In Part 1 of our story, we learned that Phil Plait, in his role as The Bad Astronomer, has landed a second book contract. But what will become of him? Where will he find time to write? Will he continue to be a NERD? And can two grown men live together without driving each other crazy? *
So yeah, I’m writing this book. I pitched it a while back, and it took a long time to get the pitch together, and to send it off to a zillion publishers, and to hear back from them. Viking was the best one to step up to the plate (hahaha! Plate! That’s me, kinda! Haha!), and then we had to hammer out a contract. And then came the long wait for an actual advance payment, so I could afford to actually take the next step:
On Friday, I resigned from my job.
OK, phew! That was tough to write, but there it is.
I resigned from my job.
Yeah – easier to write the second time. But still. Phew! Tough to do.
I’ve only left a career-type job twice, and the first time I had to because the money had run out (the satellite had long since stopped taking data), and the second one because, well, the money had run out again. At that time I also wanted a career change, so I moved to California to become the NASA Education Resource Director (NERD– get it? Haha again) for the Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University. That was in 2001.
So it’s been six years, which is a bit of a run. But when we (meaning my agent, Loretta Barrett, and I) worked out the deal with Viking, they wanted the book manuscript sent in by October! Aiiiieeeee! That means writing every weekend, every evening, and maybe even during hours that don’t really exist.
Clearly, writing a book and having a full time job simultaneously wasn’t going to happen, so I had a decision to make, a very tough one I’ll add. But in the end, I had to go with the book. I love writing (love love love) and I can see this being the Next Big Step in my life, so I had to go with it. I’ll admit it was hard to resign being the NERD, since there are a lot of great aspects of the job– I hang out with astronomers, I get to see cutting edge science almost the moment it’s done… and there is more than a little thrill seeing something I’ve written or created come alive in a kid’s brain. That light in their eyes is almost a tangible thing, and every time I see it I feel like I’m breathing in the science and wonder again for the first time. But as Q said to Picard, “All good things must come to an end.” And seeing as he’s omniscient, I’m going with what he says.
And about leaving a full time job to write… the common wisdom among writers is not to quit the day job until after the third book, but I like to flout common wisdom. It’s usually based on an urban legend.
So here I am, winding down my salaried career, trying to (yet again) start a new direction in life… but where am I going to do it?
Ah, for that slice of melodrama, stay tuned to the next episode of “Big Announcement”: same bad time, same bad channel!
* For those who are wondering what I’m talking about, that’s from “The Odd Couple”, one of my favorite shows when I was a kid (and it’s still a great show). When I wrote the intro above, the voice in my head sounded like the voiceover guy from the show.