When I used to teach in the Emergency Services department at our local tech school, one of the first things the lead instructor and I would ask incoming class fresh-faced EMT-wannabes, is why they wanted to have a career in emergency medical services. I can tell you with utmost sincerity that the one answer we rarely heard was, “to make money.”
It’s a well known fact among EMTs, Paramedics and those in EMS, that the profession is one of the most seriously underpaid in the nation. Most students coming into the program know this upfront, and those that don’t, usually drop out when they figure it out. I work 32-40+ hours a week, on 8 and 16 hour night shifts, as an EMT for the city, and I make less than (you’d better sit down for this) $8,000 a year. That’s just about $600 per month, before taxes, to pull people out of cars, restart dead hearts, push medications and deal with drunken idiots, every day. Every week. Every month of every year. A relative of mine is a paramedic, and literally, she’d make more working full time at McDonalds than she does as a hospital-based medic.
I’ve done this job for fourteen years and I’m required to go through countless hours of training every year, hold several certifications and am held to a very intimidating care standard by the state, all for barely enough to cover my grocery bill every month.
So why the hell do I do it? Let’s be honest—that’s what you’re wondering.
There are three reasons people get into this field:
#1: They are an adrenaline junkie
#2: They genuinely feel called to help people
#3: Both of the above.
That’s me, #3. I do feel like it’s a calling to do this job and my responsibility as a human being to provide care to others. When I first started writing fiction seriously, I realized that I was in for a similar financial ride that I’ve taken as an EMT—lots of hours and hard work, with probably very little financial payback to show for it.
Considering my first royalty check was $3.10, I’d say I was right about that. But, just like EMS, I think there’s a calling—a passion-- in your heart to either be an author and pursue it seriously, or not. It’s what separates the writers who ‘think about it’ and those that simply go for it, financial gain, or no financial gain. The passion for creativity is what keeps you going, even after you see sales numbers that look like they’ve been run over by a semi a time or two—flat and non-existent. Even after receiving a $3.10 royalty check that you’ll never, ever cash because it’s not worth the gas to drive to the bank.
Here’s the thing: As I come up on release day for my second book. TEMPTING THE COWBOY, I’m going into it with no real expectations except to have fun, just like I’ll keep getting covered in other people’s blood for the sake of the job, and maybe saving a life. It’s what I do. I’ve recently taken on a second full-time job as a care provider, working in the mornings before I run off to the night shift. It’s all I know, and it’s what I’ll continue to do--just like I’ll keep writing new words, creating new worlds and crafting new characters for you to fall in love with.
If the passion is there, right?
The next time someone asks you why you became an author, if you answer, “for the money,” I’m going to kick you out of my class. Wrong answer, sweetheart.