Friday, September 2, 2016

So, This Thing Happened...

Peace, Patient Perusers!

It's been nearly a year since I last felt compelled to write a post here but something very, very important happened this spring which virtually demands that I do an update. An update which, mercifully, has nothing to do with a dead celebrity or trying to save the country from political seppuku.

Six years ago ("Yikes!") I left a miserable, soul-deadening call center job. My goal: fulfill a life-long dream of being paid to write. In retrospect, it was a pretty daunting task, especially when you read some of those early posts. Cripes, I just wince at some of that stuff now.

Given the absence of any sort of guiding force in my life, I started up this very same therapeutic blog and then self-published my first novel. The former turned out to be a great way to "hone my craft", as pretentious jack-holes say, while the latter turned out to be a genuine labor of love as well as a surprising, if minor, source of revenue.

Intoxicated by the immediate feedback that comes part n' parcel with blogging, I added two new efforts: one which encapsulates my love for all things entertaining and one which celebrates my obsession for tabletop games. Each new venture got more attention than the last in terms of hit count and feedback but unfortunately it did precious little to improve my bank balance.

With my savings slowly bleeding out, I was forced to take on a part-time job. This actually turned out to be an unexpected boon since it dovetailed nicely with my interests, kept my days free to write and introduced me a whole platoon of awesome new people.

During this time the odd writing and / or editing gig came down the pike, but it typically involved helping out a friend or a family member. I don't count those as legit jobs since, IMHO, three criteria need to be fulfilled in order to really call yourself a writer. They are:
  1. An impartial party must either requisition you to write a story or agree to publish something you've written based solely on the quality of your work or your body of work in general.
  2. The resulting publication has to be readily available for people to read en masse.
  3. You needs to get paid, yo.
Over the last six years, I've deliberately refrained from calling myself a WRITER. When asked what I do I'd always tell people "I like to write" or "I've written a book" but I'd never be so bold as to call myself a WRITER since I hadn't met all three of conditions listed above. I could have, I suppose, but it would have been the equivalent of posting me reciting a six-second snippet from an Othello soliloquy on Vine and then calling myself a master thespian.

So what I'm trying to say, in the most roundabout way possible, is that this happened:



The funny thing is it didn't happen the way everyone told me it should happen. It didn't happen because I blanketed every periodical in the nation with random query letters and pitches. It happened because I was lucky enough to get an invite to a very cool Meetup event that had nothing to do with writing and during the Meetup someone asked me what I did and I said "I like to write" and then after the Meetup I wrote an informal recount of the Meetup and then one of the people that read it turned out to be an editor and then several months later he contacted me outta the blue and said "Hey, you can write! Do you wanna write this thing for money?" and I said "Hell's to the yeah!" and then I wrote it.

Notwithstanding the fact that my editor, Joey, would be well within his rights to fire my lame ass after reading that last run-on sentence, this all took place, in the immortal words of Emperor Palpatine, "according to my desires". Lend me a few moments of your time, Kind Reader, and I shall endeavor to elaborate.

When I started this crazy quest six years ago I had two choices:
  1. I could spend all of my time composing and sending out unsolicited queries, the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded, and then drown under the resulting tsunami of a trillion rejection letters OR...
  2. I could I work my ass off to become a reasonably-competent writer and hope that eventually someone with authority and discriminating tastes would recognize that I have some semblance of talent and roll the dice.
I decided to pursue Option #2 and now I'd like to take this opportunity to invite all the naysayers to merrily SUCK IT.  In fact, seeing this story in print finally gives me the authority to hoist a great big middle finger up to certain people (you know who you are) who wanted to see me waste my time collecting a ream of rejection letters, get demoralized, "come to my senses", throw in the towel and then crawl back to the same shitty job that I left six years ago.

Now don't get me wrong; things still ain't a bed o' roses. Between the part-time job and the writing gigs, I'm still not making anywhere close to the bank that the crappy call center job provided. Also, if I had my druthers I'd much rather be writing about social issues, creative people and board games, but ,hey, I gotta go where the money is now. 

Even if I'm eventually forced to tap out and take a full-time job for purely mercenary reasons, these personal achievements will always be there. They can't be undone. Regardless of what happens to me over the next few years, no-one will be able to strip this triumph away for me.

And to all of my loyal readers out there: thanks for visiting this blog and thanks for your support, whether it was active, passive or just plain karmic. Without your precious hit counts and feedback to spur me on, I'm convinced that none of this would ever have happened.

***

EPIC

Well, since that thing I mentioned above happened (and apparently happened reasonably well) this thing happened (see page 14) and then this thing (see page 6) and then this thing (check out page 18).

In fact, I'm pleased to report that at least five (!) other things are scheduled to happen over the next few months. Stay tuned, Tireless Reader! We're just gettin' warmed up!

FAIL

No fail today. Today is all about the EPIC. 

4 comments:

Sammy Raleigh said...

So proud of you David...someone with the vision to realize it's not all about money...it's about quality of life...and have the courage to run after your dream!! Others should follow your example :) Congratulations! (p.s. I still have your book and it's in my special hiding place with my other treasures I've amassed over the years)

Staples War Veteran
Shauna MacLean :)

R Burke said...

Glad to hear about these achievements, David. Very well deserved!

And continued success!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're getting successful, Dave! But, I'm having mixed feelings about reading this post... Specifically what you said are the three tings required to be a 'real' writer.

The exchange of money has nothing to do with 'Being a writer'.

It has a lot to do with having a career as a writer, but there are millions of people out there who write for fun and not a paycheque. Telling someone they're not a writer or that you don't believe they should refer to themselves as a writer because they don't make money doing the thing they love is insulting and snobbish.

I mean, I get what you're saying. I get that you feel like you didn't succeed until you hit your three self imposed qualifications. I get that you're excited about your own measure of success. And I'm glad that you have found a chance to hit all three--I honestly am.

But just because you're happy about being successful doesn't mean you get to look down on (Or say things that imply you think less of) people who have jobs doing one thing, and write in their spare time for fun instead of profit.

Would you say that to a painter? Would you say that to a sculptor? Would you say that to a singer? Would you look at any other artist and tell them they are invalid because no stranger has paid them for their services?

Just because no one's paid you for sex doesn't mean you're a virgin. Just because no one pays you to play football doesn't mean you're not an athlete. Likewise, if you weren't being paid to write, the people who know you at your truest would still call you a writer. Because that's who you are. Don't judge your skill and the skills of those around you using capitalism as a guideline. It'll just make you sad when you should be proud of the things you do for yourself.

David Pretty said...

Dearest Anonymous. Is that Mr. Anonymous? Mrs. Anonymous? I guess we'll never know.

I love your attitude; it kinda reminds me of me…approximately six years ago. Unfortunately, over the past seventy two months, I’ve grown a lot more cynical.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I pronounce “cynical” as “realistic” now.

After I left my caustic call center job to become a “writer”, all of my friends in IT and finance immediately left me in the dirt. I had to sit and watch enviously as the illusory society we’ve collectively bought into existence dutifully and consistently rewarded them to the point where they could buy homes and raise families.

Unfortunately my quest to justify the reason why I was put on this earth hasn’t gone quite so swimmingly, to the point where my savings have been devastated and I still live paycheck to paycheck.

Now, I’ve already written about this in considerable detail (http://emblogificationcapturedevice.blogspot.ca/2015/01/mic-drop.html) but we live in a society that defines success EXCLUSIVELY by the acquisition of wealth and material possessions. This isn’t my criterion; it belongs to the insane collective fever dream that we all now refer to as modern living.

Ergo, until this changes, being a writer, just like every other pursuit, has EVERYTHING to do with the exchange of money.

If you don’t believe me, then try introducing yourself as a “writer” to a bunch of strangers at a dinner party. The few people who don’t immediately tip-toe away will start to whistle and make a beeline for the hors d'oeuvre table the second you're inevitably forced to confess that you’ve never been published, I.E. you've never made any money. I guarantee that within a few seconds you’ll feel about as welcome as a turd in a punch bowl.

Let me give you another example. Someone asks you what you what you do for a living and you reply “engineer”. So, of course, they say “Cool! What have you built?” and that's when you look them dead in the eye and say “Welp, I built this really cool tree fort in my backyard.”

How can they possibly take you seriously after you drop THAT l’il chestnut?

Sorry, but I can’t share you optimistic view in good conscience anymore. It’s particularly galling when every neuron of logic in my brain is still constantly admonishing me for leaving that phat, lucrative, suicide-inducing, call center job. Hmmmm, I wonder if it's too late to go back?

And as hard as you tried to make me feel shitty by calling me insulting, snobbish and elitist, I will maintain to my dying breath that I’m just being realistic, especially when viewed through society’s grimy-but-prevailing “winning at life” filter.

Maybe one day North America will establish a guaranteed basic living income (http://emblogificationcapturedevice.blogspot.ca/2014/03/a-bless-ing-for-humanity.html) and if that ever happens, feel free to call yourself whatever you like. But until then, publicly bragging about being a “writer” is about as viable in this cock-eyed society as declaring yourself “king-regent underwater basket weaver”.

And, sadly, the quicker you realize that, the better off you’ll be.