So, yeah … remember that thing about how quitting the day job to write full time will help with the work load? Not happening. This writing gig, it turns out, is just about the same as any project-oriented corporate job I’ve ever had—the multitude of projects overlap forever, and the base skillset for “surviving” is to figure out which issues to freak out over right now and which to freak out about later …which, in writer reality, means finding ways to be okay with not doing all the other things I really know I need to be doing as I go along (which in the role of being an indie publisher, is pretty much a bottomless pit of tasks … Yes, my brain says, I need to do All the Things).
In all seriousness, the sensation can be a real problem if you’re like me.
This is because I feed off achievement. I like to see things getting done. Back in the days when I was working to develop technology, I used to tell people that I didn’t really care what I did or what I worked on—I could work in a bread factory for all that mattered, as long as I had goals and deadlines. This is probably technically a lie, but it’s got that truthiness about it that is so in vogue right now.
If you’re of a psychological makeup like mine, and you find yourself with a glut of creative projects that are all kind of at the middle of their existence, you can be in for some real discomfort. Creative projects that are in the middle of their existence always feel squishy, you see? The “deadlines” are different, and the fact that they have a creative element to them makes these projects petulant. Sometimes these infantile little creatures seem to alternate between screaming at you for pushing them too hard and laughing at you for pretending you know when they’ll be done.
Over the past three weeks, for example, I’ve been juggling the following projects:
• An urban fantasy novella that has grown like a sea monkey and is due to launch May 1, he says, sneaking a sly pre-announcement announcement into the mix. (Seriously … I’m done! 27K words is it, I say. Anything else goes into a Book 2, he says, making a potentially sly pre-pre announcement).
• Two short-short stories
• A 5K contemporary fantasy short story
• One 7K+ word short story that’s in collaboration with John Bodin (yes, be prepared for 6 Days in May, available at book dealers near you soon!)
• A final pass rewrite of a 40+K short SF novel that will be book 1 of a 5 book series.
• A new short story I’m committed to write for a short story in a week dare cycle I’m doing with Lisa Silverthorne, due Sunday night but still sitting there only with my mischievously chuckling prompt sitting on the page.
And those are just the items related to word creation.
If you’re an indie publisher—which I am for my longer work—there’s more. A lot more.
In my case, that “more” has included all the support processes for launching the projects related to bullet item 1 and 4 above: things like cover design, copy editing, interstitial creation, developing what I’ll laughably call “marketing plans” and all the other stuff it takes to make something I’m going to be proud of in the end. Since I don’t actually do all that work myself (why, yes, that is my wife over there in the corner laughing her behind off at the idea of me copy editing my own work, why do you ask?), and since I often use beta readers, this also means I’m juggling these projects around a lot of “dead time” waiting for other people. Which, of course, has its own form of passive-aggressive stress.
Oh, and don’t forget submitting stories to traditional short story markets.
Gotta keep all the irons in the fire, right?
Anyway, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting here on the back patio thinking about what I have to do and remembering my friends at the day job. When they heard I was leaving to be a full time bohemian, they basically asked what a writer does all day, thinking (I’m sure) about how cushy it all sounded. And, you know, I get it. Been there, done that, still watching it unfold before my very eyes at times. Life in corporate Anywhere can be really high-paced and really high pressure.
But this writing gig isn’t any less hard. It’s a hell of a lot of work. And, yes, it is stressful, too. Have I mentioned how all this work I’ve done is essentially unpaid until the market decides if it’s worth the notorious cup of Starbucks or not? No pressure, though. Just get that novella done, all right? (full disclosure, I am not the usual writer. I am insanely lucky to be financially secure enough to take this kind of “risk” without having any real concern about needing to pay for dinner tomorrow–so, for me that financial tightrope is only scary in the normal human way, not the Please Keep Me Safe way).
But in the end what this job doesn’t have is that meeting where you sit down with the boss and listen to him or her tell you what to do.
So, yeah. I can handle that part pretty well.
The challenge, however, is to remind myself to step back and take a look at the mountains every now and again. When I do that, this job really doesn’t suck.
The truth of the matter, though, is that I could say that even back when I was in the corporate pit, too. So I suppose you can take from this what you will.
In the meantime, just in case you need it today here’s a mountain to look at. Complete with moon.