I’m changing careers

My employer was just bought by another company. I find myself unemployed. This was not unexpected, so I’ve had time to think about what to do next.

I could have another IT job by three PM by picking up the phone and calling my friend Pam. If Pam was out of town, I’d call half a dozen other people and have a job by noon tomorrow. I’d certainly get a raise over what I’m making now–actually, given that I specifically chose a lower-paying job with less stress, I could double my salary. That’s what monster.com tells me.

But I don’t think I want to do that.

Instead, after talking with my family and taking a hard look at our finances, I’ve decided to write full time.

This is a big pay cut for me. Yes, even from my low-stress low-pay job. It means not going out to eat, hoping the car doesn’t drop a transmission, and mowing my own lawn instead of having Chuck the lawn guy do it for me. But it’s work I’ll far enjoy more than being paged at stupid o’clock because some beancounter decided we didn’t need to replace that faulty power supply. I’ll enjoy it a heck of a lot more than attending yet another pointless staff meeting.

Based on my previous book sales, it appears that I can get my income up to what my recently-departed job paid in about 12-18 months of hard writing. It’ll be a spartan year, but that’s okay.

Any number of things could derail this plan. I might wind up working at a big company in six months, regretting ever calling anyone a beancounter.

Writing for a living means I must figure out how quickly I actually write and coming up with a real production schedule. My books have all been written in one-hour stretches, in a variety of inconvenient locations. I have no idea what my sustained output looks like, especially once I no longer have any threat of a phone call waking me up in the middle of the night. (It doesn’t matter how “low-stress” a job is, a faulty email server that taken ten days to get properly fixed means two weeks without writing.)

Writing for a living means I need to write towards money like a hungry rat gnawing through the brick wall of the butcher shop. My family is supportive, but we do like to go out to eat now and then at a fancy place, like Qdoba. I’m going to try a bunch of different projects and see which take off. I have high hopes for the forthcoming FreeBSD Mastery books, and I have a list of thirty other titles to work on.

Writing for a living means I need to be a lot more consistent about, say, mentioning that I have a tip jar at the bottom of technical blog posts. I must overcome my shame at saying “Hey, if I helped you, give me money.”

This means that if you’re one of the organizations that owe me conference reimbursements, I’m gonna knock on your door with my hand out. I have lots of time to do that now.

This means when my clothes wear out I shop at Salvation Army rather than Costco. That’s okay. Old Sal is more fun, even though you probably don’t want to eat any of the free samples.

Speaking of Costco? Yeah… try the farmer’s market in downtown Detroit instead. What’s in season is cheap.

On the other hand, I only have one full-time job now instead of two. I’ll have free time. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve studied the craft of writing for decades now, and given up a lot of things for it. Why, I hear they rebooted Star Trek a few years ago. I grew up watching that show, and I’d really enjoy catching up with it. I can’t see how they’ll have a bald French guy as captain of the Enterprise, but what the heck, I’ll give it a try.

But am really going to miss the lawn guy.

20 Replies to “I’m changing careers”

  1. Your contributions to the technical community will ultimately be far more fulfilling, and (I sincerely hope) more lucrative, than working for any one single employer. I think you’ll find your new “employers” to be very supportive!

  2. Thanks, guys.

    Rich, my new boss is a complete and total maniac. Last night he interrupted my sleep like, six times, demanding status updates on books I haven’t started yet. But thanks for the support. 🙂

  3. MWL:

    Best of luck. Your books continue to amaze all of us in depth, width and readability. I’m sure it will prove a successful leap for you.

  4. Your books have improved where I work hugely. Kudos, and I look forward to your next releases!

  5. Have you considered a subscription model? Seriously. I would buy every book you write. A subscription would make that a lot easier for me.

    You could write a book about yak shaving, for which I have little interest … but it would be the best @)*!@ book about yak shaving ever.

    Go forth and kick literary a55.

  6. Michael,

    Congratulations on the new job. I’d like to derail your current narrow focus of only 6 or so books, by throwing in a couple more ideas. The Hammer File System needs a book, a mini-book ala ssh mastery perhaps, but a book nonetheless. You know what else needs a book? Dragonfly BSD, I think you are the man for both projects. I’m also quite selfish and just happen to need those books for myself, and recommend them with no thoughts to how many will be sold after I buy one copy of each. Do great things, embrace constraints, and enjoy your devotion to your craft, this year’s likely to be wildly enjoyable, and if you suffer great success, it’ll still be worth it.

  7. Good luck with the transition. If readability is a marker of success, I’m sure you will do great!

  8. Royce,

    I’m considering a subscription model, but have to figure out some of the details.

    The closest thing I have to it right now is my mailing list, where I say what’s coming. I keep it low volume, only send something when it’s a) really cool, or b) you can give me money. tech+subscribe@mailinglist.michaelwlucas.com mailing list.

    I’m also looking at Patreon, etc, but that depends entirely on my full-time writing speed, which I haven’t really determined yet.

  9. Take the plunge. You will do fine. I’ve purchased three of your books and they’re my goto references now. Same holds true for most of my sysadmin friends. Regular updates to Absolute OpenBSD will keep most of us coming back for the next editions.

  10. The french guy as captain of the Enterprise is not the rebooted StarTrek. Rebooted StarTrek is the alternate reality that started 2009. French guy as a captain of the Enterprise is from 1987 – 1994.

  11. All the best to you!

    DragonflyBSD really needs some attention. +1 for a book about it, +1 for another book/essay about HAMMER filesystem.

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