My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes, I Make Money. But That's Not Why I Do It. (Personal Update)

My selfies are cute, but that's not why I get paid.
Image description: just a picture of me with one hell of a left side
swoop wing.
Two stories not entirely unrelated:

1- First I woke to another author's competitive chest beating in my inbox. "If you were a real author, blah blah blah...." I told him that I wasn't really writing for the money and got a stream of "typical sentiment when one isn't making money..." type stuff. ("It's fine and well to have a hobby, but if you're going to peddle your advice and call yourself a writer you should be a professional....") I'm not sure what it is about the writing world, but a lot of writers really have learned to engage in a fierce competition with each other over their legitimacy. ("She's not published." "He sold out." "They only do short stories." "I focus on writing of actual...quality." "He's fine if you like commercial writing." "She's literary, so it's very niche and doesn't make money." And on and on and on....) And most of these competitions make them look at best like elitist prigs, but usually they end up with about eight omelets worth of egg on their face.

Fortunately, it's easy to get people to engage a little further when they think they have the upper hand. A few casual questions, and I realized he hadn't thought this salvo through very well. Seriously, if there's one thing I know about trying to give writers shit, it is to keep a very, very close eye on your own petard and its proximity to your hoist.

I don't think Chippy was prepared to discover that I make about twice as much as he does once the advance he was bragging about was divided by the time it took him to write his book. As often as traditional publication is still seen as "The Promise Land™" of writers, many who have achieved this feather in their cap forget that non traditional routes often pay better. I'm not going to tell you exactly what I make, but it's enough that I might not have to get a fourth job when I move out.

And while I could have done a Conan the Barbarian caliber, "Neener neener, brah!" (and boy would he have deserved it), instead I just went back to my first point. I'm making money–even though it's not much–because I've spent four years finding an audience and trying to grind out something even when my life does its "spookily accurate" Hindenburg impression. But I write because I can't NOT write.

2- On Friday's post, as often happens in first drafts, I went off the rails a bit. I realized I had spent more than a couple of paragraphs talking about something that had nothing to do with my topic: posting menus (with a little bit of emceeing) on Fridays for the next couple of months until I'm through the worst moments of cancer treatment and moving out.

Instead I was going on about how keeping the blog running–not putting it on a hiatus or some greatly reduced schedule–has actually been one of the best decisions I've ever made. This sort of off-topic rambling happens a lot with rough drafts, and the extra paragraphs ended up on the "cutting room floor" of my revision.

I know it might be hard to imagine that my particular tangent-filled bloviation has probably actually undergone a bit of fat trimming, but it's true. Even in the pursuit of Stephen King caliber digressive storytelling (or satirists and Italians if you prefer a literary example), I still keep an eye open for when I've not just gone a little divergent, but I'm actually being hunted by the Erudite and the Dauntless traitors.

However, before I cut them, I glanced through them. One never knows when the strange gem will be sitting in the refuse. And as I glanced through them, they seemed like ideas worthy in their own right, if a little disjointed and free flow. The tangent I had gone off on was all about why this decision to keep blogging four days a week instead of putting Writing About Writing on a hiatus or dropping down to only one or two posts a week was probably one of the best decisions I'd ever made.

I share it with you for two reasons. One, I always want W.A.W. to exist as a constant and real-time reminder that writing is hard, and doing it every day isn't always glitter and Pegasus rides through the Rainbow Gate to the land of Forgotten Dreams where inspiration flows like milk and honey. Writers have shitty days, weeks, even years. Two, I hope that when life hits you so hard that you fall to one knee and wonder if you'll ever get up, you know that writing isn't something you do despite your pain.

It's something you do to survive your pain.

So here it is:

"I know writing is a lifeline.

I've known that since my last major adult relationship of over a decade started to fall apart. I've known that when I tried to process my mother's alcoholism and eventual recovery. I've known that since I started to realize almost all my stories were in some way about redemption. I've known that when I faced the moments over and over in college–working two jobs to get by and studying every extra minute of the day–when it would have been easier to give up. I've known that since I was young that I needed writing like some people need to talk about their day or unwind in front of the TV.

[Insert cliche about writing, art, and life here.] Except it's not a cliche. Writing isn't just a beer and a sitcom after a long day. It has seen me through.

By the end of next summer, I will have lived through the worst year of my life. That isn't sarcasm. It's not Comic Book Guy saying "Worst. Year. Ever." because Agent Carter got cancelled. I mean some year there might be a salmon moose incident, but right now, this year kicked the others' asses so hard that a deep voice from the sky said "Fatality." I'm seeing someone I love through cancer treatment and then moving out of the house of my family. I basically lost my job. And I'm not even sure what cheeky comparison fits best when one loses being a daily part of a child's life.

There's suckage here I didn't even know existed. 

No matter how badly I want to crawl back into bed or just click over into some kind of "Urgent Only" mode where the diapers get changed, I do what I need to to not get fired, and the rest of life passes by like some time lapse nature film, writing helps to beat back that sense of futility. Writing gives me a purpose–even if it is a reluctant one–to crawl out of bed. It is something to think of that isn't a feedback loop of how it feels like life left a bag of flaming shit on my porch. It connects me with hope. It reminds me that parts of the world are falling apart. It is a reminder that in the rubble of my life, the flowers will still grow."

Money is not why I write.

Image description: Flower in rubble