My Love/Hate Relationship With Non-Fiction

I actually do write non-fiction to pay the bills. I write short Web articles about computers and the Internet, or computer-adjacent topics. Like this one about teens on the Internet, or this one about my favorite lady scientist, Ada Lovelace. They’re not very good.

If there were an office hierarchy of freelance writers, I would be that guy who does his 9 to 5: just good enough not to be fired but not good enough to advance. I’m not ambitious or educated enough to branch my career beyond the Web. My writing is merely okay. What (in my incredibly unhumble opinion) makes me a good fiction writer is my blend of character and plot — the creative parts. Technically, I’m nothing to call home about.

I’ve also got a lot of mixed feelings about my niche in the freelance writing world, so much so that I often both downplay my job and avoid mentioning it specifically. As you saw, I write whatever content is available for noisy sites like eHow. This work is supplemented with the occasional one-off job for small businesses. I try to write content that’s helpful and interesting. I aim for quality writing. But I’m not exactly curing world hunger here.

All that whining aside, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity, even when its not fun. I have to juggle my time during the day between being a mom and being a professional writer. Sometimes it means shitty hours. Sometimes it means that I fail to give my kid the attention he deserves.

Ashley Poland & son

Like this time, when he lunged off a chair and clung to my arm for attention.

At the same time, its also allowed me to stay home; I’ve been his at-home parent for going on three years now. Every day, when my husband leaves for work, he does this heartbreaking, “Don’t go! I need my daddy today!”

With me working from home, he only has to deal with that once a day. He has someone who understands his moods and his speech problems. I don’t have to make arrangements once a week for his speech therapy appointments — we just go. Its unlikely that he really remembers when we used to have to juggle him between babysitters or the times he got stuck howling in a playpen in the back of the drycleaners.

My motivation for being a freelance writer has always been for Miles, so I could be both be a mother and contribute economically to our household. I don’t know that I want to do this once he’s in school. It takes time away from my goals as a fiction writer, and I’m not terribly passionate about it. (I simply funnel my passion for computers and tech through it.) But it serves its purpose, and like all things: it informs my fiction writing.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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