If you weren't a writer what would you be? Have you ever wanted to be anything other than a writer?I would have liked to be a veterinarian but I would never have passed the exams so it's just as well I didn't get very far with that one. I had a brief romance with the idea of training to be a veterinary assistant as a way of getting myself out of the house and hanging around with animals more, but I married Peter and moved to England instead. The problem with being a vet or a vet's aide, of course, is that the animals generally dread you; you're going to do something awful to them and it will probably hurt. Probably you have to have a stronger character than mine to be upheld by the knowledge that you're doing them good after the twelfth dog in a row has cowered in a corner away from you and howled, or the twelfth horse in a row has tried to step on you or mash you against the wall of the stall, or the twelfth cat in a row has hissed a 'repel all ogres' hiss at you and shot out several inches of glittering claws.
So I had adopted gardening as my new, er, pet desk-escape, and when the writing was going badly I would threaten to throw it over and become a jobbing gardener. Since I am miserable gardening in soggy cheerless English winter (January rain is a brute) this did not have quite the force of conviction it might, probably on a par with what I used to threaten when I still lived in the States, to throw the writing over and become a long-distance truck driver.
Then I discovered homeopathy. Thatís a long story that I may tell some day, but not today. But it was another one-thing-leading-to-another situation, which there are also kind of a lot of in my life, and I started homeopathy college. I started twice. The first time I had to drop out after only six months, when we decided to sell the old house; there were fifty years and three generations of stuff, both literal and moral, to sort through, and Peter was not very well. I dropped out the second time after two years, when the ME came back: cue sardonic laughter, and ĎWounded Healerí jokes please queue to the right. I still have fantasies of finishing my official training, and unofficially I yack at people about homeopathy every chance I get (or can make). The really aggravating thing is that actually Iím a lot healthier (as are quite a few friends, family and relative strangers who will stand still long enough for me to nail íem) than I was however many years ago, before I started using homeopathy. I just canít get rid of the ME. Or take twenty years off Peterís age.
I think I would make a good homeopath. My college reports used to say the same thing. The fellow I consider my mentor is still saying it. There are a lot of part-time professional homeopaths out there, and I was planning on joining their ranks. I may yet, some day. Iím still a story-teller first. But homeopathy is probably the first thing Iíve met up with or fallen over or been ambushed by that I can imagine having made a proper career out of, if I hadnít been a story-teller.
I might have stayed at least on the outskirts of the horse industry for longer if my experience of being barn manager at a horse farm hadn't been so traumatic. I'd been hired originally as assistant to the current barn manager who then got pregnant to escape, and I was promoted because I was there. About a year later my doctor was telling me I had an ulcer in my near future and was I under any particular stress at work?, and I decided to get out before I cracked any further. I loved and love horses, but I'm not especially gifted with them -- and horse people, by and large, drive me crazy, although another old friend is the woman who first gave me dressage lessons and thus proved to me (after many years of sitting on a horse) that I could learn to ride.
I might have made a half-decent editor. I worked on the Other Side of publishing off and on for a number of years; the problem I found with even lower-level editorial work is that it ate up my writing energy. I know there are people who have fabulous day jobs -- including editorial directorships and other dizzy literary heights -- and come home and write great novels in the evenings and weekends but they're the turbo-charged model with overdrive. I'm a moped.
Back in fantasy-land again, I would have loved to be able to do what a friend did to work herself through college: play at a piano bar. But thatís a bit like saying Iíd love to fly to the moon if I had space-void wings and could hold my breath that long. And I donít think anyone has earned a living composing small crabbed songs in no particular key and with a strange approach to time signatures.
But chiefly I hope, if I hadn't been a storyteller, that the enormous piece of my mind and heart that contains the storytelling would have been occupied by something else I could love andóyesóbe crazed and obsessive about (see the answer to Do you have any hobbies?).