One week ago today at Horrible Saturday I was interviewed and asked some questions about my non-fiction writing endeavors in the horror genre, my editing gigs and my gig at Tales to Terrify, Horror 101. Basically, I was asked the following: If I want to be a writer, why am I spending time doing these other things?
Now, these questions were framed mostly for the benefit of structuring an interview that would highlight my activities in the horror genre. Still, it got me thinking about what I believe is a false divide, the idea that a writer must only ever write and not waste time doing anything else.
I want to be a writer. I want to be an editor. I want to study the history of the horror genre and tell the world about it. And I can balance and do them all, darn-it.
To be clear: I'm in a phase of my career right now in which the only fiction deadlines I have are self-imposed. I'm writing an on-spec weird western. My three novellas with publishers right now were written on-spec. And my short story deadlines are mostly the end of the reading periods for collections, not a "Hey Kevin, I need that story by such-and-such a date."
So right now, I have time to balance all these things. Someday, that may not be so. In fact, if my career progresses the way I'd like it to, I HOPE I'll someday only have time for fiction and editing.
But that's the thing. While I'm sure at some point I'll get too busy to continue at Tales to Terrify, I'm going to hold onto it as long as I can, and I'm also pretty determined to be an editor and writer at the same time, because I think the credo "If you want to be a writer just write and that's it" is FALSE.
Or, at the very least, it doesn't apply to everyone. Take me, for example. I have no life, really, outside my family and teaching and reading and....gardening. I'm in a position right now where I have no friends outside the writing biz, which is okay, because I've come to view writing as more important than a social life anyway, and a whole lot more satisfying. Just because others can't conceive of someone balancing writing and editing doesn't mean it can't be done.
Charles Grant did it. Al Sarrantonio did and still does it. Karl Edward Wagner did it (though it may have killed him, honestly.) Greg Gifune does it, and so does Robert Dunbar.
And I want to do it, too. And have been doing it, and will continue to do it. Why?
Because I want to.
Of course, I've been selective. I haven't gone out an edited tons of micro-small-press anthologies. First, I edited the Halloween issue of Shroud Magazine. Then, I edited the long-awaited (and yes, still alive), Lovecraftian poetry anthology (think Lovecraftian Spoon River) The Terror at Miskatonic Falls.
But then I just chilled.
Waited. Took my time. Both those experiences were so enjoyable I knew I wanted to be an editor as well as a writer, but I also felt that to be the kind of editor I WANTED to be, I couldn't go out and just start editing everything under the sun. So, I waited for a LONG TIME for the next editing gig.
Which, two years later, turned out to be a submissions reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine and Publishing, which I'm just finishing up, now. THAT had been what I was waiting for, a chance to move UP the editing ladder. And honestly, after my run at CD ended, I was more than prepared to wait some more...until I was offered an even BIGGER editing gig that I can't talk about yet.
So I've done both. And I CAN do both, and ANYBODY can do both or do more in their genre than just write. It really depends on that person's available time and natures.
Also, I think it's important - VITALLY important - for writers to find something they enjoy doing for intellectual pleasure to offset the sometimes grinding pressure of writing every day (again, depending on deadlines, your mileage may vary with this). With Horror 101, I have the chance to read a bunch of horror novels and talk about them once a month in a very respected, public forum in the horror genre.
AND, I'm an English teacher with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing, so I naturally like talking about what I'm reading and talking about literature in general. All this reading and studying can only help sharpen my writing and keep it fresh and informed, and Horror 101 has exposed my name to tons of listeners over the past year, and even if those folks don't ever cross over to being fans of my fiction, this is all win-win, in my book.
So I can do both. And you can do both. In fact, I think it's really important that while striving for a writing career, you find something you just REALLY LIKE DOING, to give you a breath and help you keep going.
You just have to be okay with not having a life while doing it. Or okay with foregoing sleep.
And I'm totally okay with both those. For now, at least...