So I've just started working on a new book these past few weeks and I'm exactly 100 pages into it. When asked how much I write, I usually tell people 5 pages a day when I'm in the midst of a book (which is most of the time) and they're usually impressed by this output, or at least by the consistency of it. Yet long ago I gave up being impressed by it myself-one assumes that writers always have a say in this matter. As far as I can tell, I have been implanted with this wicked demon deep inside my skull that will not let me rest, a sort of bastard brother of a normal person's conscience. It tells me I must write every day that I possibly can and warns me that if I don't, there are other, more hardworking and deserving writers out there who will succeed instead and laugh at me when I fail.
This voice, like all the voices in my head, has gained more and more power since I started working at home full-time. Now everything I am and do and my writerly future depends on me sitting down at this well designed Ikea desk with the crazy spider plant hanging above it and all the CDs and books piled everywhere. Every day I'm not getting paid $12 an hour for sitting under fluorescent lights is a costly one and the ever-present shadow of one day returning to work-even if it's only temp work-hangs above me. It's not that I won't write when I return to work, it's just that I'll have lost the edge of five pages a day. I'll be back to one or two pages a day, pages stolen from time with friends or a good book, with weekends dominated with the heavy fact that I must write. The demon voice knows all this and uses it to manipulate me. I write 5 pages a day, 7 days a week, more because I've gone "all in" than because I'm some sort of saint of a writer. If I don't write, I feel like shit starting at about 4 PM and it doesn't go away until I finish writing the next day. If a may reference Eminem here, if I was playing in the beginning the mood all changed.
Another basic aspect of working at home, as I'm sure many home business people can relate to, is that you better be ready to have no money. The temp jobs and tiny book money have only been partial backers of my writing at home these past few years-I'd also like to take a moment to thank my main sponsor, my VISA credit card! You know that GNR song about wake up late honey put on your clothes take your credit card to the liquor store? Well, that's me! And not just the liquor store. The grocery store, too, and everywhere else VISA is accepted! Alas, the card is getting a little top heavy these days, and may not last out another year. You know, before I got my book deal I'd never, ever, not fully paid off my credit card at the end of the month. Really. Now those days seem as far gone as the heady 90's themselves, back when we still had a kick ass economy and life was good. Now I just wince and try not to think about it-this past year or so I thought of my credit debt as an investment in my own future. If I had the freedom to write every day, at full, well-slept power, I'd be able to create the book that finally put me over the top, thus allowing me to pay off all my debts and live the life of a writer forever. The problem with this high stakes gamble is that after you spend six months writing a book, you sometimes find that it didn't turn out as awesome and easy to sell as you'd thought at the time, and then you're sort of fucked. You can tell yourself well, I had to write that book to get to the next book, which may be true, but it certainly doesn't pay for the next batch of cat food and extra sharp cheese. But, if that does happen, you just say to yourself, "Alright! Time to write my sellout book that I'll somehow be able to live with!".
Then you keep on writing, until you are forced to return to the salt mines once more. And even if that sellout gambit fails, you've at least given yourself as fully to your work as possible and can hold your head up high, knowing that you've given it your all and managed to avoid much well-intentioned advice from family and friends. After all, that seems to be mainly what writing is all about in the first place-pissing off people who forgot their own dreams long ago and pursued monetary comfort (or at least health insurance)instead.
Or is that too jaded? Well, anyhoo. Time to go take my one o'clock shower of despair!