This can be seen in drug rehab, political revolutions, weight loss, just about every bad or destructive trait seems to have a breaking point. The same can be said for writing. I suppose this blog could be considered my own rehab journal with regards to writing. Anyone paying attention can tell when I fall off the wagon. Posts grow sparse. Those little word count bars to the right don’t move. I make no references to a recent revelation attained while writing.
For me, bottom is realizing that I’m running out of time. Don’t worry; I don’t have a terminal illness or anything. As some of you know, I’ve been a stay at home dad for the last nine or so months. I love it, who wouldn’t, but with all of the wonderful budget cuts in California I could be back in the work force sooner than expected. That’s a worst case scenario but one that I’ve had in the back of my mind as of late.
In the doomsday scenario, there are two options that I see played out by the ghost of finance future. The first finds me doing any number of my past jobs, sign making, design, construction, waiting tables, whatever the job market will provide. Along with that comes a touch of misery and dreaming of “what if.” The second option has me sitting at home in front of my computer or perhaps at a café somewhere with my laptop writing away.
Yeah, that’s it, just writing. “But how does that solve the financial problem? You’re just going to bet it all on a pipe dream?”
That’s the thing, I can’t bet on pipe dreams in this scenario. There are hungry mouths to be fed, bills to be paid. But in the first option I ended up there because I squandered the time that I have right now. In the second option I capitalized on my free time, got into the world of writing in all of its veins, not just escapism. By the time doomsday arrived, I simply needed to ramp up the work I was already doing.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m projecting rock bottom. The real bottom would be waking up at 3:30 every morning to be at the shop by 4:00 so that we could load up the work truck and be on the road by 4:30, my head leaning against a cold window as my coworker drove us to our destination some two to three hours away (maybe more) slipping in and out of sleep as we drove by city after city, cutting off car after car until finally we arrived, groggy and cranky and ready to start the day’s work of “skilled” manual labor, “supers” harping about things out of our control, a boss calling because he’s staring at his computer screen that has the bottom line blazing in red, and us breaking ourselves, not for the super or our boss or even because we’re good workers that try not to drain the clock, but because we just want to be done and gone, in hopes that we can on the road in another eight to ten hours at which point I’d drive, eyes red and waning while my coworker slept only to get home too tired to do anything, with another day of the same crap doing something else in a different city, waiting for me hours before the horizon, and the best part would be that I’d never know what was next because there is no schedule, no vacations, no warning, no planning, not for us anyway, “Next week you guys will be staying in Red Bluff,” “Where’s Red Bluff?” “About four hours away. You’re putting up tack wall.” “I hate tack wall.” “Well you’ll be there for two weeks.” “What?” “It’s the whole school. We’ve rented you a room in a crumby motel.” “But my wife is eight months pregnant.” “You’ll be home on the weekend. Sorry.” “Me too.”
A picture of what our hotel looked like (in the 70's), and
what they're still using as a promotion.
What the hotel actually looks like care of Google Maps. Our rooms
were the ones straight ahead on the bottom floor of that two story
building in the back. The crackheads that lived there were in the
adjacent building behind the country diner to the left. Ah, memories.
That just gave me the chills. But that’s what I need to think about the next time I say to myself, “I can look at markets for stories later, Facebook is calling my name.” That’s what we all need to do.
So if you haven’t hit rock bottom yet, imagine it. You are a writer after all. If writing is something that you really want to do, then you have to figure out how to make money at it. More importantly, you have to figure out how to keep yourself on task. There’s no boss poking his greasy head in, beady little eyes filled with dollar signs scrutinizing your productivity. There’s just you. And if you let yourself take vacations whenever you want, then the business fails and everyone gets a pink slip. But that pink slip might lead to a crumby motel in Red Bluff, a sore back, sleep deprivation, and an aching heart.
And on that uplifting note! That’s today’s exercise, write your doomsday and post it in the comments, or post it on your blog if you have one and post a link to it down in the comments so that we can all share in a collective catharsis of sorts.