For the past several months, I’ve been spending time putting together my horror short story collection, Fear the Darkness, Shun the Light. Horror is one of my favorite genres in which to both read and write, right up there with fantasy and crime. The collection is available on Amazon for Kindle, and hopefully the print-on-demand version will follow suit before much longer. What I’ve been wondering as I put this collection together is whether this is the last feature-length fiction project I’ll ever publish. It’s been upwards of a year since I’ve done any creative writing. I’m burned out on it. I worked so hard writing fiction for so many years, and I self-published so much, but I never saw the financial dividends that I wanted from it. I always had to support myself in other ways. This past week I turned 37, and I feel like I’ve missed my chance. The spark that I had for it, the drive, the desire, has burned out.
I know that it was always a long shot that I would succeed as an author anyway. There’s just so much competition, and while I’ve liked some of the stuff I’ve written over the years, very little of it ever reached the high standards I set for myself. Any lit agents or publishing houses I queried seemed to feel the same way. It’s true that many of my short stories were published, but I wanted more than that, and it felt like I had a window of opportunity to get noticed in a big way, and now, with me pushing 40, that window is closed. I’m not as bitter about it as I thought I might be. I just don’t care as much about succeeding as a novelist as I used to.
Perhaps part of the reason is that for approaching a year now I’ve been making a living through my writing. Granted, it’s not writing creatively, at least not in the sense that I always envisioned. I’ve been working mostly as a blogger and a copywriter, things of that nature. It’s steady, and I get to work from home, which automatically makes it one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, if not the best. Since there’s no commute, I don’t have to worry about driving through the snows of a harsh Rochester winter to get to some job where I don’t even want to be. But since I write now for many hours every week, my desire to make up stories that nobody seems all that interested in reading is almost nonexistent. Meg compared it to a chef who cooks every day not wanting to come home and having to cook dinner for their family. I think that she’s on to something. If you do something professionally, you seldom desire to do it creatively in your spare time.
It’s okay that I didn’t make it as a novelist. It was a nice dream to have for a while, but I’m at a different stage in my life now. I’m more content than I ever remember being. I have pretty much everything else I ever wanted. I’m in a healthy, loving relationship, I have pets, a house with no mortgage on it, a lovely back yard, and it’s all on a quiet street where there’s virtually no crime or shady characters anywhere nearby. It’s as close to the American dream as I ever thought I would be, and it’s perhaps more conventional than I imagined when I was younger. It’s unexpected, but delightful.
Will the horror collection be the last fiction I write? It’s hard to say. I have another novel that I wrote, the sequel to Transitional Period, but I don’t know if I like it enough for it to ever see the light of day. It goes back, again, to the tough standards I set for myself. Perhaps when I’m older and I retire, assuming that day ever comes, I will return to fiction writing as a hobby. Maybe my writing will even be better for all the living I’ve done in the meantime, all the experience that I’ve compiled. I’m glad that I wasn’t so fixated on becoming a successful novelist that the failure depressed me too badly. It was something that I wanted very much at one point, but the older me is a different version of me, and I’m fine with it.
My thanks goes out to anyone that ever bought one of my novels, or story or essay collections. I know that there weren’t that many of you. I guess it’s nice just to think that maybe one or two people out there who I never met read something that I wrote, and enjoyed it. That was just as important to me as the financial gain ever was. Perhaps you might see something new from me down the line. How many years might pass between now and then, I couldn’t tell you. I feel like I’m in semi-retirement as a fiction writer. I took my chance, I did the best I could, and now there are other vistas that have opened up for me. From where I sit, it’s a damn fine view.