The Things We Do to Survive

IMG_0163Note: this post is a day early because of July 4th — Happy Independence Day, everyone!!

I am not particularly thrilled with the world, right now. I took on some non-writing work to make ends meet, and I hate every minute of every day that I do that. I don’t just hate the job, I hate myself for taking it…for needing to take it. I feel…well…more than a bit dirty about it.

Of course, I have long been a fan of the phrase “it’s all grist for the mill.” Everything you see and do, everything you learn and experience, is a part of you. Everything goes into the hopper to contribute to the experience and emotion and reality of the characters and stories you write.

Look at it like this: do I need a scene involving bartending in a college town? I got that. Do I need something describing life in the beige hell of an office cubicle-farm? I got that, too. Heck, do I need something involving high-end food and exotic international destinations? I’m covered there, as well.

And those are just the things I want to talk about. I got a million more that are…err…none of your business. But each and every one of them has had an appearance, and an impact, in my writing.

This current job feels different, somehow. Maybe it’s because it does nothing except take me away from my writing. Well, that and pay some of the bills.

And, honestly, if I look at things objectively, it is no less pointless and obnoxious than some (many) of the freelance writing projects I have done simply for the paycheck. Or even those projects I have done and then been stiffed on…DF168F59-4FEF-4989-AE6E-9F11B1BEF83F

Ahem. Penalty for over-sharing!

Never mind.

All of which brings me to the point of today’s (early) IWSG question & post: What are your ultimate writing goals, and have they changed over time?

Okay, let’s be honest here — like a lot of young writers, I dreamed of the best-seller and the six- or seven-figure advance. I might as well have dreamed of a career in the NBA (as a short, fat, white hockey player) as that kind of writing-money. It took a great deal of cold water and disappointment to learn just how little money there actually is in writing.

And, no, I don’t need to hear stories about “Aunt Berenice” and her million dollar travel-blog business, thank you very much.

The thing is…

The thing is, my goal never really has been money. If money had been my goal, I never would have left the marketing and sales side of things. The six-figure salary was a wonderful thing for a good, long time…

But I hated it.

By the end of that career, I hated it even more than the job to which I currently subject myself.

Look, let’s be honest here: I write.

That’s who I am, not what I do.

So, NO, my goals have not changed. The only thing that has changed is the time and experience and effort it took for me to learn the truth of that statement above about being a writer. I don’t write for fame…and I certainly don’t write for the (crappy) money. Honestly, it goes back to something I’ve said before: I write for me.

Put less succinctly (and less confrontationally), I write for the stories that I have to tell. I have this collection of story-ghosts that flutter around the back of my mind, all wanting and needing to be told. I write for them.

I also have this need to share my thoughts and opinions about life, the universe and everything,* and the only way I have to truly communicate those — this blog aside — is through my stories. It is not always (or even usually) the protagonist, but in every story I write there is at least one character who is, essentially, my “mouthpiece” as the eminence grise of the whole damned thing. Oz’s cynical humor…Kiran’s sarcasm…Runae’s desperate loneliness…those are all parts of me.

*Douglas Adams is my patron saint, by the way!

No, in the end, for me, the only goal that matters in writing is telling the stories. If I die penniless, broken and alone, I will still have the various stories I told…

The more I think about it, the more true it becomes: I write for me. I write for the stories I want to tell, and for the characters that are the ghosts in my mind.

Your mileage, by the way, may (and hopefully will) vary.

If you get into this game for the money, more power to you. If you happen to actually make good on that desire for money…shit-howdy, I’ll build a statue to you! But I won’t actually change what or how I write. Nope, those are mine, those are me.


3 thoughts on “The Things We Do to Survive

  1. Tamara Narayan July 6, 2018 / 7:55 am

    I think it would be more satisfying to have a million readers than a million dollars…most days anyway. 😉


  2. burresor May 23, 2019 / 2:40 pm

    To have readers, people who enjoy delving into the world you create, now that would be more than enough. Especially in the world we’re living today.


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