Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Vagabond Writer is a Reality, Thanks to Modern Technology

There's a certain, punk rock aesthetic that comes with being a writer. There's something about the non-conformist beat poet, the hard-line reporter, or the tale-telling wanderer that taps into what drives us. That idea that you're on the edge of the unknown, and that you have seen and experienced things others haven't, is one reason Jack Kerouac is both a person, and an archetype. After all, it takes guts to hit the open road or the city streets armed with nothing more than a notebook and your wits.

For those of us following in the footsteps of our forebears, though, it's a lot easier than you ever thought possible.

Adventure awaits!

Uproot Yourself... Seriously, It's Pretty Freeing

I didn't grow up in a particularly tech savvy home. Sure, we had a VCR, a few video game consoles, and we eventually got a computer when it was clear that schoolwork was going to be turned in on a disk instead of as a stack of papers, but my house was alternatively mistrustful of the latest gadgets, and unwilling to pay for access to them. I didn't discover what the Internet was (outside of movies) until I got to middle school, and I didn't get a really solid handle on it until my junior year of high school when I completed the Cisco networking program my school offered. I also worked a lot of different jobs in my late teens (often simultaneously), and every one of them was a job that required you to be in a certain place, at a certain time, to do a certain thing.

That's why, when I found out there were websites that let me make money by writing articles, I felt genuine freedom in a way I hadn't experienced since I got my driver's license.

I can leave the box now?
For the last year of my college experience (there was a gap in the middle, it's complicated, best not to ask), I managed to make a pretty decent wage without giving up any of my free time, or homework hours. All of that because of the student computer lab, and the gig I was working in the campus writing center. Because, for those who've never been in such a place, no one comes to the writing center unless they have a paper due in about an hour. While I was working there I helped 7 people in 8 months. Which meant that while I was technically on-duty and open for business, I was also online writing articles.

That meant my expenses were covered, and as soon as I finished up my classwork, I was free to do whatever I pleased. Which was, ironically, usually more writing.

The Adventure, and Discipline, of The Traveling Writer

In time, I got my degree, and quit working at the writing center. Since I didn't have to be up at any particular time, and I was on my own schedule, I established a semi-regular pattern. Wake up, sit down at my desk, check messages, and write until I hit my quota for the day's earnings. Take a break, relax a bit, and work on secondary projects. Read a book, go to bed, do it all over again.

Shakespeare gotta get paid, son.
On the one hand, my career choice meant I didn't get days off. On the other hand, I slowly came to realize that no one was going to make me work but me. Fortunately, by the time I realized that, I had a pretty good handle on what I needed to accomplish in a day to make bank by the end of the month.

I also realized something even more important. Because I could do my job from anywhere, that meant I could go anywhere to do my job.

That sounds self-evident, but think about it for a moment. How much time, and effort, do you typically put in trying to get days off to go on a vacation, or to visit friends, or to attend a convention that you really like? Most of the time it isn't even the fuel costs, or the oil change; it's getting more than two days off in a row to make your stay worth the trek.

Because I had a laptop, I had the world out in front of me. Which meant that I could drive down to visit friends in the middle of the week, and while they were at class, I would work, so when we were both mutually finished, we could enjoy the local events. It also meant I could go to conventions like Gen Con in Indy, or Windy Con and Capricon in Chicago, and not worry about paying my rent when I got home.

The Anchor's Gone, and It's Never Coming Back

A lot has changed since those gilded days. Work is more plentiful now, but often not as high-paying, and the hours writers like me (the unknown, but hard-working) clock are more numerous than ever before. However, the Internet has flexed its muscles, and stretched out into more places than we ever thought it would. It's available in hip cafes and over-priced coffee bars, but you can also get it in hotel lobbies, fast-food booths, and even at your gym (probably).

Seriously, though, you could write and update a blog from this thing.
If you ever find yourself pounding the pavement, with a backpack of clothes and a messenger bag with a laptop in it, remember that all you need to do to find work is log on. If you've got the discipline, and a little bit of luck, you might even manage to become the master of your own destiny, in addition to your own boss.

Thanks for sticking with me through this week's rambling update! If you want to help support me, and get some free swag, then visit The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! If you want to make sure you get all my latest updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter while you're at it!

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