I've written 2500 words on The Twilight Etherium in the last week, which by my current standards is much the same as "not writing at all". I looked up my the old Master Plan(tm) I used while writing Prophecy, and realized that 2500 words a week beats my average for the entire time I was working on that manuscript. For those of you not following me back when I was working on Prophecy, I complained pretty much nonstop about how hard it was to write enough to meet my goals.
Lest you think that this means "well, obviously it's easier to write for fun than it is to meet a goal": my goal last month was 11,700 words per week, and I had no particular difficulty making it. Beyond that, after 2004 I stopped setting any rigid writing goals until 2012. I wrote less from 2005 through 2011 than I had under the Master Plan(tm). I didn't pick up writing speed until I started writing fantasy romance in 2012. (My first foray into fantasy romance was a joint project with LadyPeregrine in 2012, which alas remains unfinished. But it did clarify my love for the subgenre and contributed to my decision to write A Rational Arrangement in 2013.)
Anyway, 2018 Rowyn is much better at working on books than 2003 Rowyn.
On Thursday 11/29, I talked to an artist on Twitter about commissioning them for a cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. They tentatively agreed, and I said I would send character descriptions and a contract and such in the next couple of days. This was one of only two writing-related tasks for the month.
Doing it required looking through the manuscript for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, something I had not done -- well, at all. For many years, I used to read my works-in-progress avidly. This has some good effects: it keeps what I've already written fresh in my mind and I get in some preliminary proofreading. But I mostly did it because I like reading my own work. In recent years, I've been more inclined to avoid reading my own works until I start editing them. This also has good effects: it means I am less familiar with the text when I finally edit it, so I am more likely to see errors, and it means I'm not avoiding writing on the pretext that reading the existing book is productive. Princess is one of the books where I didn't go back to read earlier scenes of the book once I finished writing them.
Once I started looking at it to extract info for my artist, I got caught up in reading it. After I got to the end, I decided to start the very early part of the editing process. This is where I make a spreadsheet of all the things I want to change in the text. This part is easy because I make notes as I go along about what I want to change, so I just have to search for square brackets in the master doc and put the items on a spreadsheet.
The list had a total of 39 items. I each item scored based on how annoying it will be to do. Most of them are in the "pretty annoying" range: 25 items with a rating of 6 or higher, on a scale of 1 to 10. I went on to complete the four easiest items on the list. I don't like editing so I generally work the easiest items first so that the list will get shorter and less intimidating. Anyway, I have 35 items left to do. The total number of items on the list generally grows as I edit. It's just as well I don't plan to release this book until March at the earliest.
One of the sections on the annual self-evaluation form at work is "what are your long-term career goals?" Back in 2016, I looked at this question and decided to put down the truth: "retirement". I talked to my boss about it: "I would like to drop to reduced full-time -- 4 days a week -- in the next year, and drop to part time -- 3 or 2.5 days a week -- in the next two years."
To my surprise, my boss was supportive of this: "I would love for you to stay full time, but if you need to reduce your hours, we will definitely accommodate you. We value your expertise and want to keep you in whatever capacity."
When Lut was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, this had two opposed effects on my retirement plans. On the one hand, money became much more of a concern, as my expenses went up with car ownership and incidentals. It also became critical that I keep Lut on my health insurance. On the other hand, managing Lut's care was exhausting and I desperately wanted more time in which to do so. In September of 2017, the latter concern triumphed, and I dropped to four days a week. My "day off" was used to take Lut to whatever doctor visits he needed.
For a while, this sufficed. But over the last couple of months, I've felt more and more like four consecutive work days is too many, despite the fact that Lut's doctor visits have dropped to one or two per month. It had reached the point where I used PTO to cover the days when I had to take Lut to the doctor, rather than switching my day off to that day.
Last week, my boss told me that she had applied for a new managerial position in a new department, and so was leaving her current role. The promotion was official on 11/26, but she's still working in our department for a couple of weeks while the department manager searches for her replacement. My boss will officially transition in January, whether or not a replacement has been hired. Our team have all been in our roles for years, we are all pretty well cross-trained, and we can work autopilot for months without an intermediary supervisor between us and the department head, if necessary.
But this news made me think harder about transitioning to part time. My boss and the department manager have been big boosters for me for as long as I've been working for Teenage Bank. The replacement boss will not be someone within my department and I probably won't know them. Would they still support my switch to part time, as my boss had committed to?
So I talked to my boss about it: "Would it be better to switch now, while you're still here, or should I wait and see who your replacement is, or possibly stick the department manager with handling it if she's not able to replace you for some months?"
Boss: "If you want to do it soon, best to do it now, while I'm still here to manage the paperwork,"
So I emailed her a formal request to drop to part time starting January 7. I decided to wait so I could get the 6 hours of holiday pay for Christmas and New Year's that reduced-full-time employees get, instead of the 4 hours that part time employees get. I considered waiting until after MLK Day too, but three more four-day weeks felt like a lot as it was.
My overall feeling is relief at finally pulling the trigger. I have about six months of expenses in my accounts in the bank, and a lot of money in retirement accounts. The cut in my weekly paycheck will be much larger, proportionately, than the 25-33% indicated by dropping from 30-32 hours to 20-24 hours per week. First, my personal insurance premiums go up by a lot: the bank pays 80% of the insurance premium for full time employees and 0% of the premium for part-time. Second, a lot of my paycheck goes to repaying the 401(k) loan for my car, and that amount will remain fixed. I'm not sure how much I will be making, but it will not be much.
My writing income is not going to make up the difference. My net income from writing averages to maybe $200 a month, before taxes.
But Lut will still have his disability stipend from Social Security, and the house is paid for. I am hoping we can manage without resorting to withdrawing money from my retirement accounts, but if I have to withdraw money from my retirement accounts, well, that's why have retirement accounts.
And I am looking forward to spending less time at my day job. Only two 4-day weeks left!
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