Monday, January 31, 2011

New beginnings

I'm leaving my paying day job for a future of long shots and high uncertainty, to write full-time.

This will be the second time that I've tried to do this. The first time, I didn't have a plan--or a clue. Now, I have both. I'll probably still end up working some part-time something-or-other, but I can call myself a writer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bad reputation

Writing has the reputation of being a non-job: you set your own hours, choose your own assignments, write what you feel like, and put it out there. It's something that everybody thinks they can do, and thus it's hard to find anybody who can actually do it well.

But it's not that simple. You really have to pick and choose things that you really like and really care about. And you can't know what you like or care about until you've lived a little, which is, I think, why most young writers are terrible.

And it's hard. It's not just the self-discipline to finish things on schedule. It's the self-discipline to finish things on schedule and not have them be anything less than your best every time. Like all creative endeavors, you are constantly being judged, unfairly or not, on what you publish, and the moment you slip, it's over. It's worse, in many ways, than being a celebrity: at least they get glitzy dresses and lots of money for their troubles.

"Love what you do" is one of those clich├ęs about work that everybody tosses around, but you can get by in most jobs without actually loving anything about what you do--you have to like it enough to do a good job, but you don't need to think about it 24/7 and unless you let it, it's not going to cut into dinner with your kids or cuddle-time with your cats. But you really have to love writing in order to make anything like a living out of it, because there's no other way to survive the constant rejections, or even the constructive criticism that your real friends* will give you.

*Seriously, take your worst POS you've ever written and show it to your friends. The good ones will tell you, "Dude, I love you, but this sucks." Those are the ones you need to keep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mom isn't always right

You'd expect that my parents would be thrilled to know that I've gotten a contract. Two of them, now, actually. But no, they're not. Here's my theory: if I'd been my sister, and had landed a contract, they would have been thrilled. She's the writer, I'm supposed to be the doctor.

It says something about their world view, doesn't it, that they can't seem to get around that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cracks in the Dirt

Jim was worried.

Maybe he shouldn't have planted the seeds, though "threw out the door after your ex-girlfriend" wasn't exactly "planting". He didn't even know where they came from--China, perhaps, or was it Thailand? Wherever they came from was wherever his ex had been, little spores of her worldliness come home to haunt him.

It'd been a muggy three days since she'd come by in her glitzy BMW to drop off his things he'd put into storage when they moved in together. Three days, and his front door was hanging crooked, and there was a forest taller than a man in the middle of the dirt driveway.

By day five, the roots had sent runners shooting up from the mailbox, but it wasn't until he sat down in front of the TV that evening when he noticed the crack in the paint--and a small green shoot peeking out from the floorboards.

Around him, the house groaned, and he imagined another root, shooting through another clump of dirt. Texas summer, he thought idly, as a he cracked open the warm beer. He didn't even taste the plaster chips in the cup.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pitter patter

Cats are on my mind these days. They flit in and out of my mind the way they pit-pat in and out of the room--silent and ghostly presences auguring nothing and everything. I can't begin to comprehend these creatures, what brings them to my mind, why they are there, how they steal little bits of my thoughts--not the maelstrom of ideas, but always the core that holds them together--what I lose, and/or gain from my associations with them. Cats are on my mind these days, and I am thankful that they do not speak. Better not to know what I have lost to them.