Serving Three Masters
A Galilean Rabi notoriously said that a man can’t serve two masters, for he’ll neglect one for the other. Thank heavens I’m not a man, because I’m about to try to serve three.
Yes, I do know “man” is used there in the sense of human. I’m just justifying my insanity. The truth is like most writers, I have a time management problem. No, really, I have several time management problems… I just can sort of roll them all into a gigantic one.Writing suffers from a problem endemic to self-employment: self-management and self-starting. This is because when we start out we’re doing this unpaid, alone, and frankly no one cares if we do it or not. In fact, in the old days, when I was breaking in, the chances against your breaking in were like 1000 to one, which means you might very well be wasting your time to no purpose.
Part of the reason it took me so long to break in (uphill both ways) is that I learned early on that if I’d finished a chapter no one gave a d*mn, but if I made a loaf of carrot bread there would be much rejoicing among kids and husband, and everyone would love me for an evening at least.
So– So I’ve always been really bad at getting the d*mn writing done, even after I broke in and had deadlines, because honestly, what was required was that I be two people, one to manage the family and one to work.
Ah, that was the good old days. And even then, when it came to marketing, I stank on ice. And I don’t mean just doing publicity, I mean stuff like sending novels and short stories in. Because I had two modes: write a lot/submit a lot. It never happened at the same time.
Did I mention those were the good old days?
I’m being forced into what will be a year of insane and conflicting work by what normally forces me into such things: money, or the lack thereof.
I do okay. I mean, if I were single I could easily support myself in a middle class lifestyle, which is better than 99.9% of writers.
The problem is over the last year younger son has cost us a middle class salary… without taxes taken out (which my work does get, thank you so much!) You see, he’s doing something the system isn’t set up for and taking two and a half engineering degrees (the half is aerospace engineering, which is only offered as a minor, but OTOH has all graduate level classes [they do offer a masters] so costs as much as the others.) Last year he ran out of loans. Yes, he has an internship during summer, and should it turn into part-time work during the year (we have no clue HOW he’s actually doing at it. You see, he’s the genius of the family. So his school career has been As or Ds with nothing in between. It’s how he works. So… we don’t know how he does on the job.) it will lift about half the burden off me. But meanwhile he’s pretty much between housing, tuition and incidentals, run through most of our ready accessible cash. And if we have to fully support him another year, it will get ugly. (He SHOULD graduate next Spring. Again, ask me about the school’s scheduling for the higher levels engineering. They don’t offer courses that have less than 6 enrollees, which makes perfect sense for the liberal arts, but dear Lord, they only graduate 40 engineers a year across all specialties, so most of the higher level courses get nixed.)
Well, there’s only one answer to that, which is to make more ready-accessible cash. I was fortunate to get an offer of a gig at PJ and even more so in that they don’t throttle back on the number of articles they’ll publish a week (on the contrary.) So my goal is five a week there, and despite my and the editors erratic ways, I average about 4. Which is very, very helpful. But it’s not enough. (Despite the fact most columnists do a post a week. Eh.) Because I have this engineering-shaped hole I’m pouring money into, and there’s stuff I need to do arouund the house.
Then there’s Baen, and I have one more hard deadline there. I have other books I’d like to do/need to do for Baen, because I have two series there, and barring their reversal, (And honestly I don’t know. The next year will tell) I owe the fans continuance. That’s Guardian, which must — MUST — be done by the end of this month, at least my part in it.
And then there’s my indie work. Which has been neglected. I have three collections basically ready to go up, barring copyediting and covers. This is money sitting in the drawer, not in my bank account. It’s stupid.
Then I have five novels, each of them about three days from completion.
I’ve got the first collection out, see at the end. And it’s doing fairly well. It’s also kicking all my other indie work into play again.
Oh, and then there’s the Austen fanfic. What? You didn’t know I did that? For years it was my relaxation. I have some completed stories and others pending about a day work, and they’re now eminently saleable.
I’m doing those as Alyx Silver, and the first one is up.
Yeah, it’s basically figuring out how Jane could have been right, and Darcy and Whickam both be “good men.” Eh.
So, how can I serve three masters (and that’s not counting renovations I’m in the middle of at the house, or house cleaning, or … well, anything.)
I don’t know. But I need to and it will be done. Tons of other professions, notoriously programming go through years from hell where you work 12 hours days. I daresay if I do that, I’ll manage this workload well enough.
Yes, sure, when I went into a spiral of illness that brought work to a trickle for 10 years or so was years of writing six book a year, plus two or three undercover often as a ghost writer. But, you know what, guys? There was an additional component to that: not being in control of my own career. I was throwing book after book into the void of traditional publishing, where most would vanish without even making it to the shelves. This is akin to having baby after baby and throwing them into the volcano. The illness was a tiredness of the soul that I’m only now recovering from. Sure, the physical illness followed, but it all started because I lost the ability to believe this would lead to anything, even money.
Now? Well, the collection is doing very well indeed. And novels always do better. I think I can work very, very hard when I’m seeing the results.
So, wish me luck. I’m going in!
And here is the short story collection that is doing passibly well. I have three others waiting on the warming pad. Oh, it has a story about a uh…. non binary gender character. (Actually almost all the collections have one of these. The… divide, conjoining and ocnfusing between men and women and everything else is one of those themes I can’t get rid of. Of course, when I was writing these it wasn’t trendy or cool. Eh)
So, here it is: So Little and So Light.
There are three more on the warming pad, and by then enough shorts for another collection will have rolled off the “one year, exclusive” of the publishers. So, onward. I go work now.
You go work too.