I am not a professional writer. Though I carry a six-barreled thesaurus and can bulls-eye “man vs. nature” at 50 paces, I have never been hired solely for my skill in writing. Like many English grads, I’ve made a healthy (enough) living writing while being paid, but I’ve never been paid to write. This is life wandering in a writer’s desert: just enough prosetry to drag my saddle between lonely watering holes, always seeking a lost paradise of flowing verbiage.
Of course, It’s a Pretty Tasty Desert
After the obligatory stint in three different burger-joints as chief fry-cook and butt-washer, I hired out my guns to various corporate barons as a data consultant, an office manager, an executive assistant, etc. etc. A budget specialist here, a service manager there; I pursued a litany of professions which rewarded a quick pen, but basically drudged along as a business packmule. I’ve made ends meet and even splurged the occasional paycheck (mad skeeball, yo), but this is a bit like being a mechanic who runs a mini-golf course and go-cart track; or a sculptor who slings a tasty Reuben at the corner deli, but secretly molds mashed potatoes to “mean something”.
I suspect I’m not the only bureaudrone (not to denigrate bureaucrats – they’re the hardest working people I know) who laments his salt-mine life. “Oh woe is me”, we mumble to popcorn drop-ceilings, “I could’a been a writer.” ¡Shhh! if you’re extra quiet you can hear an angel gently weeping for all the unborn paragraphs of every disenfranchised writer.
Sure, being “The Guy” who knows how to spell indefatigably and can center-mass a comma-splice at a hundred spaces has its benefits. For one, no one ever questions my overuse of semicolons; they are, after all, the sexiest of all punctuation. Second, I get acknowledgements in three out of every five publications coming out of the office (acknowledgements are the “forever a bridesmaid” of the publishing world).
Unless You’ve got a Window-Seat, The View Never Changes
After a certain level, the ability to write, or not, has little effect on business success. Being a bureaucrat who can spell without SpellCheck amounts for little. I know any number of upwardly mobiles who write like the hind-end of a heifer, but have found success, adventures, and profit. So, being the kind of person who asks rhetorical questions, I blurted ¿what do they have that I don’t? And, being the kind of person who answers his own rhetorical questions: they enjoy it. Sure, they like the money, but moreso, they like their business. They could give two tugs about the paycheck (well, most of ‘em), it was the work that gave them life.
Which bring us here, the trail-head of This Darkened Forest
¿Why write when you can make more money elsewise so easily? Or, as my sister puts it, “Why are you bothering? Just earn an MBA and buy a Beemer.” Simply put, I enjoy writing and the idea of being paid to write tickles me pink. Perhaps it’s a shallow motivation, and I could likely dress the premise in frills and a Stetson, but the core is simple: if I’ll be working the rest of my life to live and support my family, ¿why not work at something I truly enjoy? It reminds me of scene from Bakshi’s American Pop where a budding piano virtuoso remarks on his skill, “This isn’t work; this is play!” I like the idea of being paid to play.
As such, I embark now on a darkened, perhaps unsavory, trail: write for a living. I know nothing of this world or even if my steed can weather the pass through the mountains, but onward I ride. Delightful metaphors aside: I’m going to explore the world of freelancing, editing, and writing for a living. If you come along, I promise a bevy of esoteric cultural references, puns galore, plenty of bean-jokes (Bob bless Mel Brooks), and maybe we can both learn some few things about where the desert ends.