In 2011, I’ll Be in Heaven

Lately my blog posts have been a scooch dull, insofar as they’ve mainly been about … well, me. Make me at least a finalist for a blog award. Here’s a radio deejay wearing my tee-shirt. Here’s a dog wearing my tee-shirt. Here’s what happened to me in 2010. Here’s how to make chicken bread.

Mmmm … delicious chicken bread. I like mine with a giant dollop of paranoia.

Although I do have a hat much like that sported by Mr. Apocalypse Any Day Now, the chicken bread movie was not really about me. But the teen-friendly version of the Thruway Christian document was. Sort of.

Anyway, this post is also of that Mostly Informative About Me ilk. Sorry. But it’s really, really important to me that I share this one with you.

Some of you know this already, but I started making a living writing when I was thirty-nine years old. I had spent my writing life up until then concentrating solely upon the art of writing (if that doesn’t sound too precious). First I learned all the mechanics–in my twenties I spent years with my face in style guides and grammar books and all that; and then I read in such a way as to become familiar ….

Well. That’s a long, painfully boring road to start dragging you down. The point is, I always knew I couldn’t spend my whole life just sweating art. I knew that, come a time—which I early on decided would be by the time I was forty years old—it’s time to get paid.

So it’s been thirteen years since I started making a living writing. That’s thirteen years living beneath one deadline at a time. Thirteen years of hustling first story ideas, then book ideas. Thirteen years of good enough: of spell-checking it, sending it out, and then picking up the next piece that’s already due. It’s a cycle that never stops. If you’re going to make a living writing, you have to write absolutely insane amounts of text. During the year or so I spent as the Music and Nightlife editor for the website of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper, for instance, I was publishing online well over 30,000 words a week—with photographs. Standard trade paperback books are 40,000 words—without processed, captioned and credited photographs every 350 words. It’s just brutal. (If you have any more interest in my writing career, see my Writing Jobs I’ve Had (And What They Paid.)

I’m not complaining, by the way. It’s good work. I love running magazines, for instance. I’m just a freak for that form. And I love interviewing people, and all that. So, I mean, you know. I’ve had real jobs. Writing is to a real job what lobster bisque is to skim milk.

Anyway: In less than one month, my entire writing life is going to take a radical, 180-degree turn. For the first time in thirteen years I will be really and truly free to write virtually anything I want.

I have a book I’m ghost-writing due to a publisher on February 1. The moment I turn in that manuscript, I will sit back in my office chair, close my eyes, and listen to the resounding silence of the pure and complete freedom for which I’ve been fighting every single day, not just the past thirteen years, but for my whole life.

Twenty-eight days, baby. That’s when I launch this plane I’ve been taxiing down the runway ever since I can remember.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer. What that really means is attaining what for me is a dream without compare: making a living writing anything I want. Not what makes for a good cover story this week. Not what some dipshit editor thinks is best. Not what some wealthy publisher thinks will get him laid. Not what my agent tells me is necessary for the market at this time. Not a book for somebody else, for goddsakes.

I want the ultimate: full creative freedom in my work. That’s the dream! Obtaining that degree of autonomy is very close to all I care about. And you know where I have creative freedom? Here on my blog! Whoo-hoo! But you know what’s wrong with writing a blog? That it’s not so much writing, as it is pumping out a 500 to 800-word self-contained piece every single day for which you have also located a suitable, rights-free, properly sized photograph.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Far, far from it. Except for the books I’m obliged by contract to write for others, this blog is my writing life. It’s where I finally get to be me. And the form itself is absolutely ideal for me: basically, I’m wired to blog. But because I publish stuff here every single day, I never get to spend the time I’d soooo love to crafting that stuff. Daily doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room for honing. Most of the time, I just start typing, and see what comes out. I wake up, pour a cup of coffee, put my hands on the keyboard, and go.

Man. I love it. I’m such a complete blogging freak.

But no matter what I’m writing that morning, before long (as just happened this exact moment!) my wife’s alarm clock goes off. And then it’s time for me to start wrapping up that day’s post.

As it’s time for me to do now. So this just became the very rare Two-Parter Post, which I’ll finish tomorrow. I want to share with you this new phase of my life, and what I’m planning on doing with it.

Man. All that open air, just waiting for me to fly in it! And the only thing standing between me and that freedom is a 55,000-word manuscript.


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  • Marcelo

    Best of luck to you, my friend. I eagerly await part two. Although I have mulled over attempting (even part time) writing as an occupation, I don’t have your guts to go out and do what you’re doing. I think I speak for many of the followers of your blog, but you’re our hero.

    (I am actually a “professional” writer…I just write stuff that no one will ever want to read, even if they actually end up doing so. *sigh*)

  • Susan in NY

    John, it is not really fair to keep us all waiting. Really.

    Susan from NY

  • Susan in NY

    John, it is not really fair to keep us all waiting. Really.

    Susan from NY

  • Anonymous

    What could I do? The whole … idea of the post is/was too long for one post. I was … stuck being a coy toy.

  • Anonymous

    Gosh, that’s nice of you to say. Thanks! (But, if I can say, writing as I do doesn’t take any guts. It’s about the IDEAS I write about, not about me personally. So I don’t take whatever responses I get too personally. That’s the key, really: always make your work about something a lot bigger than you.)

  • Anonymous

    The title of your blog, my friend, can be taken two ways.

    Am so glad that you are not imparting any fatalistic news and thrilled that you are soon to be “free at last, thank God, I’m free at last” to do what you love, what you were born to do!

    To have identified your passion, honed it, been able to make money doing it, used it as a means to engage others – these are all such blessings. Truly, your words, the community you’ve built, have been, for me, a balm to a wounded soul, at times.

    Are you going to continue blogging or have you reached a level where you will have your own “ghost blogger”?

    Congratulations, best wishes, keep us ‘posted’ – Susan

  • Anonymous

    John – when I click on the “nominate me…” and the blog awards icon, they do not link to the site for voting. I didn’t sleep last night, so I may have somehow overlooked where to vote?

  • That everyone should have the opportunity to live their dreams…what an amazing gift and turn of events for you. I can only imagine the anticipation you’re feeling for this time ahead, and I’m going to admit to being sinfully envious of you for it! You’ve worked hard to get where you are, certainly, and I hope it ends up being every bit as good as your expectations!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, my fault: I had that link wrong. It’s here. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Dual meanings! OPPOSITE dual meanings! That’s why I make the big bucks, right there.

    “Ghost blogger.” Now that’s an idea! (Actually, they’re pretty common.) But … no. I’ll keep blogging, every day. Who could I get who’s as awesome at this as me? No, but seriously. Who? (Actually, I do sometimes think of starting a group blog. I like that form a lot: like a little online blogging magazine….) Anyway, thanks, SH.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Bar! It’s not so much a “turn” of events, as it is one event I’ve been relentlessly slogging toward for a very, very long time. And it will be a rewarding time, creatively, for me, no matter what. But. For tomorrow. But thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Done! Received a confirmation and notice to come back on Feb. 1 to actually vote for winners from the narrowed selection of those nominated.

  • I am glad for you.

    I’m sitting here, spending part of my day off going over my fiance’s edits to a novel I’ve written that I’m trying to make not suck, listening to U2 (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is playing right now)… and thinking about how I already do write whatever the heck I want – I just am not getting paid for it yet. (And maybe not ever – what I write might go up online for free if I give up on the publishing world. I already write tons of fan fiction, anyway, and that stuff *can’t” be pro-published/is online free-share).

    I think, do I want to follow in your footsteps and realy *try* to do the pro thing, or does that constitute more stress than I want to deal with? I’d rather scoop horse stables the rest of my life than turn something I do for personal enjoyment into a stress-fest. In other words, I’m still doing it for the art.

    I suppose you’re back to doing it for the art again – full circle.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s not an either/or thing. Good writing is always an art. It can’t be anything else. When I say I spent all that time trying to learn the “art” of writing, as much as anything I meant I was just trying to learn how to DO it as well as I possibly could. But I’ve never written with any idea other than being widely read one day. Writing’s about communication. You’re not communicating if no one’s listening.

  • beth Luwandi

    Yes indeed. One of the really beautiful and wonderful things about you John. So funny so real so right.

  • beth Luwandi

    Sheesh, now I have to wait!? Im on tender hooks, john

  • Gooseberrybush

    I am so happy for you and can’t wait to find out what the next step is in your journey. I only wish I were half as talented as you are.

  • For some reason I’m getting the vibe that John’s next step may involve becoming a deadly ninja/cowboy hybrid.

  • Donwhitt

    Goodness, John! You could cut the tension and anticipation on this blog with a titanium spork!!!

  • Anonymous


    Where is Part Two of your Two Parter Post???

    If you’ve written a rough draft, I’ll be glad to proof it for you.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, man. Long story. Some people sent me a document, and asked me if I’d run it on my blog. It’s very time sensitive. So I looked at it, needed to do some serious back-and-forthing on it, and am now just waiting to see if we’re a go. But it ended up taking all day, so … so. There it is. (Plus, this morning I didn’t wake up until SEVEN, which is so bizarre I can’t even tell you. Felt GOOD.)

  • Interesting Name

    I thought you were going to die soon because of the way you worded that title of yours. Freaked me out, man.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry about that. I thought that double entendre (if that’s even what that is) was kind of cute–but now I think maybe it was just kind of obnoxious.

    Anyway, good to hear from you, young Mr. “Interesting Name”!