Many of my life’s passions are those that don’t make the most lucrative or reliable careers. I love playing games, acting, writing, and arguing. While people have made livings, even fortunes, at all of these things, most people who pursue these as careers struggle and eventually give them up. When I was a kid, my family was fairly poor, not destitute, but not well off. That changed as I got older, but having tasted poverty first hand, I was certain it wasn’t something I wanted for myself. In high school most of my friends assumed I’d pursue acting as my profession, I’d reply I preferred to eat instead. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I wanted to make some money at it.
Lucky for me, I found my love of board games got me into computer games which got me very interested and proficient with computers. My enthusiasm for the subject and the rising use of computers in nearly every industry meant there were good entry level jobs for self-taught programmers and troubleshooters in nearly every company as I finished college. It took only a few years before I went from dirt poor and in debt, to middle-class living, and after a decade or so to the upper-middle class. While I enjoyed the work and recommend it highly, after 20+ years I was losing my passion for it. At the surface, I was tired of the corporate politics that always seemed to revolve around advancing careers rather than advancing the company. Under the surface, I think I was simply fatigued from 20 years of doing the same kind of work and having to constantly learn new tools and technologies every year or two which while new, were not fundamentally different that what came before.
The decision to hit the road was partly about wanting to follow some of my passions instead of good sense for a change. I planned on writing software solo or collaborating with others, the daring bit being I would work for myself. Meanwhile, Anne would work on a travel blog. Soon I found that I worked on the blog more than anything else, and I really enjoyed it. I was just not excited about any of the software projects while the idea of writing game material, blog articles, stories and just about anything was exciting and enjoyable. At some point, I decided that despite the hardship, uncertainty, and pitiful pay, I’d actually try to write for a living, at least until the savings I’ve set aside for our adventure starts to dry up.
Lucky for me, while I’d spent plenty of time programming, I also did a lot of writing and somewhere along the line I actually got pretty decent at it. I was an avid reader as a kid, and while not an avid writer, I’ve dabbled in it since I was very young. I had my first story “published” when I was in second grade as part of a school project where one kid from each class got to have their story bound and kept in the local college library. I still have my copy, it’s no masterwork but I was proud of it. The last time I was unemployed a good friend was kind enough to partner with me to publish some role playing books and they were well received, and again I was proud of them. I’m also blessed in that I can write a lot in a pretty short time.
Yet I have so much to learn! I’ve always suffered from questionable grammar and horrific spelling. The English language is a frustrating mix of half enforced rules and special cases that drives my more logical mind into conniptions. My writing is heavily subsidized by spell checking programs and sometimes grammar checkers as well. Without these electronic editors, my writing would be a mess. Indeed, in school, before we could use such devices, my papers were generally not well received by the grading pen and the thought of writing for a living never entered my mind. I also have a tendency to use a lot of big words and complex sentences. I know in the writing biz, you want to keep things clear and simple.
It’s one thing to write, and quite another to make any real money at it. My economics degree informs me when supply is high prices are low. Words are cheap as they say, and on the internet words are generally free. Even those which are supposed to cost money are commonly liberated of this limitation much to the pain of writers trying to make a living. That said, not much commerce happens without writing so it is a skill that can be applied to a great many profitable endeavors. Words also have some permanence and what I like about them as a way of making money is they can pay you back long after they were written. Once I create a piece of writing it is mine forever, a commodity I can find a way to monetize.
Currently, I’m writing a lot of blog articles, working on some game material, working on a novel, and arguing with people on facebook. As usual, it’s likely too many things at once. Still, it’s lots of practice and I’m turning out around two to four thousand words a day nearly every day. If nothing else, I’m at least proud of what I’ve written so far and am having a great time writing it. I think there is a time in life to be practical, and other times to follow your dreams. I’ve spent a good long time being practical and I’m of a mind to roll the dice on creativity and see what happens.
PS: If you have advice, I’d be happy to hear it. I don’t always follow advice, even my own, but I like to have it none the less. Also, if you have leads on writing work, I’m happy to entertain them.