New Developments

Wow, has it been that long since I’ve posted anything here?

…Yup, it has. Looks like I did it again.

So what’s been going on with me? First, I’ve got a new job. Actually, since I’ve been working two gigs for a while, I could say that I’ve replaced the old Job #1 with a new Job #1. It pays more, but not enough for me to totally ditch Job#2. So other than driving to a different place every day and working slightly more hours, not much has changed. My need to switch jobs wasn’t totally driven by money, but that was about 70% of the reason. The other 30% was a complete lack of faith that the job would still exist in a year’s time.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone into detail about the goings on at my old job. I didn’t feel comfortable putting that stuff here, especially while I still worked there. Now that I don’t, perhaps I’ll make a separate post about how what was once a great place to work turned into a soul-sucking pit of incompetence and anger. Once I got serious about leaving (back in December), it took me a good five months to find another gig. As it turns out, while the new gig is better than the old one, it isn’t the bastion of stability that I thought it was. But, hey, my situation is better and I still HAVE a job, so I’m not gonna complain too loudly, especially this soon.

What does this mean for the writing? Honestly, I had pretty much given up on it until, literally, a few hours ago. I may have never come out and said it, but I think I hinted pretty strongly that as long as I was working two jobs I would be on hiatus. My attitude hasn’t changed. Neither has my available free time. CLEARLY the world doesn’t want me to write. And CLEARLY that previous sentence is bullshit. The fact is that I’m tired and angry. Tired of trying (and failing) to dodge one financial torpedo after another while barely scraping by. Angry that I have to work as hard as I do while still getting further and further behind each month. I used to cling to writing as something that might eventually help me out of this situation. That didn’t work out, through no one’s fault but my own lack of ideas on how to monetize my hobby.

So I said “fuck it.” I said that a long time ago… about a few weeks before the most recent “In Deed” page hit the server. If I can’t make money at this then it just isn’t worth my time doing. I decided to finish out “In Deed” and then shift my efforts into things that would either make me some money or not require so much of my energy. Shortly after that, literally right in the middle of writing a page for “In Deed”, I said “fuck it” again, turned off the word processor, and decided finishing the story wasn’t worth my time. If I was going to be out, then right then was as good a time as any. That was a selfish mistake, but it felt right at the time so I went with it.

I see now that the real problem started a long time before that moment. It started when I tried to make this hobby some kind of potential life raft for my fiances. At that moment, writing became a job. It moved from something I did because I liked doing it to something I HAD to do (for free) because it might help me out later on. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bad thing for ME. My personality doesn’t lend itself to that type of thing. Regular exercise is good for you and will add years to your life. You don’t get paid for it, but the benefit comes later. I know this. Everyone knows this. How much exercise do I get in a week? None. And writing became a new treadmill to ignore and avoid. I think that’s a pretty good metaphor. History bears it out. I got my start in serial fiction and wrote several novel-length stories. Why serial fiction? Near-immediate gratification. I didn’t… and still cannot… write for months on end without the benefit of people reading my work. It doesn’t work for me. Anyway, I think I’m getting off track…

In the past few months I’ve set a few “this weekend I’m going to finish that damned story and be DONE with it” dates, but I ignored each one for various reasons that also felt right at the time. Hell, I even stopped writing down ideas. I never stopped HAVING them, because that, I think, is impossible for me. But instead of jotting them down for future use like I always did, I just sort of glanced at them as they went by, then went back to working, playing video games, or randomly surfing the internet.

A few weeks ago, I renewed the “darkicon.com” domain name mostly out of inertia. The fact that there was a website with years of my work and a handful of fans that still stop by after all this time never entered my mind. I just wanted to keep the name. It is a cool name, after all. Meanwhile, the stories… and my exercise bike… sat ignored in the corner.

I realized my mistake because of the Atlanta cheating scandal that’s been in the news lately. You may not have heard of it, but to sum it up: a lot of teachers and administrators are losing their jobs because they conspired to falsify standardized test scores to make the scores for the district look good. Apparently, they’ve been doing it for years.

Okay, so what the HELL does that have to do with writing?

My wife and I were talking about the scandal. I said that people shouldn’t have been surprised at all… in fact, they should have EXPECTED this type of thing. Why? Teachers… the good ones, anyway… don’t teach because they want to get paid. Yes, they will probably stop teaching if you stop paying them, but they sure as shit didn’t BECOME teachers for the money. But when then “no child left behind” program put in place a system for punishing and rewarding schools based on test performance… well, that changed the game entirely. Suddenly they were teaching for money! Or, closer to the truth: Suddenly the incentive for teaching shifted from loving the job to obtaining reward or avoiding punishments based on test scores. That changed everything. That changed the very REASON they came to work every day. I think I did a poor job of explaining this to my wife, and maybe only a slightly better job explaining it here. But I think you see what I’m saying. Somewhere along the line I gave my self an imaginary financial incentive to keep writing. This changed the very REASON that I wrote, and when the incentive didn’t materialize… “fuck it.”

It all seems so clear in hindsight. I screwed myself up. I gave myself an unrealistic expectation, and then quit in frustration.

So what am I going to do about it?

As I said near the top of this post, the facts of my situation haven’t really changed. I won’t be writing a lot of anything in this situation, because the time isn’t there. BUT… so far this blog post is just over 1200 words and I sure as hell had the time to write THIS, now didn’t I?

So… First, I’m going to get off my un-exercised ass and finish “In Deed”. The next page will be posted Monday. Maybe Sunday. I can say this with near certainty because the page is almost finished. I can crank out a page a weekend with little effort, and there are only a handful of pages left in the story. Seriously, if you knew how close we are to the end you’d hate me for not finishing it a long time ago. I sure do.

After that, I’ll need to decide what else I’m going to write. It won’t be much, because writing has returned to its proper “hobby” status, and I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies these days. But it will be something. Earlier, I had decided that I was going to finish the Crusade story that I stopped in the middle of years ago. “Earlier” was quite few months ago, so my head and heart might not be in that right now. We’ll see. No, I’m not asking for suggestions; I think I know what everyone (both of you) want by now. I’ll take it into consideration, but major undertakings are beyond me at this point. I will also still be trying to find ways to monetize this site because I’d be stupid not to. But my focus won’t be on that. I need to find the embers of what I used to love back in those alt.dragons-inn days and try to re-kindle some portion of that fire. I wasn’t even THINKING of money back then, and look at what I accomplished. Writing is supposed to be fun, dammit… not work. And after the months I’ve had recently, I really need to have some fun.


5 Comments

  1. WeREwOLf, July 17, 2011:

    I’m glad you finally reached this conclusion. Not only for your own sake, but for the hope that we’ll see some new stories from you that are done Just Because You Wanted To Write Them(tm).

    I remember reading long ago what some guy’s dad once told him: “Either find a way to make money from your hobby, or find a job that lets you support your hobby.” It’s all too easy to focus solely on the first option, while dismissing the second as some sort of admission of defeat.

    When I got my current job nearly three years ago, it quickly became apparent that I was gonna be in this one for the long haul. The pay’s not spectacular, but it’s more than enough for a single guy with no wife and/or kids to live comfortably. And not only is the job also rock-solid stable — I’d have to do something truly stupid to get myself fired — but it’s the most stress-free job I’ve had in over a decade, which in itself is gigantically awesome.

    The reason I bring that up is that since starting this job, I finally began to realize that it’s pretty dumb to beat myself up for not making money with my art or game design endeavors, and it’s perfectly OK to do those things just for the sheer love of it.

    I look at it this way: It’s infinitely better to do these things just because I love doing them even though I’m not getting paid, rather than not doing them at all and letting my abilities completely go to waste.

    Also, for creative types, it’s an amazing sanity saver. Toiling away at a creative project that is a labor of love is like being on vacation compared to any mere ‘job’. It’s arguably the only time we’re truly, fully alive.

    I think this is one of those things that people like us need to learn on our own. Other people can TELL us this truth, but we still have to come around to it ourselves.

    Glad you finally did.

  2. nate, July 17, 2011:

    Thank God! Praise The Lord. Hallelujah! Dark Icon is still alive and might actually start kicking again.

    I’ve still been checking the site frequently, reading through the older posts, stories, movie reviews, etc., and also recently went back through all the stories on BODP. Some of the best reading I’ve done in the past decade has come from this site.

    I am extremely glad to hear that you’re going to return, in any amount, to your stories. I can hardly wait to see In Deed completed.

    I won’t go off on a tangent about what I’d like to see next, but you can bet that whatever it turns out to be, I’ll be here to read and enjoy it.

    I am also going through a transition at work. Due to the government’s inability to spend within means, accompanied by horrible cost overruns and mismanagement over the course of years, the work at NASA Goddard has temporarily dried up. No, I don’t work for NASA Goddard, but the company I DO work for does. Long story short, I have to temporarily start working from the company headquarters on a commercial product. The commute is 50% longer in distance, and about 20% longer in time in the morning, but over 50% longer in time coming home. I’m not happy about it at all, but I am thankful to remain employed and insured. After another month or so I’ll have to determine whether to stick it out for a year, or get serious about finding another job. The trouble is, there are no jobs in my field of experience within my comfortable driving distance.

    Didn’t mean to change direction and focus on myself. Sorry ’bout that.

    Welcome back DI. I look forward to Monday.

  3. nate, July 17, 2011:

    Oh year, Werewolf, what’s the link to your artwork? I wanted to show it to my daughter.

  4. DarkIcon, July 17, 2011:

    There’s no need to wait nate, the new page has been up for a few hours.

  5. WeREwOLf, July 17, 2011:

    For now, http://werewolf1031.deviantart.com is where my art’s at.

    I have a new site, junkyardwolf.com, but all that’s there at present is my main page graphic which also serves as a big-honkin’ link to the latest build of the shoot-em-up game I’m working on; check it out if you like those sorts of games, or know someone who does. It’s free, no installation required, just download and play. Minimum screen resolution of 1366×768 required, but otherwise it’ll run on almost anything Windows-based.

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