The Writing Life: Ramen Noodles and Shampoo from the Dollar Store


Back in 1981, The inimitable Lawrence Block wrote an article for Writer’s Digest called “Getting By on a Writer’s Income.”  The article acts as a sort of how to, providing eleven general points that you’re going to have to come to terms with if this is the life you choose.

I left my day job this past year. When writers hear that, they immediately cheer. “Yay! You’re living the writer’s life!” When non-writers hear the same news, they immediately ask, “Can you……um…you’re not going to…um…you can survive?”

Yes, I’m surviving, but there have been a couple of changes:

Gone is the disposable income, which means I’ve had to make a couple of adjustments. In pre-writing FT life, a high stressful day might have begotten a twelve dollar lunch. Now, lunch comes from the refrigerator. But since I don’t have high stress days anymore, it’s not that much of a sacrifice.

Pre-writing FT: $35 battery-operated mascara. Post: sale mascara from Rite-Aid.

Pre: New outfits from Neiman Marcus. Post: It’s fun to rediscover the clothes in my own closet!

Pre: just pay for valet parking. It’s more convenient. Post: leave early to allow for time to circle the block and find free parking.

In some ways, these months have been the absolute greatest months of my life. Gone is the stress of rushing, rushing, rushing everywhere. Gone is the frustration of wanting to do one thing but being obligated to do another. Gone is the feeling that I’m dancing as fast as I can. Now I say yes to opportunities because I want to—and I can.

I’m not going to lie. Living the writer’s life requires sacrifice. And it requires self-motivation. It can include countless hours playing computer card games, or it can include the random weekday you take off to conduct a little real life research. It can give you the time to get done in a few days what it would normally have taken you weeks or months to accomplish. You’ll learn new things about yourself, and that’s a priceless lesson at any age.

And you know what I learned? I probably didn’t need battery-operated mascara in the first place.


Author: Diane Vallere

Diane is the author of four mystery series. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, like her character Polyester Monroe, she lives in California; and like her character Margo Tamblyn, she has a thing for costumes. Find out more at

16 thoughts on “The Writing Life: Ramen Noodles and Shampoo from the Dollar Store”

  1. Great post, Diane! I love the idea of battery operated mascara, but I agree, that’s something you can probably give up to live the writer’s life. Choices! Time! Congrats to you for reaching this goal and sharing with us.


  2. I have never heard of battery-operated mascara. My 13-year old probably has. Mine is a $2 purchase from Target. Congrats on living the writer’s life. While I certainly enjoy the security from the day-job, it would be nice not to have to get up at 6:30 and battle city traffic. Some day, some day…


  3. Congratulations! Now let’s all see Diane adding back all the things she’s give up and more when she hits it big!


    1. OMG, an anthology featuring short stories with odd make-up accoutrements or such like. Start with battery-powered mascara.
      Maybe not.


  4. Theresa, that might be great concept for the first every Mysteristas Anthology!

    Sue: the vibrating wand does help get mascara on all of those tiny little lashes you can’t see. Okay, truth? I miss the battery operated mascara. But still!


  5. Love this, Diane! I used to stop and pick up dinner from the deli when I didn’t want to cook. Now it’s frozen Lean Cuisine. I discovered the joys of coupon clipping (not), driving around for cheap gas and bulk buying detergent. I can’t life the huge jug, but boy, was it cheap! Never did battery powered mascara but used to use YSL and Lazlo. Now I shop the cosmetic aisle at Target.
    I do love the writing life, though. I spend the day playing with my imaginary friends.


  6. Diane,
    I, too, have never heard of battery-operated mascara until today. What’s more, I’ve never seen it advertised. I commend you for making the big leap. You’re so creative, you’ll soon be eating lunch out again.


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