Turning Pro

A while back, maybe a year or even two ago, I read Steven Pressfield’s book Turning Pro. I then read the War of Art, not knowing that I had gotten the order out of whack. I really enjoyed everything that he had to say, and of course, like any creative I was inspired. That could be me! I thought. Of course, I had not yet hit those moments that he talked about, which are mostly getting out of your own way. Procrastination, perfectionism, distraction, vices, all of those things are what keep us from achieving our goals.

There’s a part in the book where he discussed knowing that moment when you turn pro.

He says that just like you remember where you were and what you were doing on 9/11, you’ll remember that moment when you realized you turned pro. For me, back then, I still hadn’t hit it. Recently, however, I believe I have.

I think it happened recently, amid all of these lockdowns and layoff threats and all the other crap going on in my life. But first, I want to talk about my Resistances.

Marriage and Divorce

I have mentioned before about my very messy, high-conflict divorce. My marriage and subsequent divorce was one of those distractions. In a weird way, it was self-imposed because I needed to hold myself back even then, and my ex-wife was sure as hell happy to oblige. Whatever money I made, she spent every dollar. Any time I had to myself, unless it was making money for her or spending time with her, was considered useless. Or I was abandoning her.


When you have kids, it is endless distraction and endless expense. It’s a law of diminishing returns, as a good writer friend of mine always used to say. Or as my girlfriend always says, “I’ve had to be Little Miss Responsible.” These are both true. I was the sole breadwinner when my kids were born and I was expected to stay the course at a job I never intended to make into a career just to keep the lights on. I wrote to escape. I wrote to keep my sanity, and most of the time, it was considered something that detracted from the Family. I could never hope to get good enough to do it because my labor was needed. Of course nobody else was stepping up to the plate to work, but yeah.

Even though writing was something my ex-spouse knew I wanted to do when we first met. It’s baffling how bad people want to bleed everything that is good out of you, to change you into something you are not.

Bad relationships

After my divorce, I made the mistake of chasing someone who never had time for me, but insisted I was always available for them. They never outright said it. It was conditioning, and honestly, if I had better boundaries, I would have just walked away from it for good instead of getting sucked back into it. Well, fuck that noise. It was on-again-off-again, but it sure was a good way to distract myself from turning pro, that’s for sure. Since then I’ve discovered stability in a relationship, and how a healthy one allows you both to lift each other up instead of just walking on eggshells.

People just don’t get it

My family, my friends, and all sorts of people I know just don’t understand why I’m doing what I do. A couple times, I have even been told “well, you’re not a real writer.” You’d think that would get me fired up, but it really doesn’t. Especially depending on the source. Someone projecting their own doubts of their potential onto me, whom the are just illustrating they know nothing about.

The day job

The day job has been a major element of Resistance. Sitting at my desk for eight hours a day, I can honestly say that in the last 13 years of being there, I have become very efficient at what I do. The same crap that took me several hours to do might take half that time. So basically I respond to tasks, I fight fires. Above all else, I listen to a bunch of people in the office who never shut up because apparently they don’t have enough to do. Most days I put in my earbuds and I try to block out the jabber, because when you work in a fishbowl, you can kiss productivity goodbye.

This lockdown has shown me that in working from home, I can get a lot more done in the day because I don’t have endless distractions. I don’t have to physically or verbally respond to someone who reads an email or a text or an article online and just has to share it with everyone else. Even if (fuck that–ESPECIALLY if) it has nothing to do with the day job. This experience has been a lot like when you open a bag of potato chips and you discover how much of the bag is just air.

Everyday I get the passive aggressive emails of people announcing themselves, proving to everyone else that they are at their post and ready to work. Reporting for duty, sir! When all throughout the day, I can see via Microsoft Teams that their computer has been asleep for most of the day. Those icons are all yellow and red. You ain’t doing shit.

Epiphany hits and leaves welts

So, recently, I had a weird moment. My day job is laying off 65 or more employees within the next month. Then we will get to sit around for a month after that to make sure all the work gets done so the University doesn’t go to complete shit. Because even though that would happen if they cut us all loose, we aren’t important enough to keep around. We must be such a drag on the system. A system that pays people high six figure incomes to go to lunch with other important people.

Sitting at home, batting back all the random emails to do crap, something hit me. Without all the distractions, the job was simple. Honestly, it has allowed me to be incredibly lazy. It has taken up so much time in my day that by the time I get home to actually write anything, I am mentally exhausted. Not from the amount of work I have to do, but the sheer amount of distraction, and suck that comes from the job. Some days there isn’t a lot to do except for look busy. This is a time-honored tradition of State employees. It is fucking exhausting too.

The Problem

The little pings from work. The nagging little distractions. It takes up a lot of my time. I used to be terrified about the concept of writing full time. I was still tied to child support and my lazy ex-wife who still won’t work a full-time job, even after nearly six years. How are you supposed to have the option of cutting back on expenses to live your dream when someone else is walking around with their hand in your pocket? I have a part time job writing SEO content, and if I have time to write for them, I can make enough to live on. The problem is finding enough time.

The problem is not letting myself get distracted. The problem is not procrastinating. The problem can be solved by getting out of my own way.

It’s not you, it’s me

The moment when I realized my job doesn’t need me, that it is just a time suck. It gets in the way of writing, which even if it’s writing about coilover shocks for Toyotas or gutter repair, is infinitely more fulfilling than changing schedules around so spoiled professors get a four day weekend every week. (Yes, because we should all be lucky enough to get paid $80k a year and only work three days a week for nine months out of the year).

My amazing girlfriend said something the other day that stopped my breath right in my lungs. She called me a professional writer. It’s true. I supplement my income with it regularly. I’ve worked years to get where I am with it, in spite of child support hearings, people at work looking down at me from their lofty Ivory Tower, and my own sense of impostor syndrome looking over my shoulder all the time. It’s true! Even on those nights where I’m hating myself and thinking “tomorrow I’ll do better.”

The Game Changer

On this lockdown, I have been able to write. On the days when I haven’t been flat out depressed over the uncertainty of what the future holds, I have written. I have written paid blogs, and I have been working on my book. Without distractions, I have been writing my ass off. It’s amazing how much time you have in the day when you don’t have a “real job.” This last weekend taught me that!

I can write and do laundry and keep a clean house. The only thing missing from a day like that is annoying co-workers talking about ham or taffy for two hours and expecting you to chime in.

And maybe like Pressfield says, you remember it like 9/11. That moment when you turn Pro. It’s a weird feeling when you go from “Well, that isn’t for me. Not yet.” to saying “Why the hell not?” It’s just like anything else. You suck at it until you don’t. Then you keep working at it until you are confident enough to ignore that voice inside your head that says “You’re going to starve to death!”

The Future

Right now, when I lose my job, I will be no worse off than all of the other office schlubs I worked with. Or the people working for small businesses. Or retail. Or service staff. Except I actually do have a trade. I can string words together. Very well sometimes. Everyone I work with is freaking out about being *this* close to retirement and how will they ever live?! Not that they have been doing much living as it is. I’m over here, thinking to myself, “why would I ever want to retire from writing?” Some people actually start writing when they retire because they finally have the time for it. Well, not a long time, but time enough in the day at least.

Imagine that: getting to do what you’ve always wanted to do in the prime of your life instead of those twilight years , wondering if today might be your last. Well, folks, in light if this virus, tomorrow might indeed be it. Why not live everyday with the understanding that one day, we will all die? It’s in everything from Ecclesiastes to the Hagakure. Why does it take so long to listen to those words?

It’s easy enough if you try. And once you pass that point, you wonder how you ever lived before.


Frustration and Staying Frosty

So, I moved my travel blog (not that it will be getting any mileage in the foreseeable future, for obvious reasons) to WordPress. It was supposed to be a little cheaper, and the domain host that I had been using was not that great. All customer service was done by automated responses to keywords which directed me to a Tech Info Library.

So, I moved the domain.

Only to discover that none of the content moved with it. But because it never made it to Google, I can’t even use the wayback machine to copy and paste a year’s worth of content to the new site. It’s gone. All of it.

When life throws those kinds of things at you, all you can do is find the lesson in it. You see, I have a LiveJournal blog that I wrote on from 2007 all the way until pretty much the end of last year. All of that content is still there. Unlike the blog site I paid for, which is gone, never showed up on a Google search in spite of all the add ons and bullshit I paid for, and now it is so much pixelated dust.

The lesson here is write locally, upload globally.

Kinda the same with my book. You see, people are buying and potentially reading my book, but they are getting copies of it from sites on Amazon that aren’t my account because I never get paid for them. The Chinese are notorious for this. Copyright? What’s that? I’ve had many friends who find their works printed off from China and they never see a red cent.

The only bummer is that I probably no longer have a PDF of the finished copy of my book the way Createspace had it, because I could just go to Createspace and run off copies for cost and give them or sell them to people. I could buy three or sometimes four copies of my book for what Amazon wanted for just one. I did this a lot. Because I feel like it’s better to be read than it is to get rich.

I know I’m not going to get rich. Money-wise anyway. There are other kinds of wealth. Granted, I wouldn’t mind selling some writing to help pay the rent, which is why I write SEO content for companies. It is usually joyless work, but it is more fulfilling than changing the same classes over and over and over again for professors who don’t feel that working five days a week is for them. No, they do everything they can to shore up their teaching schedule into maybe three days so they get four day weekends.

This is why I’m going to be writing about the underbelly of the Ivory Tower soon enough. I have 18 years experience in this kind of fuckery. It’s time to share it with the world. There’s a good reason Higher Ed is failing right now. Why one of the biggest crises to hit the US is the student loan bubble. That’s why the Feds are looking to bail out loan holders right now. They painted themselves into a corner by not allowing bankruptcies, and rather than bring back debtors prison, they have to do something. Might as well winnow out the small remaining loans so they can continue to milk the big bulls.

This, my friends, is how you get the Great Depression II. Inflate loans people can’t pay (but keep issuing them) and then the bottom drops out of the economy. Boom. You now how an impoverished class. Or at least an economic crisis.

And this stimulus package to just pay everyone $1000 to $3000 dollars? It reminds me a lot of the German state in the 1920s. Lets just print off more money. What color deutchmarks would you like to plaster the bathroom with? I guess if they run inflation up, that toilet paper crisis in the US will be solved. Just go to the ATM machine!

Anyway, that is my dispatch today. Stay safe. Be patient. And be kind.

Disturbing song lyrics

So, Kenny Rogers shuffled off his mortal coil the other day, leaving behind a lot of stunned fans who didn’t realize he was that old (81) or not dead. I for one am someone who grew up listening to Kenny Rogers. My dad used to have the dial tuned to Y95 Country KCGY, Laramie Wyoming, and I thought that was the only radio station that existed until I was about seven years old.

Back in those days, they played the Silver Age of Country Music. Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Willie, Crystal Gayle, and of course Kenny and Dolly. It would be years later before I discovered something called Rock Music, and, well, it’s hard to keep ’em down on the farm once they’ve headed to the Roadhouse and had a real, a-good time. Or climbed that Stairway to Heaven. Or checked in to see what condition my condition was in…hey, wait a minute.

Today, I threw on a Kenny Rogers playlist and as I just stood there, waiting for shower thoughts to arrive in single file. But they didn’t. No, I hadn’t had my caffeine yet, so it was only a headache filling my mind with thoughts. Until I realized one horrific thought about halfway through Coward of the County.

These songs are messed up.

The Gambler

The Gambler is about a guy on a train who strikes up a conversation with a man who drinks the last swallow of whiskey from his bottle, smokes a bummed cigarette, and then proceeds to die right before the eyes of the narrator. The narrator just takes his last words and gains a sense of satisfaction from the wisdom he has been bestowed.

The Coward of the County

This one is a rape and murder ballad. Tommy is a boy whose daddy died in prison, presumably of some violent act. He tells his ten year old son to live a life without violence, then he dies. Tommy is ridiculed throughout the county for being cowardly. He doesn’t fight, but the woman he loves, Becky is more than happy with that. Until she is attacked by the Gatlin boys.

Tommy goes to the watering hole where they hang out. Locks the door. And murders them all in cold blood. Which, that is a great song where reprisal is at the heart of it. Vindication. But, my English major brain can’t help but think what happens next. Tommy goes to prison for life? You might argue that he just fought them and beat them up, but this is a song about a reckoning. He didn’t just go in and punch them out.

Valar Morgulis

This is Jeremy for the country fans. This is Pumped Up Kicks. This is a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song with a jaunty guitar track (well don’t they all?). I imagine the scene being something more like Nick Cave’s “O’malley’s Bar” if you had to illustrate it.

Anyway, dark stuff. Death comes for us all one day. Like the poet says, “Might as well live.”