Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, November 17, 2008

Storm Clouds

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend about silver linings. With the economy the way it is, book sales—along with almost all other sales—taking a beating, and lots of gloom and doom on the news, it’s easy to get depressed and start thinking that this is a crazy time to publish a book, or write a new manuscript, or look for a job, or whatever it is that you know you should be doing, but feel too down to even try. We both agreed that in retrospect, some of our best opportunities came as the silver lining on otherwise dark stormy clouds.

I guess the timing of the conversation was pretty appropriate, because today, about an hour after I came into work, my boss entered my office and closed the door. We chatted for a few minutes about how he wasn’t feeling too great, and stress of the economy, etc. Finally, he kind of sat back in his chair, and said, “I didn’t come here to talk about me.”

Ahhhh. Suddenly the dime dropped. This was that conversation. I have to admit, I was not expecting this at all. We’d just had layoffs, and the management assured us they were the only layoffs planned. Apparently this was not planned. (Hey, I know how that goes. In fact a couple of our best kids were . . .) Anyway, back to my point. He was coming in to tell me that I was being let go the end of this week.

I guess he was surprised that I wasn’t angry, or didn’t burst into tears or something, because after I told him I understood, he said, “Wow. You’re taking this a lot better than I am.” In fact I’m pretty sure he thought someone had given me advance notice. They hadn’t. And I admit, it took me a while to digest the information. But the thing is, what’s the point in getting upset? They have their business to run. I have my business to run. Hopefully the two are in sync. But sometimes they aren’t. And when they aren’t, one of us has to make a change. That’s what they were doing.

After letting my sales team know about the change, I took the rest of the afternoon off to get my thoughts together. I called my wife, and said, “Well, Honey, the good news is, I have a lot more time to write.” She picked up on that pretty quick.

Once we talked things out, we realized this might be one of those blessings in disguise. The good news is that over the last couple of months we’ve paid off both of our cars and all of our credit cards. Only a week ago, we finished refinancing our house. And we’ve got a little money in the bank, which hasn’t always been the case. And I get my first royalty on Farworld in January. So we aren’t going to starve any time soon.

But even more than that. I’ve really felt for the last few months like I needed to spend more time on my writing, and marketing my books. Yes the economy is tough, but as I wrote about a few weeks back, people are still buying books. They are being more picky, but they are still buying. I just need to make sure that it is my books they are buying. I also have several projects I need to finish up. Farworld Book Two of course. But also a regional mystery series I write, that I am far overdue on. I also have a couple of other projects I’m really excited about. One about a boy who gets turned into a zombie and another about a boy who is afraid of everything, who discovers he is a facilitator—a person who talks monsters out of their fears.

When I first got home, my stomach was still a little in knots. But the more my wonderful wife and I talked, the more we realized that we may have been pushed out the door a little sooner than we planned, but this is what we’ve both wanted to do. At least for the next few months, I will be a fulltime writer. I will be able to focus on nothing but writing and marketing. I can do what I love, and get paid for it. Will it last? I probably won’t know that until sometime around late January. At that point, if I have to go back to work for a while longer I will. But rather than stress, I plan on enjoying the next couple of months. If things work out, I am a fulltime writer as of this Saturday. But even if they don’t, I am still a fulltime writer as of this Saturday. I may just have to take a little break from being a full time writer, later in the year.

So here are just a few of the things I plan on enjoying during that time. Eight plus hours of writing, without feeling like I am neglecting my family, my job, or my yard. (Thank goodness for snow.) Speaking of snow; watching the snow fall without worrying about how bad it will be to drive to work in it. And for that matter driving an hour and back to work every day. Responding to e-mails and postings from my friends and readers the same day. Finishing writing two books and getting well into a third by Christmas. Being here when my boys come home from school. Enjoying my daughter’s plans for getting married in the spring. And finally, doing what I want to do. Not what someone else wants me to do.

I guess when my boss asked me why I didn’t look more upset when he told me I was being fired, I should have answered. “Monday, you’ll be driving to a job. Monday, I’ll be doing one of the things I love most in the world. Thanks!”

Thanks goodness for dark clouds, and the silver linings that come with them.


At 11/17/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Wow! Your outlook is amazing! I KNOW you'll go far and succeed. Thanks for the inspiration. I wish you all the best!

At 11/18/2008 12:04 AM, Blogger lachish said...

It sounds like you are embarking on a great adventure with a stellar attitude.

If you get hungry, I'll take you to lunch, and I'm not talking about McDonald's. I can at least afford Arby's.

Best wishes!

At 11/18/2008 10:23 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

Jeff, I went through a similar experience five years ago. I worried about what to do when I was so close to retirement, but not old enough to claim benefits. I too decided not to look for another job, but to give my writing my full attention. Our income went down, but so did our expenses and it was a blessing to be available to support our children in several major crisis they faced, which would have been impossible if I had still been tied to going to work every day. I'm happier now writing for a few minutes some days and putting in fourteen hours other days. I love serving in the temple two days a week and having time to spend with my family. It's great not to see every snow storm in terms of a nightmare drive to work. Working from home isn't for everyone, but I think I know you well enough to know it will work for you and that you're spiritually in tune enough to know when it's right for you and if it should be time to job hunt again. You're a talented writer, I'm glad you have this opportunity to give it your best shot.

At 11/18/2008 11:24 AM, Blogger Rukia said...

that was uplifting and inspiring. thank you. although you choose to be so happy about the circumstance, i'm sorry that you were let go. i'm sure it still hurts a little under all those smiles. James and i have had a tough 5 years... as he's been involved with businesses going bankrupt several times (unplanned, of course). They tend to be the type that calls you in and hands you your last check. :\

best wishes on your new adventure, either way. :)

At 11/18/2008 12:06 PM, Blogger Anna said...

Well, I guess I better go out and buy a copy of your book. :) I've seen it on the shelves, but never picked it up.

That's a good attitude that you have. Last year we had a chimney fire at our home and there was a lot about it that was bad. But there was a lot about it that was a blessing. We couldn't afford to remodel the old house, but insurance gave us the opportunity to fix it up a little better. I never thought I'd EVER move back in with my parents, but it was nice to have our kids see their grandparents every day, especially now that my dad's health is starting to go downhill. It pushed us forward on finishing many projects on our house that we were putting off.

You can't change what is, so you might as well take the opportunity to do what you're doing. Full time writing sounds nice. I hope things go good for you.

At 11/18/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Wow, Jeff! What everyone above said. Blessings on you.

Here's a great character name, word ver: averylea

At 11/18/2008 1:02 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I actually conduct layoffs for a living. (Cheery, I know.) People with attitudes like yours are almost always better off a few months after the layoff then they were before.

I do have one critique for your manager--never, ever terminate someone without a witness! Bad!

At 11/18/2008 5:00 PM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...


If anyone can make a go of this (even if it's a little earlier than you'd anticipated), it's you, my friend! When I saw you give your presentation to that group of Houston school kids, I knew you had started something special--something that would snowball! So write, write, write! My gang of hoolagins (is that how you spell it?) can't wait to read Farworld 2!

At 11/19/2008 3:11 PM, Anonymous Ostrich said...

I think Farworld sounds like a great christmas present for my daughter this year.

At 11/19/2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Hey, Mr. Sales Guy, let me know if you'd like to experience the lucrative world of selling door-to-door alarm systems. Our guys are well taken care of. Most of them only work May to August, too.

(I mean, _I_ couldn't do it, I just support them.)

I'm sure we're all dying for the next Shandra book and I'm curious about the one set in a fictional Spanish Fork, the one with the mine and ghosts?

I'd say good luck to you, but I think you have a pretty good grasp of your own destiny. =)

At 11/21/2008 8:40 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Dickens totally nailed it with that "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" thing. I can't count how often in my life the "worst" and the "best" were the very same times!

Here's hoping for very few plot twists between "worst" and "best" for you and yours. You're still my hero.

At 11/21/2008 12:03 PM, Anonymous Mormon Soprano said...

Jeff - I really enjoyed reading your post, and can totally relate. My husband was laid off a little over 6 months ago when his company did a 25% "reduction of force". It is a stressful experience, even if you take the Pollyanna Approach. :)

I guess you could say our silver lining is that we have been through this before, so we have the perspective that things always work out in the end. And, in the past, he has always gotten a better job than the previous. We just hope it will all work out sooner than later. Still, you have made a very important observation that we need to focus on the advantages of our situation, because no matter what life brings, there are blessings attached.

In the meantime, I'll finish typing up my long overdue review of FarWorld, and get it posted on the site. It's a great read.

There's another silver lining for you: Christmas is coming. Books are a hot present item! ;)

Keep the Faith,

At 11/21/2008 10:00 PM, Blogger Heather Justesen said...

Jeff, and I had been wondering if you were going to follow James into the wonderful world of quitting to writer full time soon--guess someone else decided for you. That's great though, I know your readers will be so happy to finally find out what happens next with Shandra.

After my dh was laid off twice in one calendar year we ended up back in my home town to start our own business. It hasn't all been sunshine and roses, but we're really happy to be where we are, rather than where we were--even though we liked where we were at the time.


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