First, let me point out that I have posted about a third of the material I have completed under the Slayer of Darkness tab at the top of the page. I plan to hold it right around that level, teasing readers to sign on for the whole ride by showing them that I know what I'm doing. Will it work? Well, that's the fun part about being an indie: You operate without the big book contract and its supporting advertising, so you will naturally try anything to see what works. I'll know in about a year whether this approach does or doesn't.
But back to my original premise, that of being a writer in stolen moments. Most of you who follow know that for the past quarter-century, I have been a shift worker following a completely random schedule assigned by a computer. Days, nights, weekends, it didn't matter, I was (and remain, in name, at least) the safety, fire, and environmental monitor for a large fuel facility boasting several outlying sites. It was important to management that I be unpredictable in my inspections, both times, and what I was inspecting. This schedule meant I had a lot of mornings off, a few hours to myself before the day got going when I could wax creative, and indeed I did, producing the two Beyond the Rails story collections as well as five novels that never saw the light of day. On average, about five mornings out of seven belonged to me, and it was an easy matter to feel like writing was as much my profession as safety.
Suddenly, at the beginning of February, the firm decided that the extra money they have to pay me to work at night, approximately $2,400 a year, is no longer worth the return on their investment, and have pulled me back onto the 9 - 5, Monday thru Friday. They do let me have two night shifts a month, of which today is one (followed by a day off), I assume so that if anything goes wrong, they can say they're still covering all the shifts. Yeah. I decided to retire during that meeting, but that isn't the point of this post.
No, the point is to express my admiration for everyone who has a traditional weekday job, and still finds time to be a writer. The nature of my work is that I come home mentally exhausted, fit for nothing more taxing than some TV or a video game. There's no time in the morning, of course, as I'm stumbling around matching socks in the dark so I can get out on the freeway and attempt to drive 25 miles in under an hour without being killed. I was rear-ended last week. Everyone was stopping, the speed differential wasn't that great, and it was just a little love-tap that injured neither cars nor drivers, but every day I pass someone out there who wasn't so lucky. Weekends, I find, are when I run around playing catch-up, typically with a dozen things to do, and time to do about two properly. I try to squeeze in a bit of writing, but without much success. Mostly, my activity is confined to jotting down notes as I think of things, hoping that when I say goodbye to the rat race and am finally able to get moving on actual book production, I'll remember what they were supposed to mean.
Now, I have 42 days left, six long grueling weeks, which should actually go by pretty quickly, because I'm helping them get ready for the changes rather than actually doing my job, but the point is that I have a beautiful shining date on the calendar when all this is going to be behind me. Some of my author friends are in their 20s and 30s, trying to be writers, and with this stellar new perspective, I have to stand back in wonder at what they're able to accomplish... and sadness at what is being robbed from them. I can't even work under these conditions, and I suspect that they only can because they haven't experienced life on a floating schedule. I admire them, I admire you, more than I can say. I don't know how you do it, and when I look back to the years before 1991, when I became a shift worker, I don't recall doing much writing either. I have to tell you, it was the relative freedom of the schedule that kept me on this job for 25 years. I could have moved up and made more money, but there was never enough offered to make it worth going back on the 9 - 5. Now that that decision has been made for me, I've made one of my own; apparently they thought I was going back to the rat race for less money, verifying what has long been suspected, that they don't know Jack!
My young friends, this post is a tribute to your resilience, your perseverance, your grit in the face of the most vile adversity, the theft of your time. It is also to encourage you to take back all you can, claim it, use it, make it yours again. Find a way. Find that job that lets you be a human, be your own person, be alive. I know we all have to make money, and some of us, myself included, may feel that we make enough; there's food on the table and the bill collectors aren't knocking, but ask yourself this: If you knew that you had one day to live, what would you sell an hour for?
This all sounds very discouraging if you're looking at a whole career stretching out in front of you, but there are things you can do to avoid becoming bogged down in that dead-end, soul-sucking job. Enhance your education, seek promotion, look for that magic job that lets you be alive. They're out there. I had one for 25 glorious years. They can be found. Find it!
Now this was just a little extra post to keep me busy, as I have to go down to the clinic for some lab work, and can't eat or have coffee beforehand. Barbarian way to treat somebody on a Monday morning! Tomorrow I repost my review of Sarah Zama's novella, Give in to the Feeling, a beautiful piece of work that I highly recommend. I'm going to leave you for now, and it seems that my tagline has never been more relevant than it is following this post: Get out there and live life like you mean it!