As I near the finish line of my book (the writing portion, that is), I’ve been thinking a lot about careers. Over lunch, a buddy who works in publishing and I were rehashing the traditional vs. self- publishing thing again. While I still completely support the democratization of publishing, I feel the right choice for me and this book is going the traditional route. The primary reason for this, (though there are others) is that I want this to be my career, not just a job. If I wrote a non-fiction book that I was using to support my “real” business, or if I just wanted to make some passive income while focusing on other things, then I think self would be a great option. However, I want to write books for a living. I want to be a career author.
The majority of my friends work for themselves. The primary reason for my move to the Bay Area from LA was to quit my full time gig and try working as a freelancer to support my writing habit. I was just so tired of seeing my friends making lunch plans on a weekday, taking their work with them when they traveled, and talking about their projects with passion and verve; I wanted that for myself. Of course, self-employment isn’t a magic ticket by any means. I’m definitely more tight with money these days, I don’t have health insurance, and I find myself answering work emails on Sunday evenings. That said, I finished Lunatic Fringe in a year and a half, and my quality of life has gotten better.
I know there are plenty of people who think it’s impossible nowadays to live as a professional author unless your last name is Clancy, Meyers, or LeCarre. But those same people probably think it’s impossible to live in the Bay Area working part time for a tiny nonprofit theater company. To which I say, Booyah, mofos.
My parents were told to believe in the American Dream. They did, and it worked for them, though these past couple of years have been hard on them in the same way it has been for most of the middle class. As we’ve seen from these past three years, it hasn’t worked for a lot of people.
My friends and I are trying to believe in something else. We are entrepreneurs and artists, creative professionals gigging out or trying to establish a client base. The certainties are even fewer, and we can’t look to anyone else to provide us with health insurance or retirement plans. It means we craft our own realities. We clock in because we want to work, not because we’re gonna get fired. We work hard because we’re invested in the results, not because we have to “look busy.”
The people who work for a company, helping someone else pursue their dreams, have learned that security is an illusion. The 401ks we invest in, that are supposed to be rock solid, may not exist at all by the time you need it.
Granted, no choice is better, and god knows if I had kids to feed, I’d be climbing the ladder too, because a safer bet is like safer sex: there’s no sure thing, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do your due diligence to shore things up.
I’ve got a considerable amount of privilege: I’m educated, I’m talented, & I’m child-free. It would be a disservice to my own dreams to consider Lunatic Fringe a one-off, a “passion project.” I want to be able to write as a career. If anyone can do it, I can. Just like my friends who are entrepreneurs, craftspeople, artists, actors & musicians, I am making a commitment to myself and my goals. I want to invest in this book like some people invest in their MBA or their marriage. I want this to be my LIFE.