Self-Evaluation

I have reached a sort of limbo in my writing career.  It has happened before; in fact, it used to happen every school term in Greece, especially around exam time. No matter what resolve I might muster up, no matter what goals I might set, I could not come up with the time to work on my original creative writing.  Right now, the obstacle is a struggle for survival.  Determined to stop the downward slide towards poverty and debt, my main goal as I appraised the new year was to at least break even financially.  To do this, however, I have to put all else aside and concentrate on that which brings in immediate money, rather than that which is an investment for the future.  I make money nowadays writing articles for Internet content mills.  If I stop writing, I don’t get paid.  If I take time off, I don’t get paid.  It’s a piecework arrangement.  They like my work, but that doesn’t prevent them from paying no more than I would earn flipping burgers at a fast food joint, and it’s not enough to live on.  Besides this income, royalties trickle in from my self-published work, but far too little to even consider doing it fulltime.

Because I am familiar with this involuntary cessation of creative work, because it has happened so often in the past, I know that it is a temporary thing and that eventually I will find a way to break out of it.  Recently I tried getting up an hour earlier, five in the morning instead of six, and using the extra hour to write fiction.  That lasted a few weeks and I got three good stories out of it, but at the end I collapsed physically and mentally.  I don’t have the endurance for that kind of self-sacrifice; I am already burning myself out at my limit.  No, I just have to be patient and wait for an opening.  I am like a hunter in a blind.  My time will come again.  I have some ideas formulating.  I am appraising my situation and contemplating how to proceed.  As part of that appraisal I consider current statistics.

On the traditional publishing front, I have published 16 stories in magazines and anthologies, most of them in the United States but a few in Australia.  My first two story sales, in fact, were to Australian publications, including a professional sale that eventually got me membership in Science Fiction Writers of America, something that had been a dream of mind since I was a young would-be writer back in the 1970s.  My last traditional print publication, though, was in 2011.  After that there has been a dry spell.  Recently sales have picked up again, and I have three stories sold and contracted to magazines.  Unfortunately, they all pay on publication and they haven’t been published yet.  One of these is to a magazine that has been around a long time, and I’m fairly confident the story will eventually appear in print.  The other two are new magazines and their future is uncertain.  I also have three more stories that have passed the first round of evaluation and are being closely considered by editors.  Too early to tell what will happen to those. And finally, I have 15 stories out for first looks at magazines and anthologies.  Some have been circulating for quite some time.  But that’s what you do.  You send them out, they come back, and then you send them out again.  If I told you the statistics of the percentage of stories that get sold compared to stories I send out, it might scare you away from the writing game forever.  Perhaps that might be best, if you don’t have an amazingly thick skin and are not willing to endure a hell of a lot of failure on the road to success.  Be that as it may.

On the self-publishing front, I have 12 books published in both print and electronic editions:  three novels, two novellas, four short story collections, and three memoirs.  Besides these, in electronic-only form I have published 40 short stories and novelettes as individual editions.  Actually, in total story count you need to add four more because in some editions I include two stories.  I have also published seven electronic-only editions of memoirs and essays.  You can find details of all these publications in the bibliography on my website here.

I don’t even know if I should include it or not, because I consider it hack work of the basest sort, but in the last year and a half or so since I returned to the United States, I have also researched, written, and sold well over 1,000 articles on just about any subject you can imagine for the blogs and websites of others.

If you are a writer, you write, and the content eventually adds up.  It’s not a matter of being prolific; it’s just what you do. It reminds me of the example Harlan Ellison has used in the past of a plumber:  “Oh, you must be a very prolific plumber; you have repaired so many pipes.”  Yeah, right.  Repairing pipes is a plumber’s job.  I know that my output is far less than that of others.  My dream – no, dream sounds too remote and unreachable; let’s say my goal – is to begin to generate enough income so that I can devote my full time to writing what I want to write – what I need to write.  I see this as something difficult to achieve but not impossible.  My progress is thwarted right now by lack of time.  That’s why I am currently evaluating my situation to see what I can do about it.  In the process of evaluation I mean to go over some of the details of my recent writing past, and I may publish these ruminations here in the coming weeks.  I’ll tell you one thing though that is a certainty:  as long as I live and breathe, I will keep working towards my goal.

I’m a professional writer; I make my living by my words.  I’m happy to share these essays with you, but at the same time, financial support makes the words possible.  If you’d like to become a patron of the arts and support my work, buy a few of my available books or available stories.  Thanks!

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