The Riddle of the Work Beyond the Work Part Two: The Rest of the Iceberg

In a perfect world, I’d be left alone in my office in the tower of a lofty gothic mansion in the Pacific Northwest to write all day, taking breaks now and then to gaze out upon the majestic forests to the east or the mighty ocean to the west, or just to play Red Dead Redemption some.  Turns out this is not a perfect world, and the proof is that I do not have a gothic mansion in the Pacific Northwest.  I don’t have my own office, either, and I’m not playing Red Dead Redemption right now.  Additionally, it turns out I can’t get away with writing and nothing else.

It’s hard sometimes, putting words on the page again and again and again, but I can do it.  I feel satisfied doing it.  As I burn it into permanent habit, it’ll continue to become more and more a part of my being, I suppose.  The same goes for the re-writing, the editing, the research, and all of that business of refining the crude ore into readable matter.

Where it gets harder, of course, is keeping at that while working a real job, because bills need to be paid.  With the commute and the lunch hour I spend watching the Daily Show at my desk, that’s about nine hours and a half lost to drudgery.  Home from work, putting in more hours on a second job is a hard sell.

But that’s just the curse of the wannabe trying to break into the game.  Rocky Balboa had to keep up his boxing while spending all day muscling guys with overdue payments, and eventually he was able to buy his kid a pet robot.  That’s the dream we’re all working towards, right?  To one day be able to provide our children with real robots?  I can do this, I can make that happen.

Except there’s no guarantee that the day job is ever going to go away.  It’s hard to make a living in this business.  Glen Cook stuck with his job on a GM assembly line throughout a writing career that saw him putting out 2-3 books a year at times.

Then there’s the fact that, inexplicably, putting together a polished manuscript isn’t immediately rewarded with a parade or an angelic choir or a paycheck or anything.  Someone has to want the thing you’ve written, they have to know they want it, and they need to pay for it.

That means selling yourself.  Selling your work,at least, but isn’t the dream to be in a position where editors are calling you up instead of the other way around?  The job is to sell the work, and do it well enough that the customer keeps your name in mind for next time.  Time was, Stephen King was a teacher mailing manuscripts off to a wide assortment of porno mag publishers, but now publishers can feel honored and blessed if he deigns to write a novel for them.  The transition from one state to another is clearly a lot of work, and as near as I’ve been able to tell so far it’s weird work, unpredictable, partially dependent on luck, entirely dependent on being able to hook people on yourself.

That’s really the part that’s freaking me out at this point.  My current plan is to skip the middleman and self-publish, but that just means that instead of selling myself to one editor, I’m selling to a lot of readers.

And that is the riddle of the work beyond the work.  The job you have to be good at in order to work at your desired job.  It’s some weird stuff.


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