by Stephen Jay Schwartz


“The important thing is this:  to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Charles Du Bos


I can’t find the quote now, but I remember Augusten Burroughs saying that his only regret in life was that he stayed as long as he did in the advertising job he hated.  It kept him from being what he was born to be—a full-time author.

I’ve been writing for a very long time now.  Things got serious when I was in college, after I placed well in this big screenwriting competition and I suddenly had a film agent.  I didn’t want to call myself a writer until I was sure it would stick.  I waited until I heard other people say it before I made it my own.  I remember the exact moment it happened.  I had gone to this advertising agency to watch a rough cut of the movie “The Abyss.”  I had somehow talked my way into getting hired to write copy for the film’s trailer.  I was in a room with the advertising producer and he was on the phone and I heard him say, “I’m with the writer now.”  I looked around—there was no one else in the room.  I realized that I was the writer.  I was the writer!

What a moment.  This was how I wanted to be defined, forever.  A thought, an idea that I’d had in my head had actually escaped into the real world and had been accepted by others.

Of course, what I really wanted to do was direct films.

I pursued these two passions side-by-side.  And, like a person who studies to be an actor, I took expendable employment.  Flexibility was important.  I did not pursue a career other than writing and filmmaking.  Which meant that I had a lot of jobs I actually hated.  They were merely jobs, not passions.  In the meantime, life happened.  I fell in love, got married, had kids.  And the “expendable” jobs became what others might call “careers.”  They became the kind of jobs that others fight to get.  But they weren’t the careers of my choosing.  They were only supposed to be links in a chain.  Disposable.

If I had chosen a career outside of writing and filmmaking, I might have chosen law.  Maybe environmental law.  Or I would have worked for Greenpeace or the Sea Shepherds.  Teaching seemed like a great idea, and yet teaching was something I always figured I’d do later, after I learned something worthwhile to pass along.  It was a “later in life” goal.  For, like, when I’m older, like…in my forties.

I look around at many of the authors on Murderati and I see people who had valuable careers either before they became full-time authors or in conjunction with their writing careers.  I guess if you intend to be an author you figure you better have a job you love, because it will be a long time before you’re living off your writing.  But when you go to film school you think that every shitty screenplay you write is going to make a million bucks.  So, you’re always just a few months from living the dream.  And the jobs you take in-between end up as “filler work.”

On Murderati I see people who love that other thing they do for a living.  Dusty seems passionate about his work in law.  I don’t get the sense that he’s waiting for an opportunity to leave his “day job.”  Tess is a doctor and, although she might not be practicing anymore, she chose a noble profession to pursue before becoming a full-time author.  We have business-owner authors here, photographer authors, active-mom authors.  What I see here are people who are themselves one hundred percent of the time.  24/7. 

When you have a day job, and it’s not what you’re made of, what you live is a lie.  You compartmentalize yourself to death. 

The times I’m a full-time writer are the times I’m a fully realized participant in this wonderful thing called LIFE.  Those times I am 24-hour Schwartz.

For the most part, however, I’ve let these day jobs define me.  Ninety-five percent of the writing I’ve done has occurred in the evenings and weekends, after the nine-to-five of whatever job I’ve got to keep food on the table.  I wrote ten screenplays this way.  I wrote Boulevard this way.  I wrote Beat this way. 

Even when I worked for Wolfgang Petersen, an exciting, high-profile job as his Director of Development, I still considered it a day job.  Especially so, since I didn’t even have time to write evenings and weekends.  It was 24/7 D-guy work.  I had to leave the job just so I could find myself.  Find the writer.

After I left the film business, I worked my way up to a steady, well-paying sales job that had nothing to do with writing.  I continued to compartmentalize my life, being one person forty hours a week and another on evenings and weekends.  And the resentments I’ve had over making this compromise has led to addictive behavior and, at times, depression.  For the “me” I had given up, I felt entitled to certain compensations.  I used the money I made to buy the things I thought I deserved—a home I couldn’t afford, a car I couldn’t afford, family vacations.  Consolation prizes.

Maybe subconsciously I wanted to fail.  Maybe I didn’t want the personal possessions to own me.  Gradually, things reached a boiling point, with the economic crisis, with the outrageous loan on my house.  And now that the house is slipping away, I see an opportunity.

I mean, is there anything really keeping me in Los Angeles?  My kids are home schooled, so we’re pretty much mobile, without too many strings attached.  No house, no complicated school entanglements. 

Still, there’s that pesky day job. 

I’ve had so many mature, responsible business associates tell me that I’d be a fool to leave it behind.  “Just stick it out, until that movie deal comes around.”  Guess what?  I’ve been waiting for that movie deal for twenty-five years.  That movie deal…sure, it might come.  But I’m done waiting for it.

I remember when I was making around thirty-thousand dollars a year and I asked a friend if he thought it was wise for my wife and I to try to have a baby.  I was worried that I wasn’t financially ready.  “If you wait until you’re ready you won’t ever have children.  You’ll never have enough money, you’ll never be prepared.  But if you do it, you’ll find a way, and then you’ll realize that you had enough to make it work.”

I didn’t have enough money, but we had our first little boy.  And we made it work.  And I ended up making more money, just enough to take care of the one boy.  So we decided to have another.

I’m looking at my job the same way.  If I’m not Stephen Jay Schwartz 24/7 then I’m dying.  If I can’t support my family as a writer, then I have to shed the overhead, and simplify my life.  And if I still need a day job, I’ll find something that speaks to my heart. 

Thankfully, my wife and kids are behind me.  In fact, they’re pushing me to make a change.  The scariest thing is the not-knowing.  Where will we be in three months?  Eureka, California is looking pretty good.  There’s an ocean close by.  It looks affordable.  I could do some farming, maybe.  You know, Humboldt County and all.  And there’s a university close by.  Maybe it’s time to explore that teaching thing.

Or I could wait for the film deal to come through…


PS – I’ll be on a panel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at UCLA tomorrow (Saturday) called “Dark Tales from the Golden State” at 3:00 pm in Dodd Hall.  I’ll also be signing from 12-1 tomorrow at the Mystery Bookstore booth (#411), and on Sunday I’ll be signing from 11-12 at the Book Soup booth (#330) and at the Mysterious Galaxy booth (#614) from 1-2.  Come by and say hello if you’re in town!




48 thoughts on “24-HOUR SCHWARTZ

  1. kit

    Hi Stephen,
    Scary shit, ain’t it? But heady as well.
    I never realized how twisted up I was becoming, until just lately, and then only because I was forced to face it. I thought it was security, I still have mixed feelings(a coupla days ago, had a *self-inflected migraine* stressing out if I was going in the right direction). We will see.
    Long time ago, a college instructor, my advisor, told me…*we write our own scripts*. So if you were going to write this one out and make it work..".how would YOU do it?"

  2. JD Rhoades

    Dusty seems passionate about his work in law. I don’t get the sense that he’s waiting for an opportunity to leave his “day job.”

    Oh, trust me, I’m in the same boat as you. Waiting for the right contract or the movie deal. But you’ve given me some food for thought here. Thank you.

  3. Cornelia Read

    And it’s that "to thine own self be true" guy’s birthday today. Along with Nabokov and Charlie Chaplin.

    New Hampshire is kind of groovy, Stephen. And way fucking cheap–no sales tax and no state income tax. Winter didn’t even suck this year, either. I’d be happy to show you guys around, if you’re ever thinking of bagging on LA.

  4. Robert Gregory Browne

    I always shared the sentiment that Paul Schrader once expressed that for your day job you should find the shittiest job you can. One that you simply hate. Because then you will be WORKING YOUR ASS OFF to get out of there.

    I’m sure Schrader put it more eloquently than I have.

    So I went through a series of really, truly, shitty-assed jobs over the years, always working toward the big break. The break came, I exploited it for a number of years, then everything fell apart and I wound up taking a shitty day job again.

    Then I got smart and took what turned out to be a pretty nice job, with nice people, with the idea in the back of my mind that even if the writing career never took off the way I hoped it would, I could work at the place until I retired.

    Oddly enough, a couple years later, things started happening for me again. Only I didn’t hate getting up in the morning to go to the day job. Which made life, in general, much more tolerable.

    Was I unhappy about leaving it? No. Well, in some ways, yes. I’ll miss the people. And it was a nice cushion to be able to fall back on in case the full-time writing gig never materialized.

    But, honestly, I’m sooo glad I finally made the leap.

    As Lennon famously said, "Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans." I spent too many years dreaming and too little time living.

    So my new mantra is get comfortable, enjoy what you do — no matter what it is — and the good things will come.

  5. Louise Ure

    Although it’s a seriously sappy book, the bestseller "The Art of Racing in the Rain" had some good advice. As an instruction for how to get out of a skid on the racetrack, the author says "The car goes where the eyes go." You visualize where you want to wind up and your body and the car will make it happen.

    Here’s to going where your eyes go.

  6. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Oh, it’s so nice to wake up to all this positive energy!
    I wish I could stay home from work and answer comments all day…well, I’ll do it from the office, then.
    A side note here – I’m reeling a bit from last night when I sat down to read through my first pass of BEAT and realized that my publisher had put an early draft into production…it wasn’t even the copyedit draft. Ugh.
    Anyway, great advice from everyone this morning. This is going to help me get through the day. Cornelia – I might take you up on New Hampshire. I’ve been there before and felt it was lovely. I even went swimming in Waldon Pond, which is close, I believe. I’ve always had a soft spot for New England.
    Louise – I like the quote – the car goes where the eyes go. I agree. I used to do a lot of creative visualization and I need to work my way back into it.

  7. Jake Nantz

    Stephen – I wish you the very best, for your TRUE career and your day job (and your family, too). I will caution one little bit about being a writer and a teacher. Take the amount of "homework" you assign your students (whether it’s stories because you teach creative writing, or essays because you teach literary analysis, or whatever) and multiply it by the number of students you have, and that will give you the rough amount of time you will be taking–outside of the actual time spent in your classroom–away from your writing and family while at home. Something to keep in mind about trying that teaching thing.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and I love the positive effect I get to have on others’ lives, but it takes a shitload of time away from writing and time with my family. The fact I’m mildly dyslexic, and therefore take twice as long to get through their papers, doesn’t help either. So it may be the thing you love, just like I do (almost as much as writing, but not quite). Just go into it with a head’s up, is all I’m saying. When teachers say, "It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love passionately", they mean it.

    Oh, and Cornelia, please forgive me. I have to be asshole-english-teacher-guy and say we don’t know when W.S. was actually born or died, just that he was baptised on Apr. 26th, and buried on Apr. 25th, so scholars assume the 23rd ’cause it makes such a wonderful story and the number of days after birth for baptism and days after death for interrment add up okay.

    Please don’t kill me in your next book….pretty please?

  8. MJ

    Boy oh boy do I relate – excellent job of calling out this issue well. It just takes too much energy to be one person 40 hours/week and another the rest of the time. Over time I’m bringing more of the real "me" into those days at the office, mostly because I have to to stay sane, but the energy of putting on the mask every day is still drained.

    I am pulling for you and your deal – for all of us and our successes. We’re in this together.

  9. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Rachel – thanks for that quote, by the way. It’s one that I repeat to myself often.

    Dusty – but, isn’t the LAW enough? I hope you get your exit someday soon, too.

    Jake – thanks for the perspective on teaching. Yep, that’s the impression I have — that a teacher puts in much more than just the time spent in the classroom. However, I love the process of guiding others along, I’ve done so much of that after hours, especially when I was in the film business. I used to receive screenplay submissions all the time from writers who were desperate for guidance, and I’d spend countless hours going over the process with them. It definitely feels good to be in a position to do that. Sounds to me like you’re the teacher I wish I had in college or high school. You’re walking the walk.

    Kit – I’ve always thought that my life was a screenplay that I wrote in-between lives. I probably spent that time in "Development Hell," and when the script was finally ready I looked down (up?) at Earth and said, "Showtime!"

    Rob – I’d love to find that day job that felt like a family. It seems if I were out there saving sea animals on the beach I’d be one happy clam. I’d jump out of bed each morning. Do you think someone would be willing to pay a six figure salary, with health and dental, 401k and profit sharing to a guy who wants to do first aid to sea lions?

    MJ – thanks for the reminder – we are all in this together! The support you guys are showing gives me strength.

  10. Gar Anthony Haywood


    One of the great things about writers’ blogs like this one is, they help us see that much about the professional writer’s life is universal, especially the pain-in-the-ass stuff. I can sympathize with your confliction because I’ve been there, done that, and I’d venture a guess that most of the people who’ll read your post can say the same.

    The big mistake most of us make when we start out is, we genuinely expect our path to great success to be a short one; nobody ever thinks they are going to be one of those poor saps who will take half a lifetime to achieve fame and fortune. So we go into this line of work totally unprepared to make the sacrifices a professional writing career almost always entails. Ride the bus instead of owning a car? Live in a one bedroom apartment in Encino instead of a three-bedroom home in Venice? Sell mattresses during the day and write by night, rather than write 6 hours a day, five days a week, with weekends off? For how many years?

    Oh, hell, no. Not me. Those kinds of compromises are for the losers. Me, I’ve got talent.

    And that kind of thinking can lead to the worst kind of paralysis of all, the kind that keeps you from making the leap to full-time writing when the opportunity presents itself because you don’t want to go to that terrible place, that place where your life will just look too damn small: no big house, no beautiful car, no refrigerator stocked to the gills with organic food.

    Here’s what I know: You’re Stephen Jay Schwartz, WRITER, no matter where you go or what you do for eight hours a day from here on out, because you’ve been paid to write, more than once, and you’re good at it, and you have fans who read you. Being a professional "writer" is kind of like the Mafia; once you’re in, you’re in.

    Yeah, the dream is full-time engagement, 24/7. But believing you’re something other than a writer simply because you aren’t living the dream is wack.

    Kit writes that a college instructor once advised her (him?), "We write our own scripts," and that may very well be true.

    But Fate does the rewrites, pal, and we’ve got no control over those. The only thing we can really control is how down we let ourselves get when the dream keeps getting deferred.

    Hang in there, chief.

  11. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Gar – wow. Thank you so much for putting the time and effort into your comment. It means a lot to me. And your words speak truth. I get it. I guess the thing that is most difficult is the fear of dragging my kids into it. I can live in a studio apartment and eat the month-old cheese in the fridge…but can I do that to my kids? It was much easier when I was only concerned about my own welfare. Hell, I could live in my car if I had to. Still, I do get it. Even if I’m not writing 24/7, I’m a writer 24/7, and that’s a concept I’ve held all my life, through every job I’ve had. Having been paid and published makes that all the more validating. And, as I’ve been told all my life, even Spinoza spun glass. Something like that. I guess Spinoza had a day job…that seems to be the point of it. Thanks again for your words, Gar.

  12. pari noskin taichert

    I don’t think I could say it more eloquently than Gar this morning.

    Be well, Stephen. And remember not to be your own worst enemy. So much of our life is what we think — how we decide to experience it — and therein lies hope.

  13. Judy Wirzberger

    Sounds like you are in an excellent place to make changes in your life. Also sounds like you haven’t been paying attention to the universe. So she had to threaten to yank your house out from under you to get you to consider something else, to get you to realign your values. Now that you seem to have taken a healthy look at your life so far, don’t get hooked on the "if only’s" — if only I could write full time I could find contentment, happiness, success. If only I didn’t have all these financial responsibilities I could —
    You seem to know that outside elements do not give you happiness. Happiness and peace come from within. You are blessed to have the support of your family, you are blessed to have a passion that you can pursue anywhere. Life is to be lived and enjoyed as we accept and meet the responsibilities we have chosen, shed the responsibilities others try to give us that don’t belong to us, and help others meet their responsibilities as we are able.

    Remember, the toughest time is always before a decision is made. Make a decision and then you can keep your eyes on the goal…..isn’t that Louise terrific? May the universe share her wisdom with you.

  14. Gar Anthony Haywood


    Remember when your kids were first born, and some nurse in the hospital took their arms and legs and bent and twisted them forwards and backwards like she was trying to break something off — while you watched! — and nothing happened?

    Well, that’s how kids are. They’re flexible. More than anything else in the world, your kids just want to be with you and their mom. They’ll miss all the trappings of their present life for a while, sure, but they’ll get over it and bounce back. They’ll see Dad kicking ass and doing what he loves to do, and Mom backing him up every step of the way, and they’ll be good.

    Hungry, but good.

    (Sorry, I had to throw that last in. To lighten the mood, and all.)

  15. JT Ellison

    Stephen you need to read this website, thoroughly: http://zenhabits.net/

    It’s all about minimalism. About cutting back. About looking at "want" differently. About finding your bliss by living to your potential, and realizing that you can live with so much less than you really think you can.

    I love the idea of you getting out of LA and trying something quieter, cheaper, and more in line with the man you’ve become. And may I say, Tennessee is beautiful too, and we don’t have a state income tax, so the cost of living is rock-bottom.

    Read Leo’s words. I bet they resonate with you. Because I think you’re ready to hear what he has to say. xoxo

  16. Nancy Laughlin

    Hi Stephen,

    Boy have I been there. For years, I worked jobs I despised. Jobs that had me dreading Sundays because Monday was right around the corner. Then good fortune struck me. The company I worked for went under. I could start over at minimum wage for another company and crawl my way up the ladder of another company I would hate or start over. Like you, I chose to re-invent myself. And guess what? I chose Humboldt Country to do it in. <g>

    Humboldt County, by the way, has two colleges. The University and the most wonderful two-year college around, College of the Redwoods. Its between Eureka and Fortuna. The staff there is amazing and helped me enormously to learn what I needed to launch me on a path I love. I haven’t dreaded Sundays in years now.

    It’s never too late, Stephen. Go for it! But check out Fortuna. When every other town has fog in the summer, Fortuna tends to hold tight to the sunshine.

  17. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Ooooh, Nancy, good advice! I will definitely check out Fortuna. What are the odds that I’d bump into someone from Humboldt County? The universe is listening…

    Such awesome comments from everyone.

    Judy, I agree that the toughest time is the moment before making that big decision. It’s like starting a new book – what are those first lines going to be? They set the mood and tone and direction of the piece. I’m looking for those words. Once I have them I’ll be off to the races.

    JT, as always, you’ve got the right things to say. I remember you mentioning Leo before, so I will check him out now. And, Tennessee is a beautiful place. Nashville knocks my socks off.

    Gar….will you be my mentor? Have you always had such serenity, or did you get there by being raked over the coals a while?

  18. anonymous

    Children are only really happy when their parents are. Your stress and unhappiness will manifest in your kids’ behavior changes and negative feelings. They absorb all of this shit, Stephen. When they see that you are truly happy and not feeling guilty over something they had no hand in and don’t really understand anyway, they will be able to relax and shift their unconscious focus on the happy pursuit of becoming their own great selves, unburdened by worries for you, free to be 24/7 Boys. They will feel safe. They will always love and respect you, Stephen. You haven’t let anyone down. You are beating yourself up, now STOP it!!!

    and Louise? The Art of Racing is NOT sappy……..it just makes everyone cry big puddles whether they’re a ‘dog person’ or not. Now PUT THAT BOOK AWAY. No reading that for you, Little Lady. I told you to read Are You There Vodka? by Chelsea Handler. We gotta get you up and laughing again. It isn’t going to be easy but we aren’t giving up on you, are we ‘Ratis?

    I love everything that you wrote Stephen. You certainly ARE a writer, damnit. I also loved everything that you all have said here today. Great post and great blogging. It was uplifting even though it was on a desperate subject.

    I have always felt you would make a TERRIFIC teacher, Stephen. Northern Calif. is good but the summers in Eureka? Hoo boy. Cornelia is right about Cow Hampshire, as her travel brochure reads, but she is a fucking liar about the winter not being bad this year…….shall I remind you all of her post JUST THIS LAST February???!!! Yeesh Cornelia, a few spring cherry blossoms and all is forgiven, I see. Portland, Oregon is very cool. It is near enough to the ocean and it’s beautiful and inexpensive (no sales tax there either and it has Powells!) and creative people are there, but the rain……….sigh. Wish you could find a teaching job in the SF Bay Area somewhere. It can be expensive but people like Benicia. Ask David Corbett about it. He may have some suggestions for the Bay Area. There is a little town outside of San Rafael called Woodacre, that is totally hip and affordable. Obviously I would like to keep you in California, because I feel it is the best ‘country’ in the world. You will have to go where the work is and that will be an adventure for the kids, as well. As a Northern Californian I see no grief in having to leave L.A. (sorry for all of you who HAVE to live there with the smog and freeways and Dodgers and all) I am sort of kidding. But really, L.A. ain’t all that and it can bring a man to his knees trying to keep up down there.

    Boulevard was such a GREAT book Stephen. (Michael Connelly move over one stool. We got a new friend at the bar) . Seriously. When can we get Beat? It’s going to be out early?

  19. billie

    I think a lot of the time what seems like tragedy (or major inconvenience) can be transformed into opportunity. There’s nothing that impels change like a good crisis.

    We are homeschoolers too and the first thing I thought about when I read that in your post was what a great life lesson you will teach your children by taking this scenario and using it as a springboard into that 24-hour life you mentioned.

    And, I’m still hawking the little horse farm for sale down the lane. You can get some donkeys! 🙂

  20. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Thanks, anon, cool stuff about Northern CA. I’ve got to check out Woodacre.
    And I’ve thought about Portland, or nearby Vancouver, WA. I’m a big fan of Powells.
    Beat comes out in October. It’s set in San Francisco, and I’ll be launching it from San Fran, at Bouchercon. Perfect!

  21. Mark Terry

    An honest post, that’s for sure. And I’ve been there. For 18 years, actually. What worked for me–and it’s not a path I necessarily recommend–was I eventually ended up as a freelance writer. I’m still getting novels published and the latest one seems to be doing what I have typically hoped for my novels to do–ie., get bought and read–but in the meantime, I love my day job, which is to be a freelance writer. I worked in a genetics lab for 18 years and hated it, so I’m quite happy with where I am.

  22. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Every time you post I have to do a hard reality check on what is really going on in my life. It’s uncanny. You keep me honest, Steve. That’s a rare feat.

    I don’t know if you can engineer this kind of thing but it seems to me that the big leap successes in my life have come after I have done a stint of obsessive political/social work that had nothing to do with my career goals, I just got caught up. Teaching in the LA County juvenile court system. Creating a private message board for WGA members to dialogue on union politics and writing craft. Blogging for free on story structure. Things that people said I was crazy to do.

    And yet, the energy that I put into those crazy things seemed to propel me to the next level of work, money, life, understanding.

    The Universe takes care of me when I am looking out for other people. I just haven’t been very conscious of that until just recently.

  23. anonymous

    Stephen. Well. I had the chutzpah to write Mark Fishkin of CFI a glowing letter about you. Directed him to your web site. Told him I had just learned that you wanted to relocate your family to Marin County (almost true). Let’s see if the man or one of his people bother to respond. ‘eh?

    I told him (not in these words) that if he did nothing else, he should go down to Book Passage (Corte Madera) and get BOULEVARD. Hah!

    I am way outta my league contacting this man but Fuck it. If ya never try ya never know. He might actually be a mensch and email me back………or not.

  24. Allison Brennan

    Stephen, your post really spoke to me.

    I was always a writer, but figured I had to do other things to like, you know, eat and have a roof. I dropped out of college to take a job in the California State Legislature, a job I liked because I thought I could make a difference (snort, laugh, cough) and I was good at it. I had some passion for my work, but perhaps ironically, I never expected to stay there. In fact, I never signed onto the retirement because you didn’t become vested for five years (medical) and ten years (pension.) (Or vice versa) I thought, hell no! I’m not going to be working here for ten years, not even five!!!

    Thirteen years later . . .

    I stayed because I was married with kids and the major breadwinner. I had benefits and a good STEADY salary.

    Three things happened that made me realize, after the fact, that quitting my day job was the best thing I could have done. 1) I began to hate my job 2) when I made the personal commitment finish one of the many books I started, in 2002, I stopped taking my job (work) home with me and I wrote at night. And, after a raise nearly every year from 1992 to 2002, I didn’t see another raise before I quit in 2005. My heart wasn’t in it. 3) when I quit my job, even though we were in dire financial straits for awhile as I had to budget my advance carefully, my oldest daughter said to me, "I’ve never seen you happier."

    My passion is my writing and my children. I thank God every day that I have both.

  25. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Mark – freelance writing, yeah, I’ve done that. I would love to do it again. It was real spotty, though. Wasn’t really enough to keep the family afloat, which is why I took that day job to begin with. I wrote my Discovery Channel program as a freelancer.

    Alex – I love when you respond to my posts, when you say that it spoke to you. I totally get what you’re saying…it’s called a 12th Step, in Program talk. To do something for others – to get out of the pattern of only doing things that benefit yourself. That’s one of the reasons I don’t dig my day job – we don’t do anything for the community. It’s all about making profits for the company. We don’t even give to charities. It’s depressing. I feel like I’m out-of-balance with my natural instinct, which is to be part of a community, to be a positive force in the lives of others. Thank you for your comments–they help show the way there.

    Allison – I think you continue to be a huge inspiration to many of us at Murderati. I know you are to me and my wife. Your story is the perfect example of "To thine ownself be true." I’m so glad you stopped taking your work home with you, and, instead, wrote that first book.

    Anon – oiy…either great good or great bad will come of it…thanks.

  26. Alafair Burke

    Bravo, Stephen! This is a wonderful post. The challenge of integrating yourself and your work, whatever it is, a worthy one. Be thankful your family is supportive. Best of luck (and hope to see you in LA this weekend).

  27. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Alafair – I’ll be seeing you tonight, and buying your book, and getting you to sign it!

  28. anonymous

    Stephen Stephen Stephen. No need for oys. I kept a chatty low profile. I do not personally know the man but I DO know several people on the board and some of CFI’s big donors, so I was not totally out of line. I mainly flattered his decision to distribute and wished him well. Liked his huffingtonpost exposure, great to bring more publicity to Bay Area movie industry, yada yada.

    Besides, what ‘great bad’ could possibly come from this? That I won’t get invited to his next fund raising dinner party? That would save me a chunk of change and THAT, my friend, is ‘great good’!

    You ‘oy’ too much, Boychik ; – )

    Good Shabbos

  29. BCB

    Stephen, I didn’t realize it before this post, but you’re a dreamer. I mean that as the highest of compliments. This world needs more dreamers. And the rules are different for people like you. They really are. Or they should be. Those mature responsible people telling you to "stick it out" maybe don’t understand that. But I suspect the people who really know you and love you get it. They’re cheering you on and waiting for you to realize it too. I hope you get to the place of following your true dreams sooner rather than later.

    I’m not really comfortable pimping my own blog, but I wrote a post last fall about having more time in which to create and whether that would be a good idea (for me). But I also linked to a fascinating CNN article about the two brothers who created Google maps and their take on creativity and pressure. I think there are a few ideas there that might be good food for thought for you. It’s here:


    Kids really are flexible, but they also follow your lead. My dad was a HS English teacher and my mom didn’t have a job outside the home until my youngest sister was in HS. There were four of us kids. We lived in a nice neighborhood because my parents bought a cheap fixer-upper (really, it was a disaster) and then fixed it and made it a home. I always thought we were pretty well off — middle to upper-middle class. We weren’t. I had NO IDEA until I was an adult how pitiful my dad’s salary was. Why? This is important: They never talked about it. Never. Not once did I ever hear either of my parents say, "We can’t afford that." They never said anything about money. Not in front of us. It was only when I got older that I realized mom didn’t necessarily make most of us kids’ clothes because she "wanted" to. Luckily for us, she was damn good at it. When I moved out to live on my own, I copied her recipes. There was one for spaghetti sauce and the main ingredient was a can of tomato soup. I had no idea how little money they had. We were happy.

    And good grief, with all the toys my kids had available to play with, they were always happiest and spent the most time playing in the back yard with a big cardboard box and a stick. And maybe a trowel if it had rained recently.

    You said, "The scariest thing is the not-knowing." No it’s not. Not even close. The scariest thing is the not doing.

    Wishing you and yours all the best, even if that means the least.

  30. anonymous

    Apology. I realize I have stepped over your line in my exuberance to help.

    My brother is in Costa Rica at this moment seeking a fresh perspective for himself.

    Good Mazel to both of you. No offense meant.

  31. Blair Hayes

    "Life is to be lived and enjoyed as we accept and meet the responsibilities we have chosen, shed the responsibilities others try to give us that don’t belong to us, and help others meet their responsibilities as we are able."
    -Judy Wirzberger

    Well don’t that sum in up in one incredibly succinct nutshell? Thank you, Judy, for that jewel which will now adorn the most hallowed position on my wall.


    As I read your posting and all the wonderful responses, all the while formulating some words of encouragement, I just had to put on the breaks when I got to that one. Judy is so right (so’s everyone else, but especially Judy.). You need to take heed of what the universe is not only telling you but handing you on a silver platter, and – and I love you, man, and only say this to you in a public forum ’cause you put it out there – stop painting the picture you’re painting of yourself as this guy who’s in a place where he can’t risk doing what he needs to do because of his obligations. You’re already doing it! You ARE a writer! A dang GOOD one too! And you’re published! And your family loves you and will stand behind you and – if need be – sacrifice whatever they need to to allow you to pursue the dream 24/7. Not sure if you noticed, but I was there at the BookSoup reading and saw a wife and two boys absolutely mesmerized by their husband/daddy. And little Benjamin actually took the mike and professed the greatest love and appreciation for his writer daddy. I dunno, sure sounds like devotion to me.

    Let go and move forward, my friend.

    Can’t wait to read BEAT.

    All the best and nothing but love,


    and forget that directing dream. It’s so not what it’s cracked up to be.

  32. Anonymous

    Also………To Louise……….I never meant to vitiate your wondrous quote to Stephen from Art of Racing. Very apt . Very poetic. It is from one of my very favorite books. The book does say so much about starting over.

    My dad was a car person and I am a dog person so that book makes me cry just hearing it’s title. Sorry.

    Your quote was a marvelous one for Stephen and yourself.

    When I think of that book and your life with Bruce and Cisco I can hardly think and write.

    Sorry if I sounded flippant earlier. I am forever an accidental ass. (Sounds like a soft porn movie title.)

  33. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Back again. I was at the big Festival of Books pre-party at the Mystery Bookstore last night. Grrreat fun!

    Anon – don’t worry about it! I appreciate that you went out to make a contact on my behalf. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up writing an episode of CSI because of it. And I’ve enjoyed reading all of your comments.

    BCB – man, I love your comment. Yeah, people keep telling me I’m a dreamer. And I know that it’s a compliment. At least, I’ve come to realize that. The people who don’t intend to make it a compliment simply refer to me as "Peter Pan." But, I don’t know, I have a vision of the world in my head that I like to believe exists. Or maybe I know it can exist. If people treated others as they would like to be treated themselves. I really just want to have fun in life – I believe we are all supposed to be enjoying this gorgeous world. So it really frustrates me that people abuse one another, steal from each other, kill each other. At the core of me I don’t get that. And maybe that’s why I explore it in my writing. Maybe that’s why my work is so dark, and I’m so attracted to reading about the dark side. Because it’s so alien to me, and I’m trying to fully understand it. Anyway, your words were awesome and I want you to know that they mean a great deal to me.

    Blair – you, my friend, are the greatest inspiration I have. You live the life you preach, no doubt. And you are so, so talented. I wish the Murderati group could see your film work, hear your music, see your paintings, observe your serenity. Thank you for bringing up those images of my wife and kids watching me at the Book Soup launch. Thank you for actually capturing those moments on film, too, which you did beautifully and with real sensitivity. You and I are spiritual brothers. I wish we had more time to spend together. Thanks for chiming in here at my form on the World Wide Web. Thanks for the emotional support as I prepare to leap.

  34. anonymous

    CFI………..stands for California Film Institute ……CFI Releasing is its new division

    Fishkin Launches CFI Releasing
    by Eugene Hernandez (January 20, 2010)

    The San Francisco Bay Area’s California Film Institute is launching a non-profit division to distribute films theatrically.

    Dubbed CFI Releasing, the new unit will kick-off with Marin County residents Noah and Logan Miller’s “Touching Home.” The film stars Ed Harris, Robert Forster, Brad Dourif as well as Lee Meriwether, and also includes the Millers in their acting debut. It is based on their own story.

    The film will be have a limited release this spring, launching in seven markets including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Denver. It will open in April with a gala premiere at the California Film Institute’s Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA.

    “Our focus going forward will be on distributing independent films with an original voice that have something distinctive to say,” said CFI’s Fishkin, in a statement. “Our distribution arm will develop organically in a productive way that supports the organization, while supporting who we are and what we do. Our hope is that these films and their filmmakers will greatly benefit from our long film festival and theatrical presentation experience.”

    CFI has yet to announce details or plans for additional releases. Mark Fishkin was not immediately available for comment. We will update this story as more details become available.

  35. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Ah, Anon – I understand now. For some reason I thought you meant CSI. I was thinking that they were shooting in SF. There is some big TV show shooting there – the last time I was up I ran into their production vehicles everywhere I went. Sorry about my confusion.
    CFI sounds like a great organization.
    Yeah, that would certainly be a more stimulating career choice. Thanks again for calling them on my behalf.

  36. anonymous

    You didn’t open my link in the first email I sentchya……the article was about CFI Releasing. Their new division out of San Rafael.

    I am mostly a fool Stephen, but SOMETIMES my direction is unfoolishly divine. Who the fuck knows. They are not hiring right now so that is why I queried the big guy directly with media inspired flattery.

    BTW. I have asked everyone I know in NoCal education and the arts for openings with your regard since you last told the blog of your situation. So far nothing. Responses, yes, but no jobs. Sigh. TRYING!

  37. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Yep–I’ve been prepping for the Festival of Books all weekend, so I haven’t had a chance to look at any of the links from everyone’s comments. I hope to go back through everything over the next week or so, but the day job interferes and the pressure to write my next book proposal is great. I end up spending precious little time on the internet.

  38. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    ps – Why "anonymous?" I think we’re all friends here – surely you can open up with us?

  39. Not important to be "anonymous". Yeeesh

    Not a matter of opening up or closing off…..or not being a "friend"…..just laziness and disinterest in establishing some sort of profile for myself. I am not a writer. I have nothing significant to contribute. Commenting is mostly for my own amusement and visiting the blog is for my edification and curiosity.

    PK has asked me the same question. I am always surprised why people are curious about me. Who the hell is "PK the Bookiemonster" or "BCB" or "billie" ? I don’t know them. I don’t "know" any of you. I read your books. I think that the Murderati crew are good writers and good thinkers. The bloggers have good things to say. That’s enough.

    Does it nuance what I have said if one knows my name? Would anyone be more forgiving of my relentless inappropriateness if they had my first and last name? There have been some comments from another "anonymous’ from time to time. That’s ok with me. Who cares?

    If it makes anyone feel better I will change my signature from Anon to Ever and Anon.


    XXOXX Berenmind There. Better?

  40. Ever and Anon

    You must also consider, Stephen, that someone with an unusual spelling to their name or using a consistent acronym, can be easily Googled. EVERY comment I make on ANY blog will come up with a Google search………………….unless I am "anonymous"……..and very frankly, I do not intend to talk to a billion people every time I comment on something. Capisce?


  41. johnmdirector@yahoo.com

    I think there’s a general sense of uneasiness pervading most of our lives right now. Many business models are broken or barely functional. Lots of people are struggling to find their place in this newly deconstructed world. It will serve your boys well to see their dad make his own way in the world. I think they’ll feel some ownership about their new situation and will work hard to make good things happen. You’re taking your family on a grand adventure! Woohoo!

  42. WinWin

    hi there
    i’m so glad that i saw this blog. that topic was so great. thanks again i saved this website.
    are you going to post similar posts?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *