I’ve been pretty covered up this week with projects at work.  I’m a business and technology non-fiction writer, but I’m also a Content Project Manager for the Studio B agency.  That means that in addition to writing, I’m also coordinating and managing content projects for others.  Those projects can be anything from blog posts to book-length, multi-author behemoths with multiple contacts and project managers on the client side.

It’s work that I love almost as much as I love the writing.

It gives me the opportunity to see the back-side of content production, and it gives me some insight into what I could do differently as a writer to make myself more valuable to clients. It also gives me some time to work on projects that I want to work on without worrying how the bills are going to get paid.

However, it’s much like making a living as a pure-play non-fiction writer.  There are ebbs and flows. At times, I’m busier than I think I can handle (though I always manage to handle it, somehow). But there are also times when there is so little work that I’m not sure when I’ll see my next paycheck.

This the life of a nonfiction writer. I’ve seen these highs and lows so many times now that I’ve managed to put a system into place for surviving the low points.  It includes planning, budgeting, and distraction. During the high times, I enjoy the ride, but I always try to keep in mind that eventually, the project will end. My part – whether that’s a role as a project manager or as a content provider – will finish. Then what?

I deal with the “then what” in two ways.  The first is the budgeting and planning. And those are important elements of surviving a life as a non-fiction writer, but it’s the second plan that I really enjoy.

I try to always have something going on the back burner that I can use to either occupy my time and move my career forward, or to pay the bills. If I’m lucky, whatever I’ve been working on during my downtime will do both, but it doesn’t always happen that way. It can be a little frustrating.  The projects that I choose to work on when I’m not doing work I get paid for have to take second priority to the paying gigs.

They are also often the projects that I would rather be working on. In true feast or famine fashion, though, I often have to leave those projects sitting for days and weeks at a time while I’m tied up with the paying work. It’s frustrating, and it means that sometimes all of my plans – no matter how solid I want them to be – must be flexible.  That makes it difficult during times like this when I’m trying to finish a fiction project and the deadline is firm.

I’m working long hours, but that’s not unusual. I just hadn’t planned it.  I’ll still be able to release A Biloxi Christmas on time, but not without losing some sleep.  In the end, it’ll be worth it.  I haven’t had a project yet, fiction or non-fiction, that wasn’t worth the lost sleep when it was all done.