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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me That Being Unemployed Was Going To Be So Much Work??!!

Unemployment Beach Large 2

I simply must be doing something wrong.

As some of you know, I quit my jobs a couple of months ago. Yes, I said “jobs” and yes, I do mean all of them, even the private tax and bookkeeping clients. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it an adolescent rebellion, call it a cry for help; I don’t care, just don’t call upon me to do your financials anymore!

I didn’t kid myself when I made this decision. I knew perfectly well that being a full-time writer was going to be just as much – if not more – work than being an employee, and also that the pay was going to be a lot less, a starting salary of zero dollars per annum being fairly easy to beat. But I thought, heck – if I’ve written half a million words in two years while I was working my day jobs, imagine what I’ll be able to do when ALL of my time is my own!

No, no, no! And no!

The sad fact is, in the two months since I’ve been working at home, I’ve barely written anything at all. Ironically, I simply don’t have the time.

It started to go bad about the middle of June, just two weeks after I kissed my last job goodbye. I decided to release several free eBooks of some short stories and essays that I’ve written. Now eBooks aren’t really that hard to put together once you know how to do them, but they do take time. There’s the interior formatting, writing and assembling the front and back matter, and let's not forget the all-important cover design. Of course, my logic was, these are free eBooks; I’m not about to drop hundreds of dollars having professional covers designed for books that I intend to be permanently gratis, so I supposed I should just suck it up, learn some basic image-manipulation software, and design them myself. Easy, right?

No, no, no!

I suppose you might say my foray into graphic design was more time-consuming and less rewarding than I had hoped, although I did at least get the job done and was relatively pleased with the results. I’m also confident now that I can assemble a fairly decent-looking free book cover or fancy picture-tweet when called upon to do so, which came in incredibly handy last week when the books came out. More on that later.

However, learning some basic cover design turned out to be only the first crack in the iceberg. My dream of being a full-time “writer” really started to come apart a few weeks later, when I decided to record audiobooks of my forthcoming short memoirs, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened and Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. Doing my own recordings sounded like a fabulous idea. There’s a certain appeal, I think, in having a memoir read by the person who wrote it, and in some ways it actually sounded like less trouble than auditioning narrators and coordinating with the one I chose.

No, no, no!

Well, okay, maybe. If you’re in it for the long haul, I would say it’s generally worth the trouble, particularly since, if you’re your own narrator, you earn both shares of the royalties – assuming you sell some books. Here’s the problem. It’s not just the money you have to drop on equipment and soundproofing; it’s the time you have to spend learning what type of equipment and soundproofing you need, and what kind of setup and software you want to work with, not to mention the many hours it may take to construct a home studio if you don’t want to fork over the cash for a professional space, which I did not.

And then, of course, you still have to record the books. I’m going to do a whole separate post about all of this sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience may prove invaluable to any of you who are considering recording your own audiobooks, and I want to be able to describe the process with more objectivity than my current overwhelmed-and-exhausted state of mind will permit me to do. For now, let me just say that deciding to build an audio studio from scratch and then record two books in the four weeks before I was supposed to go out of town for two months was not the smartest decision I have ever made.

Finally I had made enough progress where I felt comfortable making my annual trek down to Ventura County. Although I desperately needed a break, I didn’t kid myself about this trip, either. I planned on working the entire time I was there; I just figured it would be nice to work on the beach for a change, and enjoy some ocean noises and views while I was at it. I even bought one of those keyboard protectors for my computer so I could start the intro to my next memoir, The Long Road Home. I took a picture that I might have shared with you, but I found something strangely sad about a woman in a bikini sitting on the sand in a chair with a laptop, so I deleted it. Not, perhaps, my most relaxing week at the beach.

But the real problem was that while I was down there, I received an offer from for a week’s worth of free downloads of stock video footage, up to twenty clips a day. Great! I thought. I’ve been meaning to begin assembling some video trailers for my upcoming books; this will give me a good start.

No, no, no!

First I had to research clips that I thought I might want. Then I had to wade through the seemingly endless results to find the few I thought I could actually use. Then I had to download them, which, what with the lousy wireless signal I had at my motel, took numerous attempts. And finally, of course, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the clips I was finding weren’t quite what I’d had in mind. And that maybe what I really ought to do is just buy a video camera and some basic recording equipment, and shoot the footage I want myself.

At this point, I’m sure you can already envision the horrible hole into which I’ve dug myself. Because now, of course, not only do I have to learn how to use this wonderful new camera, I have to learn how to edit, and add text, and captions, and music, and oh, by the way, then I have to go searching for music I want to use, and what if I can’t find what I’m looking for?

Forget it. My skills on the clarinet were never that good. Besides, I’ve taken music theory and I know I don’t have what it takes to be a composer. I suppose I could use music that’s in the public domain, but who would perform it? Somehow I’m not convinced that two minutes of me humming Beethoven’s Greatest Hits is going to inspire the mood I’m seeking for my trailers…

And if all that wasn’t enough? My free eBooks finally came out last week. Frankly, I hadn’t planned on doing much to promote them because I figured they’d be mere drops in Amazon’s vast bucket of indie-published work and would entirely escape notice. I was merely hoping to get some reviews, and maybe earn a few new readers. You can therefore imagine my very great surprise when all five of them, without any effort on my part, landed in the Top 100 Free (and some as high as the Top 20) in their respective categories – which, granted, isn’t saying much, not when Amazon has categories as narrow as “Kindle Books – Kindle Short Reads – 30 minutes or less – Romance.” Still, that’s certainly way better than NOT appearing in the Top 100, so I thought, oh, what the heck, I wonder what would happen if I did do a little promotion? Several hours a day of it later, I was in fact able to get each book into the Top 20 in its category, which is, of course, very cool because that means you’re on the front page of the Top 100 list, which means more people see your book, which means it gets more downloads, and so on – it’s a partially self-perpetuating cycle. I’m actually going to do a whole separate post about this, too, sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience with this was tremendously educational and I truly have some awesome and very concrete insights to share. 

Unfortunately, since I used a third-party publisher instead of going through Kindle Direct, I lost most of my “new release” window – which I will explain in this other post I will someday write – and in the last few days my eBooks have subsequently lost a ton of ground in their rankings, which takes some of the satisfaction out of putting in the time to promote them. The best performers (for the curious) were my romance shorts “Anything Can Happen” and “The Sublet,” which reached #9 and #10 respectively in their category, although the eBook version of my essay “Is Your Anxiety Real?” climbed as high as #16, and my short story “Squirrel Revolution” did well enough to rank in Literature and Fiction as well as SciFi and Fantasy. Links to the Amazon pages are below if you want to check them out.

Each of these free eBooks is, or soon will be, also available on ITunes, Kobo, etc. – I simply haven’t had a chance to assemble the links yet. How lazy am I? you may be wondering. Well, not very. Fact is, I’ve been working my you-know-what off nearly round the clock trying to get things done to the point where I can take them with me. Because you see, last Monday was when I was scheduled to leave on my big trip through Canada and Alaska for the next couple of months. That clearly didn't happen, for the simple reason that although I can edit on the road if I must, I can’t very well record audio in my truck or out in the noisy wonders of nature. And if I still want to do this trip – and gosh darn it, more and more ever day, I do – there are certain things I am simply going to have to let go. I accepted this a couple of weeks ago, when I took days off of Twitter so that I could get other work done. Late last week I finally closed the windows on all of the blog posts I had hoped to read from the two weeks prior, so that now I have no idea what’s going on with any of the people I’m following (I hope there haven’t been any major disasters). And, as I mentioned, I gave up on the idea some time ago of actually doing any writing – except for tweets.

But there are certain things I cannot let go. Packing, for example. Rather an important detail, particularly since I plan on sleeping in my truck a fair portion of my nights on the road and therefore won’t have the space to simply “bring everything,” as I often do. Picking a route? Not quite as vital – although I probably ought to have at least the first day planned. But then there’s the shopping, and the laundry, and figuring out what clothes and books to take, and organizing all of my wonderful new office equipment so that it doesn’t get squished or bumped around but is readily accessible when I need it. And then I still have to install that fancy new voice-to-text recognition software I bought so that I can dictate while driving – one more thing I have to learn how to use.

But that, of course, is the one saving grace of this whole dreadful summer of overwork and underpay. Because as stressful as this “holiday” is going to be, with as much work as I will be hauling along, and as many projects as I’m now committed to complete, there is one aspect of it to which I am eagerly looking forward, and it has nothing to do with any activity I have planned, any sights I want to see, or any scenery I intend to enjoy. Because when I climb into my truck on Sunday – perhaps, at the worst, on Monday – and begin wending my way north, there will be one aspect of being unemployed for which I can be truly grateful. I will finally, finally, have time to write. And do you know what I say to that?

Yes, yes, yes!


NOW AVAILABLE! The following FREE e-Books by author Lori Schafer.

Anything Can Happen: A Romance Short
“I figured I’d better backtrack fast before he started thinking I liked him or something. But it’s hard to backpedal when you’ve got your foot in your mouth.”
Is it really over when it’s over? A self-contained short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Anything Can Happen JPG
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

The Sublet: A Romance Short
“On my other side, a man I’d never expected to see again was crawling into bed with me.”
When there’s nothing tying you down, how do you decide whether to stay or go? A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Sublet JPG
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

Careful: A Romance Short
“On bad days I wondered how old people ever even did it. Sometimes walking seemed like too much effort, let alone all the aerobicized contortionism that went with sex.”
How older people do it. A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Careful JPG
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

Squirrel Revolution
A whimsical look at the long-term effects of human activities on our furry little neighbors. Short story / speculative fiction.
Squirrel Revolution JPG
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

Is Your Anxiety Real? One Woman's Experience with Mental Disorder
Read my story of how I was misdiagnosed with anxiety - and what the problem really was.
Anxiety JPG


  1. I understand what you're going through: although I live off of social security and two pensions, I still put in more hours at the PittsburghFlashFiction doing all those editor/publisher things and coming up with my own flash fiction to contribute along with commentaries that I put in more hours working for myself than I ever did working for anyone else and the magazine is costing me money. My dream is that the magazine will eventually morph from a hobby to a business. Try to enjoy your trip, my dear.

    1. Thanks, Guy. I guess we all have that dream!