I saw this old pic in my Flickr stream and it made me think about time wasted.
I took this for some tech blog or other which had asked “What’s in your gadget bag?” At the time I worked as the sysadmin for a small, family-owned dial-up ISP and had throw myself into IT. Writing wasn’t paying off, I had young children to feed, and I kept worrying I was wasting my time chasing a pipe dream.
This was about the time I had twelve different short stories and novellas lined up for publication, yet only three of them came to fruition. Not a one of those three paid a penny. This was a year after an editor told me he wanted my book for his mass market line and I never heard from him again. Yep, it’s a tough biz, and I flat out couldn’t afford to treat it as anything more than a hobby.
I know better now.
I was good at IT. Hell, I still am. I thought throwing myself into servers and networks would be a much better career plan. I worked at the ISP, I worked on a few computers on the side, and I even wrote a few technical articles and had them published. I read a lot to expand my skills and build up my resumé, and I did the social networking thing to make contacts in the industry.
Pretty soon I realized it was no easier in IT. Techs are a dime a dozen, employers don’t want to talk to a guy without a degree, and tech recruiters don’t know the first thing about the technology they’re recruiting for. I wrote technical articles because I was confident I could get them published, but they didn’t pay any better than the horror markets I was used to. If I wanted to make money writing tech, I would have to build my career the same as I would my horror career.
Only problem is writing those tech articles bored the shit out of me.The studying and reading also bored the shit out of me, and I hated the work. The dial-up ISP got gutted by the arrival of DSL, and tech support is a maddening, soul-sucking exercise in futility. Writing and developing software felt like an option to flex creative muscles, but in reality it too just bored me to tears.
Now which was the waste of time? I wasn’t afraid of hard work, I just misread the odds of payoff and the satisfaction I get out of one vs the other.
I wrote fiction because I loved it. I still write fiction because I love it, despite letting other facets of reality slow things down for much of 2011. I put together—and had published—Werewolves: Call of the Wild shortly after that revelation. Now Winter Kill is doing well for itself, Lie with the Dead is in development, and the first of two short comics has been released. I had a few other projects published in the meantime, including some of the projects I assumed were dead.
Yeah, I’m still in IT, but doing it for education gives me more time to do what I love on the side. Now I have a much clearer idea of what needs to be done to go to writing full time.
And I also get to travel a lot lighter.