For those who don't know me, I basically decided that I was going to be an author around the age of 13. Since I was still at that age where adults were constantly asking me what I was going to do when I grew up, I remember being told time and time again, "That's a great goal, sweetheart, but you need to do something other than write novels. After all, what if that doesn't work out for you?"
I'm sure most creative professionals have heard the same spiel in one form or another.
Some adults calmly explained to me that it takes a long time to write a book, and I'll have bills to pay in the mean time. Others talked about how famous authors like Stephen King were teachers while they worked on novels in their spare time (telling me both that they liked these creative works enough to pay for them, and that they sort of missed how condescending it was to relegate the writing itself to a back room hobby, but I digress). While this didn't dissuade me, exactly, it did underline that I was going to have to really pour on the energy if I expected to be able to do this without also pulling a 9 to 5 the rest of the week.
And I realized something earlier this month... I've done it! Well, sort of.
|And a big thanks for all the folks who helped me get here!|
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When The Eggs Weight-Test Your Basket
Folks who check my updates know that I'm a pretty busy bee. Ring of Fire recently released my cat noir novel Marked Territory, I manage two blogs, I'm constantly expanding my Vocal article archive (which is sitting pretty at 178 articles at time of writing), and I've released 46 separate RPG supplements such as 100 Sights to See in a Steampunk City and 100 Fantasy Tattoos (and The Meaning Behind Them) that earn me royalties.
Of course while working on all of that, along with probably a half dozen other projects that I haven't mentioned, I was also writing content as a freelance blogger. I wasn't writing as much content as I had in the past, but it was still the first thing I did everyday when I logged on before I got to the "fun" work.
|Come on baby... go viral! I believe in you!|
About halfway through the summer, though, I started noticing that my "day job" writing just wasn't paying me anymore. As with so many things, writers get paid when the articles get approved, and more and more clients were scaling back their publications, or just sitting on content for months. Sometimes a batch would squeak through, but it went from triple digit checks every week, to $50 a week, to about $20-$30 a week.
I have a small mountain of content still waiting for approval (enough to equal a second stimulus check if the clients would just approve it), but that income stream has shrunk to a trickle.
And you know what? The past few months I've actually managed to survive. I'm not thriving by any stretch of the imagination, but thanks to sales events like Drive Thru RPG's "Rogue-Tober," as well as the generosity of a handful of new patrons (you can always sign up at The Literary Mercenary's Patreon if you'd like to help keep things going, as well), and the semi-viral success of my article Partners and Polycules: Polyamorous Designations Based Off Dungeons and Dragons Dice, I've managed to break even without tightening my belt too much.
I don't feel secure where I'm at by any stretch of the imagination. I've got a dozen more projects I'm working on as we speak to expand my archives, and to make sure my readers have even more stuff to check out. But it's an odd feeling realizing that I sort of got where I want to be (or at least I'm a lot closer than I thought) when I wasn't even looking.
Missing The Forest For The Trees
The best comparison I have was when I was working two rather strenuous jobs in my early 20s. During the day I walked roughly 10 miles or so delivering newspapers, and then I drove a bakery truck overnight. The bakery was across town, and roughly a three mile walk where I left my place at 1 in the morning, and got there around 2ish. I needed both jobs to cover my part of the rent, and no matter what I tried to do nowhere else in town was hiring. So for roughly two months my schedule was get up, deliver the afternoon papers, come home, eat dinner, and relax. I'd either watch TV, read a book, or nap, then walk across town, deliver donuts till 5:30 or 6, take the bus home, and do it all again the next day.
I wasn't in bad shape when I started these jobs. But as they said in Fight Club after a month or so of this routine I was carved out of wood.
The sudden realization that without going to the gym, making big changes to my diet, or really noticing it that I'd gotten extremely fit sort of threw me when I looked in the mirror. I was still tired a lot of the time, my feet hurt, and I'd worn the heels of my boots at an odd angle, but I hadn't really noticed just how far I'd come in adding lean muscle and peeling away extra pounds.
A similar thing happened with regards to my current body of work. I'd just been plugging away at it over the past couple of years, making sure that I put up articles as fast as I could, didn't miss deadlines, and generally tried to build that cushion. While I'm knocking on wood as I write these words, even in the midst of a pandemic my archive was still expansive enough that I was able to pay most of my bills between sales and patronage, with my leftover Vocal reads used to fill in the cracks.
Since about August, I've thrown myself into writing entirely new gaming projects, my current novel manuscript has rounded 56k words (coming into the home stretch), and I've got a whole list of Vocal articles I plan to add. While it feels like the devil is nipping at my heels a little bit, there's also a certain invigorating feeling of climbing without a harness; of being on the trapeze without a net.
Something could go wrong. I could lose my patrons, websites I use for hosting could shut down, projects could get terminated, contracts revoked... but for the time being I'm flying. It's a stumbling flight, and I can see the jagged rocks from where I am, but goddammit I'm in the air and I will stay there through sheer force of spite if that's what it takes!
I hope, my friends, that someday you also get to feel this feeling. Though preferably not in the midst of a global pandemic.
Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!
That's all for this week's Business of Writing! If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my noir thriller Marked Territory, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife as well as my recent collection The Rejects!