So, I decided to have a mild moment of absolute terror last night as I lay awake staring through the blackness of my bedroom at the ceiling. I am a month away (give or take a handful of days) from my pilgrimage to Atlanta and a weekend alone in the city at Dragon Con. As of right now, I have my gear ready, my promotional material set, and I am making a list of events, panels, and films to be at. I am also so ridiculously broke that it isn’t funny. Being a freelance writer is great, when you’re getting paid, but it becomes a super expensive hobby when no one is actually exchanging cash for articles. Everything I do is coming out of pocket and, since I haven’t incorporated myself into a business and started doing this full time, I can’t technically deduct any of this stuff from my taxes as an expense either. That means hotel, gas, food, and any other incidentals from my excursion are all coming out of my pocket with no hope of reimbursement.
So, why am I doing this again?
I love writing. I’ve loved it since I was a dorky 15 year old kid writing terrible sci-fi and watching Farscape and Star Trek on Friday nights while my friends were out partying and playing games. There was a comfort in seeing all these amazing, fanciful notions in my imagination brought to life on paper and I wanted to share that with everyone I could. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve made any headway at all with my writing and even that has been marginal. My book, A Thousand Little Deaths, has sold poorly and my short fiction has all been in obscure, non-paying ‘zines, many of which have folded since publishing me. Despite the renaissance of pulp fiction, fewer people are reading and even fewer of those are willing to pay. Now, it isn’t all about the money. I really do want to write stories that people are going to read and enjoy for years to come. But being able to make a living writing articles and editorials would give me a hell of a lot more time to write those stories and hone my craft.
I’ll be 33 in December and I keep hearing the same line from an old song my dad used to play. “You know my heart keeps telling me ‘You’re not a kid at 33.'” Over and over in my head I hear Danny O’Keefe singing it and I realize I’m Charlie. I’m at a crossroads in my life where what I want and what I end up with are all about to be determined by what I do here and now. I can stay in a career that, as the years have gone on, has drained me of a lot of hope and humanity but has provided a steady, decent paycheck, or I can take a risk and put everything I’ve got into this art of mine and maybe succeed or maybe fail and have to start all over again from the bottom. Despite the money, the exposure I get from being at an event like Dragon Con, shaking hands and meeting people, could lead to some paying work years down the line. Either way, I have to commit to a path now and start moving because I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want to end up being that sad old fucker at the bar, drinking myself to death and asking “What the hell happened to me?”
It’s just a bit discouraging at times to know that my work is good enough to print but not good enough to earn cash. This isn’t a jab at any of my regular publishers, mind you. I’ve been told by editors at all three sites that they’d pay me in a heartbeat if the sites were generating any sustainable revenue but, like me, these sites are a labor of love by them and often times are being funded by the people who run them and write them. (Keep that in mind next time you drop in and read an article.) Hell, it’s that personal passion for the fandoms that makes me want to keep writing for them and, as long as it’s still fun and for the love of the genres and culture, I’ll always write for them. But it still doesn’t help with my immediate funding problems.
I’ll find the money I need to make this work. Don’t get me wrong. This post is more or less me griping because I’m not where I expected to be at in my career going on 33 years old. But every day brings me a little closer to my dream of writing for a living and with every article, every update, every story that never even gets glanced at by anyone other than the editor who publishes it, I know I’m going to make it. I’m just having to take the long way around. We can’t all be Robert Heinlein.
As for Dragon Con, I’ll get there and it’ll be amazing. I’ll figure out the funding at the last minute, the same way I do everything else in my life. And, even if no one reads these things but me, I’m still having fun and that’s what matters. Until then, I’ll keep paying my dues, busting my ass, and writing every day for as long as I can.