Friday, May 04, 2007


...or do I just mean the unpredictability? You spend 10, 15 years pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to have a shot at a sustained career only to find that, to some extent, luck and chance will have a lot to say about what happens next. That, and your ability to keep writing on a certain level. So you constantly have to react to changing situations, expectations, and fortunes. You look around you and see that many writers have what only seem like 5 to 10 years of any kind of prominence at all before fading or faltering and you wonder, as you have for almost every year you've been writing, why am I still writing? Why am I still getting published? Why'd that other guy just trip and fall into a ravine, never to be heard from again?

For me, too, having a day job all of this time there's been the whole condition of living in two worlds. In one world, I'm my own boss, more or less. In the other, I'm a cog without nearly as much control, sometimes forced to become someone else entirely. In the day job situation, you begin to feel like a mimic of sorts. Or like some kind of spy. You have a secret identity. And sometimes the disconnect between the environment of the day job and the environment of the secret identity can give you the bends. Coming back from a convention or conference, there has always been a kind of free-fall. A kind of wistful appreciation of the truth of life: I'm not actually independently wealth; I'm not actually a full-time writer; I'm either-or/neither-nor. And that can be, at times, depressing.

This year I've transitioned to a different kind of existence and a different kind of stress. In one sense, I now feel like one person, rather than two. Being a full-time freelancer, living off of fiction and nonfiction, editing, critiquing, and teaching, it all feels like part of the same thing: being a writer. It is all part of one identity. There's no longer this kind of fracture in perception or behavior. And I like that. I like it a lot. I think I'm prepared to live in poverty, if it came to that, rather than give it up. Even with the stress of not always knowing where the money is going to come from...

So it's in this context that the surreal aspects of a writer's life come into sharper focus. Given the need to tighten our belts and streamline expenses, I had no expectation of travel this year, and especially not of going back to Europe. Hardly possible. But here it is, April, and Utopiales in Nantes, France, has extended an invitation for me to be a guest at their festival in late October.

So now, even if we're dead broke near the end of this year, we're going to France. The absurdity of it all just strikes me particularly sharply at times. In this new paradigm, it's going to take a little getting used to. But, hey, I'm not complaining.


PS This does mean we won't be able to make World Fantasy, though, and need to transfer our memberships, if someone out there hasn't bought theirs yet.


At 1:20 PM, Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

Braver man than I, VanderMeer.

I haven't paid for my membership, yet. Do you also have a room reserved? As long as we can transfer I'd be interested.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

forgot to say, "but it would just be a party of 1."

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, Steve--drop me a line at vanderworld @ I know I have your email somewhere but can't find it.

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is really great, jeff.
It takes real courage to be a whole person, true to yourself, in this shitty world.
But it is also the most satisfying and fulfilling way of life.
Nice one.

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this...
you have my respect, from one artist to another.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Gwenda said...

Yeah, it often feels like the day job is a dirty little secret, doesnt it? I have always said that's how I get through my days, by pretending to be a spy.

Good on you, Jeff.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

It's hard in a lot of ways, mostly the uncertainty in the pocket book, but I feel the way you do--I wouldn't have it any other way, unless I absolutely had to. Best of luck.

At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone. Yeah, what Barth said.


At 4:43 AM, Blogger Matt Staggs said...

I've been dealing with a lot of frustration in my life because of EXACTLY what you're talking about. I have a very fulfilling personal life as a writer/website guy, and a day job that cracks my bones open and sucks the marrow out.
I commend you for being willing to tough it out as a freelancer.

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous mhayinde said...

Congratulations! This is such an inspiring post. I'm sure the change will be well worth it.


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