Friday, March 5, 2010

Money and a Room of One's Own

I caught the writing bug as a kid. Jackson Elementary allowed its students to create their own little books for other kids to check out. As a third grader, my books were published almost weekly. I was sure I would be a real author when I grew up.

Instead, I went to college and focused on business—more realistic. I would get back to writing when I had more time, a computer, and (insert excuse here). I had to concentrate on paying my bills. When a co-worker said to me, “You should buy a house,” I thought she was crazy.

My paychecks were small, and I had no savings in the bank. My co-worker and her husband had just bought a beautiful house, but they had two incomes.

She referred me to ‘her guy’. He had taken the news of their credit card debt and their limited savings in stride and worked his magic. My Great American Novel wasn’t forthcoming, maybe a different American Dream miracle was.

I called the wizard mortgage broker, and recited my wishes.

Two bedrooms, at least.

A garage.

Two bathrooms would be nice.

Oh, and I wanted the mortgage to be the same or less than the rent I paid on my tiny one bedroom apartment.

When he stopped laughing, he asked me for some financial information so he could check my credit. “I’ll be able to let you know where you stand, and we’ll take it from there.”

Later, he called me back. He really liked my credit report.

“As a matter of fact,” he said, “You can qualify for much more than what you think. You could get a bigger house, and get a roommate to pay half of your mortgage.”

I thought about that for a half of a second.

The last time I had roommates was in college. I remember struggling to get papers written, books read. How would I be able to write my masterpieces with such distractions?

So, no roommate. I focused on humble, cheaper places.

I called my realtor to show me a small condo. I was drawn to the guest bedroom. It had vaulted ceilings and a window next to a big, leafy tree. Airy and bright, it was a perfect place to find my muse.

I bought it.

Over the next few years, I created the ultimate bachelorette pad. The condo now had Pergo floors and a white cat. I finally bought a computer; however, I spent more time on dating websites than in Word.

That’s how I met the man I eventually married (last year).

He lived in a different state, and he wouldn’t dream of moving away from his two kids. Within a few months, we knew we wanted to be together. I didn’t want to miss out. It was as close as I had ever come to an epiphany. I put the condo up for sale.

I eventually sold it for a healthy profit. I took the money and ran: to my new love. I was able to buy a nice house; it became our new home.

I turned one of the three bedrooms into an office. I thought the light from the large window made it the perfect place to write. I imagined watching butterflies pass the window while I thought of the next perfect phrase.

Instead, it became the cubicle away from the office. At the time, I still worked, online, for the same company I had been with for nine years. Instead of writing, I was reading work email or checking on shipments after office hours.

And then, after almost a year in the new house, I was laid off.

When the initial panic subsided, I realized that it would be fine. I had saved the condo profits for a rainy day…

My personal stormy season, filled with these ‘rainy days’, has served me well. By the time the monarch butterflies migrated past my window that fall, I had a few small pieces published. I use the computer in my office to budget my savings and to submit my work. Because of the condo money, I haven’t had to rush back into a job that’s just paying the bills, I can choose work I enjoy and that enhances my writing. The advice of a co-worker who was unaware of my dreams helped me to get what Virgina Woolf said all women need in order to write: “money and a room of one’s own”.

How do you feel about the Woolf quote, specifically, the money part: Do you need money to write? Or do you believe if you write well enough, you will make enough money?

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Tina. Life is what you make of it and so is a room and a dollar. Writer's write and they get it done one way or another. I've been writing all my life if you count (and I do) the years I spent crawling around the floor of my bedroom making up stories for my plastic critter characters to play out. It's something I was born wanting to do, as it sounds like you were. It's wonderfully helpful to face our "excuses" though, those things that we allow to keep us from getting the words down and the stories out. Keep up the good work.

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