Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ll call myself a babysitter or a nanny. Technically the latter term is inaccurate, but it sounds a lot more professional than the former so I’ll use it when I’m emphasizing the fact that this is my primary source of income and it’s not just playing around with kids for a couple hours. Because as awesome as writing is, it doesn’t really pay the bills at this juncture of my life. (And some research suggests that it probably never will, but that just means I get to find a day job like any superhero would.)
I like this career because it works well with my second job as a writer. (Mostly. I recently realized that the reason I have such a hard time building a freelance writing career is because I’m already building one freelance career, which is something I find difficult and stressful. On one hand, it’s comforting because it means I’m not stupid for not being able to work on freelance writing more. On the other hand, sooner or later I’m going to have to change jobs.) I have a flexible schedule that doesn’t completely fill up each day, while having a fairly steady source of income and occasionally time to write while on the job.
It’s also fun because all those memes about writing in random places become so much more applicable, because I’ve picked up some weird ones during my tenure as a watcher of children. Like…
…on the front steps, waiting for the bus.
…in my car, waiting for activities to finish.
…in a playground with people staring at me while this crazy kid does flips in the background (I was paying attention and she knows how to do it).
…in a Dunkin Donuts.
…on a trampoline.
And these are just a few. Dragging around a laptop is not necessarily the best way to do it, but in each of these instances I had just enough time to get a hundred or so words done while the kids were busy with activities or snack.
Since beginning babysitting, I’ve learned more about what kind of writing I need to do on my own time. Because some things you just have to have the dedicated time to work straight through. And some things work pretty well doing them in tiny increments while the kids are eating their snacks.
(These things work in tiny increments: writing pieces of a short story, taking notes on a character, brainstorming ideas for a contest piece, line-by-line proofreading.
These things do not: any kind of editing that does not involve fixing typos, writing engrossing and dramatic scenes, critiques of other people’s work, bookkeeping and other organizing.)
I’m lucky in that I’m still able to stay with my parents and cut way down on expenses, so I’m able to get by with part-time job that allows me to write a lot and work on getting my novels published. But I know most people don’t have that, and I just want to say I think you’re all incredible. Balancing a full-time job, families, and writing? It’s a lot, and you’re amazing people for doing it.
I’m curious. What kinds of things do my fellow writers do to pay the bills?