The dream of many young writers, as we suffer the stupefying agonies of the modern workplace, is to one day quit our wicked jobs and work no more. Of course, this is nearly impossible, since getting published usually pays about the same amount as you'd make working at Taco Bell for five months. For many of us, true writerly success is no longer measured in the grand idealism of our college days (now Dostoevsky-there was a writer!) but by one simple question: does this writer get to work in their pajamas? If the answer is yes, then they seem pretty damn successful to us!
I have been lucky, or stupidly optimistic, enough to work mostly at home since the summer of 2007, when I first sold The Suicide Collectors to St. Martin's Press. This happy period has been interrupted only by an ill-fated six weeks at a Boise eye clinic, a placid six months working at the U of MN, two crazy weeks at the U of MN bookstore, and a couple of months of test scoring this spring, out in Woodbury. Otherwise, I've been able to work at home, churning out four novels (Wormwood, Nevada, From the Void, The Floating Luminosity, and The Ragged Mountains) as well as several short stories, two published essays, and a slew of marketing stuff as I tried Quixotically to push my first two novels into the world. It's been a mostly awesome time, and on the whole way better than 99% of the day jobs I'm probably qualified for, but I've also found that being mostly self-employed has its own set of challenges.
I suppose the first thing I'd point out is the isolation. Here at Blogagaard, Inc. we're as firmly entrenched in domesticity as any 1950's suburban wife. When my girlfriend comes home from a big day at grad school, I listen eagerly to the dramas of her day, weakly trying to add to the conversation by adding details of what my crazy old cat has done this time, or what I checked out at the library today. When we got out at night, if we go out (as I am always quite broke), I find myself watching everybody else, wondering what they're talking about and what they did today, as if I'm some kind of sickly invalid just out to take in some fresh air.
The second biggest challenge of working at home is tricking yourself into believing you're engaged in a meaningful and useful occupation. Many writers do this by teaching writing-molding the minds of today's youth, while writing on the side! I haven't gone down this route yet for manifold reasons, suspecting that a part of me, as I am still a young writer myself, would constantly be measuring my student's writing by my own, even competing with them, and we all know this is definitely not the way to teach anyone anything.
Jesus, this is becoming a huge post. I think I'll break it up into two parts.
To be continued...Wah ha ha!