Melanie S. Hatter lives out east, and I imagine her smile lights up the city today the same way it did a tiny island last year when we met. Melanie and I both attended the 2013 Salt Cay Writers Retreat in the Bahamas, and one of my favorite photos from the entire week is one I took on the day before we all left for home.
The Time to Write, Eventually
by Melanie S. Hatter
“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.”
~ Oscar Wilde
When I changed careers a couple of years ago, my goal was to create a more balanced lifestyle that allowed me to work on my fiction writing. After 10+ years in corporate communications, I had burned out and decided it was time to make a complete change. So I waved goodbye to the corporate world and headed off to massage school.
Yes, massage school.
I wanted something completely different, something that would be fulfilling but still provide an income while I completed my second novel. (My first, The Color of My Soul, was recently released as an e-book.)
In the first few months after graduating from massage school, I worked at a nail spa that also offered massage. I started by giving free chair massages just to get clients familiar with me, and eventually I was paid for each massage I booked. I was required to be onsite every Saturday and most weekdays to sell massage to clients coming in for a manicure or pedicure.
Being a lousy salesperson, I mostly ran errands and generally played girl Friday, providing free labor for the spa’s owner. I grew frustrated that I was spending most of my time standing around a spa without getting paid when I could have been at home working on my novel. Though I was grateful for the experience, I started searching for a more lucrative job. Very quickly, I found a position as an independent contractor at a massage center where I only had to be there when scheduled to work on a client.
I slowly built a clientele and have been there now for almost two years. I achieved my goal in finding a regular income but also found a supportive work environment. I know my physical limitations and do massage on a part-time basis, so to supplement my income, I continue to do freelance writing, manuscript editing and attend the occasional book fair to sell my novel.
Without a doubt, I am living the life I had designed for myself: balancing writing with massage and continuing to pay my bills without the stress of a regular nine-to-five office job. That doesn’t mean I have no stress – being self-employed has its challenges (paying my own taxes and healthcare) but I love the freedom to create my own schedule.
That said, this lifestyle has not made the writing process any easier. I do have more time to write – I spend most mornings writing while working at the massage center in the afternoons and evenings three days a week and every other weekend. Now that I have the time I used to complain about not having, I still procrastinate. It’s an affliction most writers have. Just since starting this blog, I’ve put a load of clothes into the dryer, checked the freezer for what to cook for dinner, and folded sheets that have sat in the basket for more than a week.
One of the best methods to keep me on track was having a writing buddy. We would create a schedule each week for when to write – as much as two hours and as little as 15 minutes, depending on our schedules. We would call each other to begin then call again when the time was up to discuss what we had done. It was the best accountability and I credit this system for getting me to finish a first draft of my novel-in-progress. Unfortunately, my buddy switched jobs and, not having the same free time, has since left me to my own devices.
As a result, my attention to my novel has been a bit sketchy of late. I like to think that in my state of procrastination, my unconscious is mulling over a particular scene or formulating where the story must go next. Thinking is writing, I tell myself. It’s part of the process. And inspiration can come at any moment.
But while most writers are procrastinators at heart, we also have a resolve that keeps us pushing forward. There’s a determination inside me to get this book finished and see it blossom in the world. We possess willpower, quiet as it may be, to finish what we’ve started. We must keep sitting at the screen or staring at the notebook. We write because we must.
So, once I finish the laundry, load the dishwasher, check Facebook and catch up on episodes of “Criminal Minds,” I will open the laptop and write.
Melanie S. Hatter lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. She has a background in newspaper journalism and corporate communications. She also is a licensed massage therapist and practices in Maryland.
Her novelette, “Taking the Shot,” was published in electronic format by Etopia Press, and her short stories have appeared in, The Whistling Fire, The Lipstick Pages and Diverse Voices Quarterly. Her short story, “Obsessed with Claudia,” won the First Annual Romantic Tales Writing Contest.
Born and raised in Scotland, UK, Melanie is bi-racial (rumor has it there’s some Cherokee in the bloodline somewhere down the line) and is pleased that the US Census now allows individuals to identify as more than one race.
Check out Melanie’s website for more information on (and links to purchase) her novel, The Color of My Soul, and her novelette, Taking the Shot.