I’ve been writing seriously for approximately the last twenty years. In 1999, while attending my freshman year at Point Park College in Pittsburgh, I wrote an essay contest for the school paper which I called “The Essay on Pharmaceutical Disobedience.” It won the top prize, which was forty dollars. I used it to buy acid. I’ve come a long way since then. Twenty years is a long time in anyone’s life. I’ve worked more than a dozen jobs, lived in five different states. Now married, I live in upstate New York, with two cats and a dog sharing my house alongside my wife, Megan. I don’t know that I necessarily mapped out my life years ago to get to this point, but here I am, and I’m enjoying myself.
In 2009, when I moved to New York, I got into the security industry. I wrote blogs about it: the monotony, the lousy pay, dealing with inconsiderate businessmen, homeless people, and perverts. My memoir “You Never Know Who’s Crazy” captures that time in my life pretty well. I was in the security industry close to ten years. I took a security gig here in Rochester when I first got here, because it was what I knew, I had my license for it, and I didn’t know any other viable ways to support myself. But this past October, I quit. I’d had enough…more than enough. The security jobs made me miserable. I had an aptitude for it, but that’s doesn’t mean I ever liked it.
In the meantime, of course, I had been writing. I’d been doing it the whole time, on the side. Or maybe the shit jobs that I was working were on the side, and the writing was what actually took precedence…it was hard to say sometimes. When I was introduced to someone for the first time, and they asked what I did, sometimes I would say “I’m a writer,” while knowing that wasn’t my primary source of income. In point of fact, I was a writer, whether I was in Cincinnati working as a parking attendant at DuBois Bookstore, in North Myrtle Beach working at Applebee’s as a line cook, or in New York City working a variety of security jobs. Yes, I was a writer, but it came off more like a hobby if it wasn’t how I was putting food on the table. I was a writer, but I was also a bouncer, or a fire safety director, or whatever else was paying the bills. It was like that for a really, really long time.
But late in 2017, it finally happened: I went pro. I quit my last security job, and I do mean my last security job, because I never intend on getting another one. I’ve been a novelist for years, and I’ve had several of them published, though I’ve had to handle their publication myself. If you’ve followed my work over the years, you already knew that. But now I’m a freelance writer, and I’m being paid for it. I’m being paid consistently, and hired consistently too. The reason I’ve been able to make the transition fairly smoothly is because I’m a good writer, and once my employers see that, they usually want more of my work. I’ve signed up and created a profile for myself on a freelance writing site, and I’ve done about ten gigs since October. Some are for less money, some for more. Some are for longer periods of time, some shorter. I get paid by the hour for some of them, or by the gig for others. But I’m in demand, and I don’t think it’s at all likely that the work will dry up. I seem to have found a niche for myself: writing professionally. Who would’ve thunk it?
It’s true that in these gigs, I’m often writing things that it wouldn’t be my first choice to write about. I’d still like to make my living creating the fantasy, horror, and crime stories that I love so much. Maybe that will still happen some day. Never say never. But in the meantime, when I meet someone new, and they ask me my profession, I can proudly say “I’m a writer.” There’s no caveat. I don’t also have to mutter “But I do security work to make ends meet.” I’m a writer, and that’s my sole means of income. At the age of thirty-six, it’s the first time in my life that I can say that. And that’s pretty cool, don’t you think?
I wanted to close with the news that my new horror story collection “Fear the Darkness, Shun the Light,” will be out soon for Kindle and in print-on-demand format. More information on that will be forthcoming. Till next time, true believers, this is Steven, professional writer, signing off.