How fitting to say what I’m about to at Christmas, because what’s on my mind has everything to do with getting what you want (that’s really not as commercial as it sounds) and the …ah, let’s call it the *spirit*… of the season.
First, I can’t convey to all of you who responded to the article below how much I enjoy hearing you all say how great I am and how much you loved the article. Thanks for reading, and thanks for responding; it’s wonderful to know I’m not just blogging to avoid “real” work (although often I do- I regularly miss a Tuesday deadline and you’ll note I have a lot of Monday entries).
Second- and I say this completely without rancor or anger- if one more person tells me I could do “better” than The Gabber, either journalistically or financially, I’m going to find you and push my Waterman fountain pen through your windpipe (I like to put the product names in my blog for Shelly, because she loves it so very much) and twirl it around in your trachea until your blood gurgles out and drains your life away.
I know that you all- and there have been if not many let’s just say more than several- mean that as a compliment and I get that, I do. But to suggest that is not only an insult to me but to The Gabber, and, again, I am not angry, but please allow me to explain why.
1. Since only two or three people know even roughly what Ken and Deb pay me, I find the money references odd. I have absolutely too much loyalty to these fine people to go into salary, but I will say this- my handful of writing for them pays my regular bills, such as mortgage, power, water, phone, and internet. I will also say that other local papers have offered me work but they pay so far below what I make at The Gabber I won’t even consider it. Also, I have a fairly accurate impression of what national magazines pay, and The Gabber pays me right on par with, and, in many cases, above the national average. They treat me very, very well there.
2. As far as being able to “do better”, nuh-uh. Many of you can attest to the fact that I am a slow communicator. Now imagine being my editor, on a weekly deadline. I’d love to think they put up with it because I’m like Fletch or Skip Wiley, but I believe it’s because I make them laugh sometimes and, quite honestly, it’s a common problem with good writers- we cannot consistently do anything on time.
Along the “do better” line of thinking, let me clue you in on something else: my best work, my finest articles… they have not been my idea. They have been assignments from my editor, and almost all of them were ones on which I dragged my feet. A well-written, published piece has as much to do with the editor and the organization as it does the writer.
Additionally, I will not “do better” than The Gabber because I am precisely where I want to be. I have a steady writing job that pays my bills, I have it with an editor that gives me the best assignments because he trusts my work, and I have an incredible amount of latitude to write what I want. Ken has never turned down a story; he trusts my instincts.
Maybe those of you who don’t freelance or don’t work as an “artist” may not see this; that’s OK, but you’re going to have to trust me that what I have constitutes a remarkably sweet deal. I am weary of defending it, weary of hearing I should “move on” to “something better”.
Four years ago I woke up on Christmas morning wanting desperately to be anywhere else- literally and figuratively. I had a lot that I now do not- a larger house in a socially acceptable area of town with lots of extras, furniture that matched, a job that paid me well, a stock portfolio, etc., etc., you get the idea. But I hated it; hated ALL of it (OK, I did love my couch). I felt like a stranger in my own skin, felt like I couldn’t breathe for all the crap pushing down on me. And I felt isolated from the life I always thought I would have when I was a kid. I had traded off bits of what I wanted for other things: for the life I thought I should have, for money, for conventional success. I traded and I traded and I traded until nothing of me remained in my life. I remember so clearly waking up on Christmas morning and asking myself, “If I died today, would I die having lived the life I wanted?” The answer was no.
I guess you could say I kind of snapped. Actually, people did say I snapped, and for good reason: I had. Between Christmas 2002 and April 2003, I left behind a husband, house, piles of money, a job, and an astonishing amount of bullshit. It was horrible; I do not care to ever repeat the experience, starting with creating a life that traps me.
Stupidity is making the same choices over and over again and expecting different results. I am not stupid.
Yes, on some level, you who say I could make more money are right- I could, technically, write things for more money. But not what I write now. That sort of writing pays amazingly little on the national market (again, I have checked). But other stuff, stuff that I do not enjoy writing, pays more and, yes, I could do that.
I do not want to. The trade-offs involved would destroy what I love and who I am, and I will not do that again.
The moment I start writing simply to make money, I am doomed. Obviously, I write for a living, so that may sound odd, but right now I write what I want and take on a little extra because I need to eat, yes. But I write for clients that allow to me to write what I want and pay me for it. That is, any of my creative freelancer friends can attest, exceedingly rare. You cannot do better than that.
Christmas is so different now it makes me cry; tears not born of sadness but true tears of pure, unadulterated joy. I have no desire to die, but if I did I could honestly say this:
I will wake up this Christmas morning knowing my life fits me. I will wake up with a lifetime between me now and the me four Christmas mornings ago; I have traded off my trade-offs. I love how I live, love who is in my life, love what I have and what I don’t. I am precisely where I want and need to be.
I ask you, how could one person possibly do “better” than that?