, who is waiting to read it.

Everyone comes to these forks in the road. I’m glad I got pushed in the right direction. Have you an experience like this? What helped you decide which path to take?

  1. Ha ha, LJ, you’ve just described my entire life! Every time I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. The most significant of these events was when I was married to, let’s just call him a troubled man and leave it at that. He was bugging me to leave my job at the aerospace company to join him at a contractor’s company for more money. In the end, I didn’t get the job, but I did end the marriage. Fast forward 5 years – I meet my current hubby while working at the job I kept; 17 years later, I am now an author, am intensely, contentedly happy (despite all the adverbs) and thank God every day for that particular job rejection.

    It’s all good, in the end.

    Gayle Carline

  2. I did a “self rejection” at a fork in my career road some years back.

    10yrs ago we needed more money, and as I worked in a hospital I figured the logical choice was to become an RN. The schooling meant setting aside my real dream of writing for several years to do something I ultimately wasn’t thrilled about, but return to college I did.

    Two years later I completed prerequisites and was on a wait list for the RN program. But my dream kept niggling at me. Undecided, I opted to let fate take over. I’d finish my first book and submit while on the wait list. If RN school called first, I’d give up writing for a few years and go for it. If by some miracle my book sold first, I’d know that was what I was supposed to be doing.

    Here I am, so you can guess the rest. I may not be earning as much as the RN thing would have netted (yet), but I am much happier living my dream. Money isn’t the end all, and this was one of many lessons that prove this to me more and more as I get older.



  3. Hi LJ,

    Funny you should post this right now. A good friend just wrote for a “sanity check”. She’d given up her (tech industry) consulting business for an executive gig at a large software company, thinking that she’d benefit from the steadier paycheck, bennies, et al.

    Literally weeks later, she realized she was miserable and wanted out. She wrote to some folks asking for a quick sanity check – my perspective: life’s too short. If you have the opportunity to do things that make you happier – you should take that opportunity and run with it. And – I completely agree – sometimes we look backwards and realize that what we originally thought was a bad decision or even a rejection was just life giving us an opportunity we didn’t recognize at first. 🙂

  4. Hi LJ.

    I’m glad you see not getting the job as a sign to keep writing. It really helps to have a positive attitude and to believe in yourself.

    This is going to turn out great for you.


  5. Those giant signposts along the way are great, hunh?

  6. Things like this happen, and honestly, you’re better off. I used to do a special publications job writing for the daily in my home town as a part time job. I understand that you’ve made it into a job where being a novelist is your full time job.

    My writing was devoted to this job and the gig actually started to consume my full time gig as well. I loved it, and I loved the readership response, but there’s a fine line between freelance and writing a regular beat. That beat can consume you.


  7. Oooh yeah, I’ve stood at the crossroads many times over six decades. I’ve made some right turns and a couple really wrong turns. One of them disastrous. But my last turn was the “write” turn and I’m not turning back 🙂

    Good post, LJ – glad you’re sticking with writing novels as the primary focus.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.