I love this song 'cause it's like if the Perturbator and Isabella Goloversic got all loaded up on NyQuil and recorded a Motels track. It's the best thing.
So, to the meat of this missive.
Inspirational true story. I started writing longform fiction in 1991.
Last year, the first novel with my name on it was published. Yeah, I've put books up on Amazon, novels, commentary, screaming in the face of the storm rants. They've sold tens.
If you'd told me that this is where I'd be in 2019, I'm not sure I'd have had the strength to start clacking out on the keyboards the words "Denver slept restless like a child's fever." which indeed did open the first novel that I ever wrote. Unpublished. Rewritten several times. Paid for professional editing which didn't touch structure, only copy, though structure and construction feedback was what I was goddamn desperate for. Dude liked the book. Didn't know why it wasn't published. I know why it wasn't. John Douglas said as much in his very nice cover letter rejecting it in 1992. He asked me if I had a fantasy novel to offer. I didn't until 1996, and even then it was backwards and inverted, unwilling to commit to a single genre or category.
I've published a couple graphic novels, one of 'em almost published by someone not me. Almost. Actually can claim to have sold hundreds. No interest from editors in ability displayed, whether it's to put together a story from the ground up or get a project out the door. Hey, quality always shines through, right? You just keep hammering away long enough and a beautiful swan grows out of the corpse of that ugly duckling on the side of the road. That's what they tell me, anyways.
You will be recognized. You gotta keep chipping away at that mine tunnel to get to the huge goddamn diamond that will solve all of your problems, if you just keep digging long enough. That or the tunnel collapses on you and you suffocate. Have a nice day. Just keep digging. Just keep digging. Digging digging. Just keep digging.
Only maybe, maybe you won't. Maybe I won't. Maybe it's simply not going to happen.
I'm going to speak for a moment on age and related issues. In 1991, I was 23/4. A fine time to start a career. A fine time to lay the groundwork for becoming an overnight sensation at 40. I'm 51. The only dudes that age getting work in comics (and prose is much, much friendlier, at least on the surface) at that age are those who've been working in it for a long time and were established decades before. You're not breaking in at this age. Sure, you can break in on the Kickstarter to fund your comics to sell on the convention floor (and I guarantee you the copies you sell will cover your table fees on a good weekend.) You can do that. I've been there. Only minus the Kickstarter part, taking out loans from family which have yet to be paid back, but everyone who worked on the book got paid. Everyone minus me, anyways.
I'm not going to have a career in comics. Those who do, I admire your talent, hard work, persistence and luck, not necessarily in that order.
I'm not going to have a career in writing. Not one that pays in any substantial form. Came real close with ghostwriting that was once-in-a-lifetime and just didn't have any way to sustain itself for a variety of reasons. Ego was a lot of that. On both sides, not just mine, though my contribution was hefty, in that regard.
Oh, sorry, I stopped talking about ageism. I mean, I said that it's there. We all know it is. The overnight wunderkind baller talent storyline always moves units, gets likes, makes that jump from facebook posts to long signing lines. Lemme tell ya, the old creator, well they're just old. I mean, that's acceptable if they were Silver or Bronze Agers (even Chromium Agers are beginning to show some tooth length, unless they've landed management positions, then they'll never age out. But there is definitely a sell-by date in comics. Again, less so in prose, but it's still there. How many books we gonna get out of this dude before Social Security kicks in and he's done forever, right? Nobody wants to make a cash commitment on an unsure thing.
Yeah, I know a bunch of 40+ folks still soldiering on and a lot of 'em are doing way better work than the stuff that sells 50k a month. C'est la fucking vie. I salute them all and I know they're all rolling that rock uphill. It's just not mine to roll, dig?
As for prose, let me let you in on a little secret. I come from a family of writers. My parents both and sibling. Some of 'em big-time, regular on the NYT when it meant that you were selling more than at just Costco. Successes all. It's very hard to be in that company. And they're clear on not judging me. They're clear on that. It's very clear. Doesn't change the fact that I'm not even a gentleman novelist, y'know? Not even that.
Hell, I'm not even a blogger anymore. You remember when blogging was a thing, right? Suddenly everyone had a voice and folks were launching into bigger and better things with it. You wonder why it's gone? 'Cause it didn't pan out. Sure, there's still some folks out there doing it (ahem) even on the regular, like clockwork. It's all still out there, just not the same community.
Oh well. I'm not going to be an overnight sensation. I'm not even going to land that in thirty years (yeah, I see that 2021 date lingering up above the horizon like Sisyphus lost control of that stone and it's just rolling along gaining speed and momentum like it's been doing that forever.) My name ain't gonna ring. My work will never transcend genre. I won't be on the endcaps. There ain't never gonna be more than one of my books on a shelf in any store at any time. That dream is done.
Is this a bad thing? Don't know. The jury's still out on that. I don't think that it is.
I mean, if anything, it means I'm free. I can unchain myself from that ego and those delusions I let it feed me. Drop them heavy janks.
I'm free. Whatever happens, the writing is mine. I get to scrawl my name on that particular diamond. Reviews can't kill me 'cause I'm already dead. Don't have anything left to bleed, so the obscurity and indifference can't suck me dry. The money doesn't mean a thing 'cause there was never any money in the work. The veil is lifted.
You get it, right? The sky's wide open now.
EDIT to add -
The stuff that's written about the books now? Eh, whatever. The cliques and in-groups and out-groups? Meaningless. I was always on the outside and that's were I'll stay. My friend Andrew takes in feral cats and he says there's always one that isn't comfortable anywhere but the cold and drafty garage on that old towel. That cat knows who he is.
None of this other stuff matters. Only the work matters. Maybe that's insane. But hell, the whole goddamn works is insane. The machine is bleeding to death, as the kids say. If I'm gonna stay on the outside, then I ain't gonna grumble about it or stare longingly at that warm room, 'cause that warm room is inside. Can't go in there.