Musings

I’m Still Here

January 19, 2018

It’s sad when a dream dies. It’s not usually like the death of a person, when there is a group of people, perhaps large, perhaps small, depending on how much of an asshole the deceased was, who stand around for a while and mourn. They’re able to mourn together, to be there for each other, and it helps with the pain. The death of a dream is a small and private death. It occurs in a person’s mind, and perhaps in their heart a little bit, too. That’s kind of what I’ve been feeling lately in regards to the dream I once had of becoming a professional writer. I first conceived of being a writer around 1999 or 2000, and hard to believe, that’s almost twenty years ago now. Since then, I’ve written several books, and many short stories and essays. I’ve liked some of them, others not so much. I think, more than anything else, that what I’ve discovered about myself are my limitations as a writer. If I try to judge my own abilities objectively and fairly, then I would say that I’m not a total hack, and I’m able to write semi-convincingly in certain styles, or genres. However, I’m never going to be as good as the writers I most admire, be it a Tolkien or a Stephen King, an Elmore Leonard or a Brian Lumley, a Lovecraft or a Cormac McCarthy. Compared to them, I just don’t have it. They’ve achieved success commensurate to their abilities. Now, approaching the age of forty, I have to face the fact that I probably have too.

It’s always possible that I might still write something that takes off and becomes popular, but the fact is, I’m burned out. When you’ve been pressing and striving as a writer so hard for nearly twenty years, and you don’t have much to show for it, the constant rejection after rejection by lit agents and publishing companies gets to you, no matter how tough you are. When you’ve been told “no” dozens or hundreds or even thousands of times, it has to take its toll. I’m only human. Any author is. Being burned out, and not even having the urge to start any new projects, is a new sensation for me. It’s been a very long time since I wasn’t somewhere in the process of starting something, working on it, finishing it, shopping it around, getting turned down a bunch of times, then moving on to the next thing. That’s been my life for nearly two decades. Since the writing hasn’t been paying the bills, I’ve had to work day jobs, and I’ve hated all of them, without exception. The only difference has been the degree to which I’ve hated them. The food-service jobs were all uniformly awful. Grocery store jobs, a bookstore, working in a costume/party store, and the many years of work in the security industry…there’s probably some that I’ve forgotten along the way, but they all served the same function, keeping me afloat. Since I got married, almost eight years ago, they’ve been helping to keep Megan and the two cats and myself afloat, and now, the family dog as well, who we got back in September.

I quit my most recent security job in October, and since then, you may notice I haven’t been writing here on the website much. I said a few months back that I wasn’t going to be posting here on the site as much as I used to, and I’ve lived up to that. The reason is that what money I’ve made in the past three months has been coming through freelance writing jobs that I’ve done online. I have a profile on a sort of online marketplace, a site where freelancers list their qualifications, and potential employers post jobs. The writers and employers connect, and the work gets done. Usually, it doesn’t pay very much. It’s not glamorous. And yet, with all that being said, I’ve still made more through my writing in the past three months than I have in my entire life prior to this period. The work is monotonous, repetitive, and doesn’t require a lot from a creative standpoint, but at least I’m being paid for my writing. It’s not writing bestselling novels like I always wanted to, but at least it’s something.

Of course, the other aspect of freelancing is that sometimes, when the work dries up, there’s downtime, and sometimes it’s extended downtime. That might sound nice, but it isn’t. I don’t like being at home during the day, at two in the afternoon, while my wife is at work, like most normal people. I don’t like not making money. It makes me frantic. I wish that money wasn’t so important, so that when I wasn’t making it, I wouldn’t feel so down on myself. But as I’ve said before, the world is how it is, it’s not how we wish it could be. Money is important, and when I’m not making it regularly, I’m still going to feel down on myself. I am and will always remain my greatest critic, and I’ve never liked myself very much, so it’s easy to speak ill of myself and take my words to heart. That’s another thing that I wish was different, but probably never will be.

I figured if I wrote this post that before long it was going to get all mopey and sad, and sure enough, here we are. The thing of it is, I don’t do therapy, and I doubt I ever will, so putting my thoughts out there on paper (or onscreen) usually remains the best way for me to get things off my chest. Therefore, you would think that with my not having work, I would have been posting more regularly again these days. But that hasn’t been the case, and the reason for it remains the same as my reason for not posting more regularly for the past year. I’m tired of writing things…anything…for which I’m not being paid. I’ve been doing it for far too long. That’s why, even though my work life is uncertain at the moment, it’s unlikely you’re going to be hearing from me much these days. But as I sign off here, I ask the same question that I have been for the past couple of years, as it relates to this blog. Who am I even writing these things for, anyway, if not myself? I don’t have any fans, or at least, I don’t think I do. That’s the entire point of all this: if I had fans, then it would mean that my writing, most likely my books, had been selling, so I wouldn’t feel like my dream was dead to begin with. But I don’t have fans, at least none of which I’m aware, which is why I’m in such a fix for work, and why nobody should expect more regular blogs from me, even though I certainly have the time to write them these days. But just in case I do have one or two fans out there, by accident, or whatever the case may be, I am still here. I just wouldn’t expect to be hearing much from me, in any form, anytime soon.

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