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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Moment in Focus (Personal Update)

This is just after the moths flew out.
Image description: me looking into an empty wallet with a sad face.
Time to write!

I finished this post last night after 9pm on the west coast and decided to just post it today instead.

I'll get you some pictures of my very full, VERY cozy little room soon (I'm still unpacking), but in the meantime I am 99% packed on the other end, 75% unpacked on this end, and have most of the big ticket items in the move taken care of like bed, desk, and buying a car. (I got a very cute used Prius, that I'm quite happy with.)

As of this moment, baring major catastrophe, Writing About Writing is officially back on schedule, and you should notice a difference right away. I am not sure exactly how long it will be before I am able to get back to two posts a day and some fluff on weekends, but certainly within a couple of weeks, we should be there.

Friday I spent a long but productive hour on the phone with Covered California may have been the best possible inspiration for me to write (and really dust off my A game) that I could have hoped for. I've been chewing at the bit for a proper session, of course, and there's a reason my desk was the first thing I set up after tossing a futon mattress to the floor to collapse into. There was not really any chance I wasn't going to write.

But yesterday I got a kick in the ass that I didn't expect when my conversation pulled a vague "maybe someday" goal into much sharper focus, and it fired up a lot of "let's DO this thing" creativity. Instead of being ready to write in a vague next-step way, I experienced a deluge of power article ideas and inspiration.

Hell, I'm ready to play Skyrim for literally days in order to bring back the magic. Such is the measure of my ardent devotion. Could I love you all any more? I mean seriously?

See, this little room in Hayward was all I could really afford on my budget. Six...MAYBE seven hundred was kind of the ceiling for my rent costs. Any more than that and I'd have to make pretty deep cuts somewhere else (like if there was a place so close to BART that I wouldn't need a car, I could possibly go higher).

Seven hundred in the Bay Area is not a lot.

I would need about twice as much money available for rent to be able to make something in Oakland happen that wasn't a closet under the stairs. (With a roommate during the summers who talked about "Hag Warts" all the time.) Three times as much to get my own place in Oakland. And you don't even want to know what places go for in San Francisco.

But I was never looking for a four bedroom loft in Nob Hill. For me, somewhere around $1100-$1200 things start to get interesting. That's when things come into range like an actually decent sized room in a great location or if I'm willing to go someplace like Concord, maybe a little one bedroom or a studio to myself.

When you're $500-$600 short income-wise, it almost feels like it's too far. I took four years to reach a predictable income of half that amount, so adding that to what's going on now is going to be years off. And when you're looking at goals that ambitious, there can be a "Why Bother? Gulf." Essentially, there was no way I was going to make that kind of money writing for years, and the whole reason for doing a Kickstarter was so that I didn't have to pick up a third job working for Lyft or waiting tables on the weekend.

I was resigned to years of writing from the tiny bedroom of someone else's place. A roommate of someone who hopefully found my odd hours and antisocial proclivities to be acceptable. And maybe some day in the distant but unforeseeable future, I might make enough from writing to recreate the financial situation I was in twenty years ago. While I was very glad to get back to writing, and while I can't describe the ecstatic bliss of covering half the bills with word-smithing, it was in some ways with a heavy sigh.

I pause for a moment to reiterate something I've said before about artists and money: The bullshit idea that artists aren't supposed to want money is a terrible perversion of the sad reality that most artists will face a moment where they have to decide if they will keep doing it despite perhaps years of honing their craft while working for peanuts or struggling at day jobs before they DO make money. It is a twisted echo of art belonging only ("truly") to those too rich to sully their artistic integrity with such plebeian concerns. Best to ignore that trap. Some of the best artists of all time worked as hard as they did because they had a family to provide for or wanted to pay their bills with writing. Most artists would keep on doing their art if they weren't getting paid, and it's silly to do art of all things hoping to get rich. (There are so many better ways.) But that place between where there is just enough success to keep going–that's where a lot of us struggle.

But in the past few days I've also been adulting hard. Calling Covered California and getting car insurance. Budgeting. Buying lots of staple foods instead of going out. Denying myself a trip to the bookstore or a Kindle splurge until I've read a few more of the TBR stack first.

And it's adding up. Covered California was the biggest hit. I was paying $300/month more for insurance than I needed to. (Thanks Obama. No....seriously.) I'd budgeted more for the car than I will need.

Suddenly, I'm more like a couple hundred dollars a month out of reach of my goals instead of seven or eight. And that....won't be easy, but it's far more plausible in a time frame of months instead of years.


Just like that I felt the fire burning hot. Lots of good ideas and immediate inspiration. I have plans for killer articles and time tables and the only thing I'm worried about is how QUICKLY I can get everything written while still working on my novel.

It's hard for a writer to cross that rubicon of getting paid. And there is a lot lot lot more to be said both about falling into the trap of writing only for money or the absurd thought that money taints art. It usually takes five to ten years of solid work beyond a primary education for a writer to make some money and five or ten more for them to be exclusively a working writer (choices like traditional vs. non traditional publishing can affect this timeline in some ways, but there tends to be a consistency there that's hard to ignore). Every writer has to keep doing it for love before they get paid, and a very very few writers have to keep doing it for love once they need never write another book to pay the bills. However, once a writer can begin to see a relationship between how hard they work and how much they make, it can be extraordinarily inspiring to think that the difference between a 10x10 room and a stack of banker boxes in the garage or a tiny little place of one's own might be one great article a week.

I'm not sure I can shoehorn this into any folksy writing wisdom. Mostly this was a personal update. I hope those of you who aren't making money don't sneer at it, and those who are don't let it corrupt your work. I suppose it might also be worth it to keep in mind that realistic goals that are JUST out of reach are far better to set than moon shots that may take years.


  1. Dust off your library card. I simply hear about a good book on NPR, go to my library, click to check out. When it's available, it's automatically checked out to me....and I download it through Amazon.

    It's fabulous. I can now read things that aren't on the .99 cent list!

  2. Library card!! Another thing to add to my list. I just moved, too, but my move was slightly more... far from the maddening crowd? Moving to California was a good swift kick in my gut, despite the fact that I'd been warned. I thought I was prepared. HOLY GUACAMOLE!! I might have to let my hair grow long again... ah. Wait. What am I saying? Nope. I'd shave my head first. I might have to fix the mess I made of my blog for words (Y U hate me, WordPress?) just to put the tale of my cross-country adventure on the intertubes. Or not. Because every time I open the Google doc, I think, "OOOH! I need to add that thing that happened, too!"

    And apparently I wasn't paying attention when my friend was telling me about FIRES. (Waggles fingers at Soberanes. "Please stop making me sneeze. Thank you.") On the other hand... people. The people out here. There are days when I think, "Wait... I moved to California, right? Not Colorado?" Then I look at the itty bitty ridges beyond the campus and nod. "Ayup, ain't no 14ers over there! Definitely California."

    Airmid, we're not in New York anymore...

    (Three days to drive across the country from upstate New York to Monterey Bay... and I wrote every dang day!! Yeehah and three cheers for my collection of composition notebooks! The ones I'm still transcribing because... oh, look, J.O.B. LOL Also, if I kept my journal in a notebook instead of on the computer, I'd have filled two books in the last month.)

    Go away! I need to write some other stuff... darn you, Chris!