Monday, May 20, 2013

A Clarification of Sorts On Writing Full Time

Recently, I posted this FB status update:

"Y'know, after all this time, I sometimes still have a hard time accepting that all I'll ever be is a part time writer. But (and only locals will get this) Chuck Akulis and Mike Colsten were part-time race car drivers, and it's not like they didn't go for the win, every single time they took to the track. They just worked a day job, is all. And I suppose it's the same for me whenever I write. And I'm okay with that."

..and I think in retrospect I didn't quite convey the revelation I wanted to share, so I thought a clarification was in order.

In no means am I despairing of a "full time writing career" or giving up my goals of moving up the ranks, conquering new markets and aiming for mid-list publication and higher.  I'm still thinking very hard about what I want to do next in my "career," thinking very heavily about which markets I'd like to submit to and I've got several standards in place because of that. 

For example, I think the small press is a viable market for short stories, novellas, and collections. I won't, however, submit a novel to a small press. In fact, at this point I'd rather invest time and finances self-publishing a novel than send it to a small press, (unless said small press is Cemetery Dance, Thunderstorm, Dark Fuse or other top-flight small presses), because I just don't think it's a good business decision.

Also, I don't plan on passing up on decently paying venues. Honestly, I need to make more happen in regards to this, especially with short stories, hence my recent experiment to force myself to type my first drafts from now on and my goal to write one short story a week this summer.

But the realities of my life are this: full-time writing simply isn't a possibility right now and won't be in the foreseeable future for several very solid, real-world reasons:

1. our finances are in a tatters and we're on a strict budget and NOT full-time writer friendly

2. Abby will soon be returning to school to finish her Nursing degree and will need my increased support at home

3. I have two children, 8 and 6, my son being special needs (autistic) and even though developing fabulously, he still requires A LOT of attention

4. See #1: I'm not in the position to turn self-publishing into a viable venue or travel to many Cons

5. I'm still building a readership and trying to make contacts and my way in the industry

Now, some of these above things will just need time to sort out, especially 1, 2, 4.  Number 5 will hopefully happen on its own and I hope the increased writing pace will help that. Number 3 will improve also...but Zack's future is still unclear. He may become totally independent someday. He may not. That's still up in the air.

And really, a lot of Number 5 is up in the air also. I know plenty of fine writers who never achieved the readership they hoped for, despite doing all the "right" things, and there are many "right" things that should be done...that may or may NOT result in a readership.

So the best I can do is write every single day, continue to watch the market carefully, make smart choices and keep my aims high. And let's be honest, even if I become massively fortunate I'll probably never SOLELY write for our income. Though someday I'd like to move on from Seton, I love teaching too much to ever stop doing it completely, so I imagine - unless I get too burned out - I'll always hold some sort of teaching job. Ironically, one of the teaching jobs I REALLY covet  - in Seton Hill's Popular Fiction Program - requires a certain level of commercial success, so that's doubly important to me.

But right now and in the foreseeable future full-time writing simply isn't a viable goal, especially with what full-time writing means for most: juggling multiple projects at once to make enough money, meeting multiple deadlines and producing lots of content very quickly. 

And because of that I experience a lot of "writer guilt/insecurity" in which I often think of myself as somehow "less" than those who have achieved full-time status or who are almost there, accusing myself - most times subconsciously - of not working as hard as other writers.

My grandfather raced stock cars as a hobbyist on the weekends for the sheer enjoyment of it. Because of that, my father grew up at Five Mile Point Speedway watching his dad race, and I in turn grew up watching the races every Saturday night with my Dad and Grandfather. Memories of those times generated my FB post about those two local race car drivers, because I realized that my status as a writer - full-time or part-time - doesn't say anything about my EFFORT or my TALENT, just my time commitment at the moment. 

Mike Colstin and Chuck Akulis began racing back in the late sixties and their careers extended all the way into the new millennium.  Though they only raced part-time and held down full-time jobs on the side, they competed against and regularly beat full-time drivers like Jack Johnson and Brett Hearn. Their status as "part-time drivers" had NOTHING to do with their effort or skill. They were just as good as the full-time drivers they competed against. Their time commitment was different, as was their travel. 

And all that meant for me was a very personal revelation that, like those two guys, my being a part-time writer has nothing to do with how hard I'm working (as for talent, well, the jury is still out on that for me, anyway). I get up every morning in the wee hours to write every day. I write during my lunch. And now, with the increased typing, I've been writing during my daughter's swim practices and pretty much whenever I can. 

But because of circumstances I can't control or change at the moment, I'm a "part-time" writer (and there's still that whole talent issue). However, I work as hard as anyone else.

So that Facebook post was simply my way of dealing with NOW, because to hopefully someday become full-time I have to SURVIVE now, and coming to grips with and accepting my current "station in life" is the only way I'll ever do that.

At a recent NECON, Jack Ketchum said on a panel: "If you stick around long enough and you're good enough, someone will eventually notice you." The first part is what I can control. I plan on sticking around. Whether or not anyone notices I can't control, but to keep writing TODAY so I can stick around, I have to let go of that last part, and just be thankful for the words themselves.