In 2011, I’ll Be in Heaven

In 2011, I’ll Be in Heaven January 4, 2011

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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If you like me, I invite you to like me.


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