Change, Fear and Writing Without a Safety Net, by Joy Preble

In just a few weeks – six to be exact—I’m going to be writing full time. This is simultaneously thrilling and vomit-inducing. Will we be going backward to college days – my shopping cart filled with ramen and mac and cheese? Will I end up on the street corner, wiping someone’s windshield and offering to write a poem? It could happen.

But it’s time to leap. Teaching five classes of high school English and one class of creative writing, starting my day in the classroom at 7:16 AM and grading piles of research papers into the night – well, it’s fun and all, but to paraphrase my pal Rachel Hawkins, sometimes it sucks your soul out of your nose. Not to mention the hours out of the day. Somewhere in the middle of using up all my sick days while mini-touring for book two, I realized that I was willing to take the financial hit and see where I landed. Most likely, I will cobble together part time work to augment those advances that come when the contract gets negotiated – which can sometimes take months and sometimes even longer. But I will be moving on from the classroom and its routines and annoyances and deep pleasures. I leave with very mixed emotions. My seniors and I are graduating together this year, and when I chaperone their prom in May, it will finally be my last one.

My rhythms will change. I will miss the tears and the craziness and life and death angst of this one’s break up and that one’s family implosion. The people I write for will be more distanced from me than they have been. Even as I’m excited to go, this makes me sad.

But here’s the thing about writing: if you can’t push yourself to the next level because you don’t have time, you’re doing no one any good, most of all you and your career. I am finishing book three. It’s time to feel like a professional, albeit one who may have to give up her Starbucks habit.

So I’ve begun to prepare. The home office is now mine alone. I’ve got five pretty bookshelves on which I will organize my books and notebooks. A window that looks out into the trees. I will no longer walk into a school building every morning at 6:45 AM knowing that I might not leave until it’s dark again. Come mid August, for the first time since I entered kindergarten, I will not go back to school.

Change and fear are part of the writing process for me. I’ve got some of both coming. Cheers to that, I say!


  1. Good luck! I resigned from teaching a few years ago, for my babies rather than writing. Still, it has afforded me much more time to write than working full time. Teaching is a very rewarding, but exhausting career. You give every bit of creative energy you have to those kids. Good for you for taking the scary step!

    By the way, my shopping cart is filled with many more "easy to cook" items than it used to be. It's a small sacrifice to live your dream. :)

  2. Congratulations! That's so exciting. I wish you all the best!

    I was a 5th grade teacher until this year, when I decided to try writing full time. You're right - the classroom can suck the life, time, and energy right out of you.

    Unlike you, I don't have any books published or a book deal (yet), but I'm agented, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I have two part-time jobs to make ends meet and I'm hoping and praying that I don't have to return to the classroom anytime soon!

    Enjoy the rest of this school year and REALLY enjoy the first morning that you wake up and all you have to do is write!!!

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  3. Wow, that's exciting!! And wonderful (and, of course, scary). Enjoy yourself!

  4. Congratulations! I admit to some envy. ;-)

  5. Congrats on the big leap! I've been taking baby steps myself. Went from the draining office jobs with stable pay and good benefits to the part time bartending job with erratic pay and no benefits, but it allows me more writing time and that is the most valuable thing. Hope to be able to take the next step eventually. Best of luck on your big leap!

  6. Bar tending, eh? It's crossed my mind as a part time job. Having a spouse with a job is definitely something that played into this decision. But even with that, this will be an adjustment. And we writers are nothing but neurotic, so I get entertained by thoughts that as soon as my last teaching day is over I will spontaneously combust or forget how to write or my laptop will fly out the window. Or my editor will begin a phone call with, "Joy, we need to talk." Yes, it is crazy in my head these days.

  7. It is a big scary step. I have been working part time but not since January. It is tough financially and I'll go back to part time I'm sure but what the heck!!!

    Good luck, Joy!! You deserve writing time!!!

  8. Congratulations and Good Luck!!! It was Ramen and Grilled Cheese in college for me....remember how much we loved it then? If you have to eat that to have the life of your dreams it's not all bad.... ;-)

  9. Wishing you all the best, Joy! It's going to be great! :D

  10. Hey Joy, it worked for me when I left in 2008 and for Lisa Schroeder when she left her day job last year.

    What I've found happens is this: payments you counted on happening at certain time often don't (editor goes out on maternity leave which delays book, etc), but at the SAME TIME money you never expected comes your way.

    So it can work out. It's just super scary!

  11. Thanks for the continued encouragement, everyone! And yes I've seen it to be true - money comes at odd times from unexpected places. But yes, still very scary even as it's exciting.

  12. Just catching up with you..You're very brave and I applaud you. But I have no doubt that you will only continue in the most positive ways, with brilliance, success, love and heart...
    Best to you always in your "new" adventure...enjoy the ride..
    Fondly, Gale


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