It’s come to my attention that I’ve officially been a writer for six years now.
I remember when it happened. I was sitting at home in my pyjamas on the morning of October 30th, 2011 when I received an acceptance letter from Schlock Magazine. They expressed an interest in my short story Pass The Can, and I responded by screaming at the top of my lungs and running through the house. My father, a retired musician, had a number of questions for me about contracts and rights and payments but I was too busy congratulating myself. I was officially a writer, as opposed to some asshole with a Blogspot account and a grudge against humanity. Now I was that same asshole, but this time people wanted to publish my stuff.
Since then, I’ve had seven short stories published and written a number of articles for websites and magazines. I penned the scripts for a failed webseries pilot and a couple of short films that I co-produced with some friends. I submitted an essay on zombie fiction, wrote a one-page comic parody of Flash Gordon, and released a short memoir about my relationship with music. I even wrote list articles for a hobbyist website – albeit I did so under a pseudonym, so as not to rile the angrier corners of the web. And I did all this in six years, demonstrating not only my versatility as an artist but also my inability to focus my energies into one particular medium.
I’m still proud of these accomplishments, but I do wonder what’s going to happen to me next.
A quick primer on my personal history: I studied Humanities, focusing on the interrelationship between media and culture, which is why I have a WordPress page about finding for deeper meaning in the works we consume, no matter how banal or “mindless” they may be (I have to put my degree to work somehow). Afterwards, I studied social work with immigrants and refugees, because if I was going to have any kind of day-job, I wanted to have one where it felt like I was making a difference. I have two callings, you see, and they tear me apart regularly.
My attempts to find stable work in the not-for-profit sector are marred by a lack of relevant and consistent experience and connections, but also a government which had previously cut funding to a number of fields, namely the ones I wanted to get into. This isn’t to say that I was unable to find jobs, but settling into a comfortable position with regular pay and good benefits was – and continues to be – hard to do. Conversely, my career as an artist has not only been fruitless when compared to some of my peers, but also highly taxing.
Being an artist, for me, is like tearing out a part of myself and putting it on display, demanding that I paid for my act of self-destruction. Not only is writing tiring, it is also deeply personal. Each story that I’ve had released is assembled in-part from my own neuroses and reflections on my past failures. My stories are, in a way, about both my fear of failure and my fear of success, all the things I never got a chance to say, and all the apologies I never made. They are about systems that fail and unreliable people, but also carry a spark of hope within them, however fragile or temporary it may be. My friend and contemporary, media critic and columnist Marco Attard, commented that my protagonists are often lonely people trying to find a place in, or at least make sense of, the world. Guess you write what you know.
My personal connection to my craft is part of why it’s both very easy but also very difficult for me to make anything.
Recently, I have completed a novella, a cyberpunk book which is essentially a monument to my mistakes, my occasional dislike of others, and also my own self-loathing. I’ve barely released anything this past year so I could focus on getting the book done. Aside from one post on Casey Palmer’s website and a series of independently-produced media critiques and analyses, I’ve essentially disappeared into obscurity. Part of this is because my drive died, or at least had to be redirected into other streams, and it feels like I’m back to where I was six years ago.
Let me explain: after Long Hidden (which contained my short story Diyu) was published in 2014, I moved out and fought to keep my independence for a good two-and-a-half years. During that time, I endured a workplace that damaged my mental health and essentially spent a year gaslighting me, and then drifted around from temp job to temp job. I made a number of stupid decisions during that time, including playing my part in screwing up a good romantic relationship, and it was then that I began writing my novella. After my rent went up twice and it didn’t look like I was getting any sufficient work any-time soon, I moved back home. Determined to not stay there, I tried to put my energy into finding work and also completing my book. The latter took longer than it should have because the book reminded me of the life I had that fell apart, and returning to that period put a strain on me until I told myself to have the damn thing finished by August, or I would delete the file from my hard-drive. It is now ready to be seen by the world, and I mean to shop around with it.
As you can imagine, this road has not been a great one. It’s been a colourful one, and I’m proud of some of the decisions I’ve made and the revelations I’ve had along the way, but recently I’ve been asking myself whether it can continue on like this.
So far, the answer is “I don’t know.” I’ve got a completed book that needs a home and a thousand ideas that need to be given shape, but also a life to regain. I also need to know what I can do to keep my WordPress going, and I’m starting to consider switching to Patreon over Paypal, but committing to a monthly schedule sounds as exciting as it does horrifying.
All I know is that I’m not quitting any-time soon. I enjoy storytelling because I like creating new worlds or exploring new ideas, and I enjoy not-for-profit work because it feels fulfilling. That said, I still feel tired and I still feel stuck, and I need to ask some uncomfortable questions.It’s fortuitous that I’m going on vacation this week. I need to re-frame a few things and put myself in unfamiliar territory. Who knows what I’ll find when I’m there, but I need a change. I just need to figure out what has to change.
Goddammit, I should have gotten a job at a bank.
I do want to thank everyone for sticking with me, and I want to extend my gratitude to the many people who have come and gone throughout my life, giving my stories the feedback they’ve needed and giving me the ability to keep going. I want to say “Here’s to another six years,” but I want to get through the last two months of 2017 first.
Until next time.