Wednesday, January 25, 2017

So I Quit My Job at an Investment Company to Become a Novelist


Between December 2009 and September 2016, I worked at T. Rowe Price, an asset management firm located in the Baltimore area. 

I joined the firm for two reasons:
a) The recession had just happened and jobs were scarce
b) I was looking for a job that actually ended at five so I could spend my evenings and weekends writing. 

And the crazy thing about point "b" is that it actually worked for a while!

I know there’s that stereotype that you take a white-collar job and it immediately crushes your soul.  Your spirit dies and you never make art again.  However, I was CONSIDERABLY more productive during my time at T. Rowe than I ever was when I was a student or an English teacher.  In part, this is because I spent my days working a job I had no interest in so I pushed myself to pursue what I loved during my evenings and weekends. 

Now, when I say I had a job in the investment industry you tend to think of this guy:

First of all, I had a much nicer computer.  

Second of all, my four positions at T. Rowe Price mostly had to do with processing checks, forms and talking to customers on the phones.      

Now, if I had been interested in finances this would have been a great jumping off point (for the record this post is in no way meant to disparage T. Rowe Price).  However, I had researched various jobs and career paths throughout the company and everything I found just looked like positions where I would be miserable. 

At last, I made a decision that no one (least of all me) saw coming.


It was December 14, 2015 (the Monday before Force Awakens came out).  There was nothing particularly bad about the day except that it was cold and rainy.  I was working at my job as usual, when around eleven in the morning I was overwhelmed by crushing frustration.  This had happened in the past, but on that particular Monday the feeling became so bad I couldn't concentrate on my work.  All I could think about was that I was wasting my life.  I knew what I wanted to do.  There are so many stories I want to tell, but I didn’t have the time because I spent eight hours a day (usually more thanks to considerable overtime) working a job I had no interest in.  

I became so frustrated that during my lunch break I called my wife and told her (realizing it for myself as the words came out), “I need to quit my job and spend a year focusing on my writing.” - Not an exact quote.  In reality it took me about fifteen minutes to get to this point. 

To her credit, my wife didn't immediately hang up the phone and call a divorce lawyer. 

She was (is) incredibly supportive even though at the time this seemed like an absolutely insane idea.  Trust me, I know more than anyone else how insane this concept seemed.  I pictured myself putting us in financial jeopardy.  We would end up on the streets eating our cats.  I felt guilty for putting her in this situation.  

Also there was the, “What will people say?” factor.    (In this context "People" =  "Our Parents")

However, the longer I lived with the idea, the more I realized how much it made sense.  I’m still (relatively) young.  My wife and I don’t have kids.  We’re not rich but we’re somewhat steady financially.   I’m working on a project that I honestly think could make it.  While attending conferences I have heard stories from countless published novelists who say that they eventually reached a point where they had to make a leap like this one.  If I didn’t make this leap now when would I?


I ended up practicing what I was going to tell my parents (and my wife’s parents) by explaining the situation to two of my friends.  This gave me an opportunity to get my thoughts in order and plan out how I was going to lead into my proposal. 

While this wasn’t our parents' favorite idea, they were surprisingly receptive.  They agreed that if I was going to pull a stunt like this, now would be the time to do it.  No bottles of champagne were opened, but they also weren't painting pictures of us eating our cats.    

Even my co-workers at T. Rowe Price were very encouraging, and several of my friends are very excited that I have this opportunity.    

I am extremely lucky, not just because I am in a position where I can pursue what I love but also because I’ve had such overwhelming support.  In a way this makes the whole situation even more intimidating.  I have so many people believing in me that I'd sure as hell better not screw this up.


At the end of this past September, I walked out of T. Rowe Price for the last time.  The following Monday I started a part-time job at a nearby library.  The plan had always been for me to have a twenty-hour a week job so I could bring some money into the house and make sure there were no questionable time gaps in the resume. 

These past three and a half months have been extremely productive.  I’ve completed and edited what I believe to be a very strong draft of my novel, The Hitchhikers of the Night Highways, implementing all of the feedback I received from readers the previous year.  Also, I have written several short stories and am well on my way through a second novel (agents like to see that you have a lot of stories in you).  On top of all this I have had time to continue my research of the publishing industry.  There are days when I get more done in one twelve hour period than I got done during an entire week while I was working at T. Rowe.  Also, I am less affected by stress and I’m exercising more. 

Then there are the other days.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I sit around watching The Days of our Lives (if that’s even still a thing), but the productivity just doesn’t flow.  There can be a number of reasons for this.  Most recently it was because I was working on a group of new chapters in my novel.  Because of feedback I have received I realized that they are necessary.  However for a while I just couldn’t get them to fit.  They caused changes that rippled throughout the story.   

While I was working at T. Rowe times like these would be frustrating, but I knew I would get through them.  One drawback of this year is that I am constantly aware that I am on a ticking clock.  I still have much of the year left, but I need to get the most out of this time.  And, as my wife has pointed out, this sense that I am running out of time is only going to get worse as the year goes on. 

But I keep on working at it every day, and the more I get done the better I feel.  When I am productive I need to cling to those times and get as much complete as possible.  When I face days where things aren't working out, I need to learn to step back and stop banging my head on doors that just won't open.  I can spend those days focusing on other things like cleaning the house, my short fiction, running or working on this blog.  (However, when I do post to this blog, don't worry, it doesn't mean I've had a bad day).   

Honestly, I’m grateful that I had the positions I had a T. Rowe Price.  They were safe, secure jobs in an established company.  However, I’m grateful that I can finally take this leap and pursue a path I have always wanted to follow.