Friday, February 26, 2010


My best ideas always come at the most inconvenient times - I think I may have mentioned this in my entry about the voice recorder on my phone. I know part of this is because these times are when my brain is the most relaxed, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating to have a good idea and forget it before I can write the details of it down.

My best ideas come in either the shower, the car, or in that hazy place between waking and sleeping, after I've turned off the light for the evening (as the Arcade Fire says, "between the click of the light, and the start of the dream"). The shower's not such a bad place, because I can get to my computer or paper and pen fairly quickly, so I won't lose much of the idea. Same goes for being in the car, especially now that I've realized I have a nifty voice recorder on my cell phone. As I'm falling asleep, however...

That dreamy, half-awake-half-asleep span (I read somewhere it takes the human brain about seven minutes to shut down and unplug all its connections to the "real" world) is always the time I get the absolute best ideas. I think a large part of it comes from my brain being so relaxed and allowing everything to flow through it at once, instead of struggling to sort thoughts and impulses into their proper pigeonholes (one of the hallmarks of ADD is learning to compartmentalize every idea as it comes). My thoughts hover between imagination and dreaming. I think it's interesting how the two states are so similar, yet the former is conscious-driven and voluntary while the latter is powered by our lower brains and we have no choice of what we dream about. At the point of sleep taking over, my imagination sometimes melds with my dreaming brain and I start dreaming about my story.

Often in years past I'd have a good idea and, just before falling asleep, convince myself I'd be able to remember it in the morning. I'd spend the last few seconds of waking concentrating as hard as I could on the idea, so it (in theory) would be the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning. This tactic rarely worked. More often than not I would remember I'd thought of something... but I'd have no idea what the details were. Such a frustrating feeling.

Sometimes I'm able to fend off sleep long enough to sit up and jot down a few notes, which is why I keep a pen and pad of paper near the bed. And then sometimes what happened last night happens... I turn over, reach down, pull open my laptop, and engage in a bit of sleepwriting.

Last night as I was passing out, I was hit with a vision of perfect clarity: my antagonist, standing in the grocery store with her hand on a can of beans, listening to a voice in her head. It was so perfect I could even see the label on the beans and hear the stupid muzak pouring out of the overheard speakers. I couldn't shake the vision, so I shrugged off sleep for a moment and took advantage of the clarity in my mind.

I carved out about 400 words, which isn't much, but I don't remember writing a bit of it. I went back and read it this morning am pleased with the result. Not only did I get down the idea which had popped into my almost-sleeping mind, I'd managed to fluidly work it into the current scene. It was fun to read back over, too. Kind of like a letter from my subconscious. I guess it's little scenes like that which help me know I'm still on the right track with this story, over all the months, words, and pages spent on its creation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Priming the Pump

I've been wrestling with a block for the last few days. It's not that I don't know what to write about next, because almost the whole novel is in my head now. It's more that I either don't have the time or the energy to forge ahead in the story. My Clark Kent job has been kicking my ass the past few days, as it is wont to do every now and again. When I get home, all I want to do is vegetate.

But there's a job to be done... (cue superhero theme music here) ...and no one to do it but me. Let me tell you, being a self-motivator is difficult for me. Especially when I have things working against me like exhaustion and burnout and that all-time champeen of time wasters, Mr. Attention Deficit Disorder. I've been a disorganized time waster my whole life. My study habits (when they existed) used to make my mother, an elementary school teacher, clutch her head and moan miserably. So like everything else in this artistic adventure, I'm making up new habits as I go along.

Last night and the night before I forced myself to sit down and start plugging away at the block. Last night was marginally easier than Monday, but both nights were difficult. I hadn't been writing for almost a week, and the consistency of the story - a warm, silky liquid when I'm going fast and strong - had gooped up to the point of being almost solid. It took me a while to get the first few sentences right. I tore about half a page out and reworked it before I could stop rolling my eyes at myself. But then last night, the story loosened up around me and I was suddenly back in my fictional town of Bulton, sitting with Jack and Bertram at the picnic table behind the orchard's fruit stand, listening to their worried conversation about Dan. I fell back into it, and the feeling was bliss. But I had to "prime the pump" - an expression that Brian K. Ladd and myself use frequently to describe the act of working the cooling story from something thick and viscous into a liquid river of fire running right through the center of our brains.

One of the most pleasurable sensations in the world.

I was transported last night, taken from my bedroom in the dark recesses of 1 am to a sunny summer morning in a little Southern town, just outside the beautiful reaches of a huge peach orchard. It was so real I could almost smell the trees and the thick curls of Bertram's pipe smoke. I was lost for hours, and happily ignorant of the time. But before I fell through the "hole in the page" (a phrase I humbly borrow from Stephen King), I had to push and work and shove and mentally sweat my way through clunky dialogue and halting character action. I had to persevere, keep pushing against that block which had taken up residence between my fingers and my brain and wait for the story to start breathing again. Eventually it did, and the sound of its labored breath smoothed out after a bit and became fluid and loose. Until then, though, the priming was all I could do, and I pumped that story until my arm damn near fell off.

It's a valuable lesson, one I keep learning over and over, which amounts to one we all learn when we're small, barely old enough to hold a fat red pencil and make our straggling first letters of the alphabet: Never give up! Keep trying, it'll come eventually!

Gotta keep that at the forefront of my mind.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Authors and Writers

One of the more frustrating replies to the answer of "I'm a writer" (see my post on Clark Kent vs. Superman from last week), for me at least, is "Oh, me too! I just LOVE to write!" This is usually said in a gushy, hands-clasped-before-the-chest way, as if the act of writing were the equivalent of teenage puppy love (for some people, I guess it might well be).


I've made some business cards for myself - I can't even describe how weird it was to just type those words - to take to conventions and other gatherings, so if I meet someone I connect with I'll have a quick and easy way to help them remember my name. I deliberated on the design for a while, and decided to stick with the simple, easy layout. The thing I like best about it is the black band that goes across the middle of the card, where a definition is printed in white:

author: \ˈȯ-thər\ 1. One who originates or creates.

This is how I present myself, how I view myself, as much as I can: as one who originates or creates. Authors are nothing less than gods in their imagined universes, and they are the ones who decide the fates of the worlds (and words) they create. Authors have a calling, and are forced to answer it, lest they go insane. Authors fight for the ideas they believe in and love. They are artists, with a capital "A", and they weren't given a choice about their role in life. Most of all, authors are conduits for the energy of the universe. Sounds kooky, I know, but I believe it. Stories are found, they're discovered, they're radioed to us from some unknown source out there in the midst of all that revolving matter which makes up our reality. It's our job as artists - as authors - to keep the channels open and the equipment in as good working order as we can manage. Of course, that can be tough, as we're all alone in most of what we do, and (like Indiana Jones) we're kinda making this shit up as we go along.

Then there are writers. All authors are writers, but not all writers are authors. It's one of those square vs. rectangle things we learned back in middle-school geometry. There are some people out there who believe the ability to string words together and make a coherent thought with them proves they're a writer. They like to pass the time by doodling on notebook pages about the dark recesses of teen angst they've been caught in for years. Anyone who's suffered through a high school creative writing class knows the people I mean. In our writers' meetings, we call these the "love-glove-dove people". (Ten points if you know where this reference comes from.) Their work is painful to read, especially as the majority of them aren't willing to listen to any constructive criticism - their goal isn't so much to get their words out there to the general public as it is to have a few people listen to them and immediately commence with the ego-stroking as soon as their work's been read.

I've perfected the art of choking my frustration down and being a patient listener to those gushing people who insist they LOVE to write; after all, we all have to start somewhere. I'm trying not to be catty or a snob towards people who have a love - if a mutated, perverse one - for the trade in which I try so hard to excel. Everyone deserves a fair chance and a sympathetic ear. It's really only those people who refuse to take criticism, who insist that their terrible poetry is beyond revision and came out of their soul whole (note the ever-amusing rhyme scheme, friends), that frustrate me beyond belief. Arrogance is the death of creation, I think; or at least one of its many forms. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know my best work comes while I'm being humble and filled with gratitude for the gifts the universe has given me.

It's that balance between humility and cockiness (one who originates or creates, remember, and that act of creation offers a rush so spectacular that sometimes it's hard not to be cocky) which is hardest to define and master for me. I guess I'll be working on my footwork in that particular dance for years to come.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Focusing on the Goal

Now that I'm over halfway to my goal of 100,000 words, I have a conflicting rush of emotions regarding my work on this project.

This is my first book and I feel like the proverbial babe in the woods, because everyone I look up to seems to have already completed at least one novel, if not two or three or ten or... you get what I mean. It's uncharted territory for me, and I'm making it up as I go along (literally AND figuratively).

I'm a horrible procrastinator and my ADD adds to my inability to finish projects, so it took me a long time to commit to writing a book. I never thought I would be able to finish such a long project. I'm not finished yet, but I'm still going strong. It's daunting because I look back at all the pages I already have (179) and know I need to make about the same amount again to get the story finished. I know the work is starting to pick up now that the characters have been developed and the stage has been set and a lot of weird shit has gone down in the story, but there still seems to be so much left to go.

I'm proud of what I've already accomplished. This book is already the longest thing I've ever written, and the story is solid. Weird, but solid. I am worried I won't get it finished by my personal goal date (May 1st), but I refuse to give up on myself. Attending regular writers' meetings helps my motivation tremendously, because I get feedback on the pages I've written plus insights on the work I may not have thought of. It also keeps me accountable, makes me continue to produce. I love writing and I adore getting lost in my own story, but one of the hardest things about it is that there's nobody making you write, except yourself. If you don't get it done, nothing really bad happens; you just don't finish. Writers' meeting keeps me honest, keeps me working, because I feel the need to show Brian K. Ladd and Gail Gray my work. They're hooked on the story, especially Gail, and I have that great feeling that I imagine all storytellers get when they have someone entranced with a tale - exhilarated, passionate, excited, devious, a little cocky...

I'm keeping my focus on the goal of May 1st. I'm scared, excited, happy, frustrated, tired... so many different emotions, brewing together to make their own unique stew of feeling. It's hard to process. In the meantime, while I'm processing, I'm doing my best to just keep typing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clark Kent vs. Superman

I think the most likely question presented in the social song-and-dance of meeting new people is the universal "So, what do you do?"

For a long time I answered that question with reciting whatever my current job title was at whatever company I worked at. The list is extensive (and exhausting). I worked in corporate America for a little over fourteen years before getting the unceremonious boot. I procured important job names: Sales Coordinator, Customer Service Specialist, National Accounts Administrator (please note the all-impressive proper noun status). I equated "what I did" with "what I made", a sad mistake which befalls so many people working in the white-collar industry.

Now I answer the question simply: "I'm a writer." The sound of those words coming out of my mouth are enough to start the butterflies hovering in my stomach, because it's something I've wanted since I was old enough to comprehend what a writer was. And now it's the truth.

An interesting comparison, isn't it? The truth - which was there all along, just waiting for me to finally pick it up and wear it proudly for everyone to see - is much more simple than the proper-noun-status titles of corporate America, but it's so much more broadly exciting. When I tell new acquaintances my profession, I feel a mix of pride and gratitude that's overwhelming.

Like Superman, I have no choice about what I was born into. I could choose not to write, but I'd still be a writer. And believe me, being an artist fucks you up sometimes. I had to learn to roll with it or I'd've been crushed and churned up by the machinery in my head. It's an ever-changing process, one I hope I never stop learning until the day I die. I wouldn't trade it for anything. And like Superman, when I'm writing I'm invincible - troubles melt away, no one can touch me, and nothing puts a damper on my mood.

But Clark Kent is still around. I have to pay the bills, don't I? And as much as Superman flew around, as cool as he looked in that cape and matching boots, as dapper as that shining spit-curl was in the middle of his forehead, he still needed food and shelter and clothing and the other things us humans have to have to survive. (Sure, I'm belaboring the point here - Superman had his Ice Fortress provided by the nifty crystals left to him by his dead superparents, but I don't have that luxury, so indulge me with this comparison, if you don't mind.) So yeah... for now, I'm a sales director by day and a writer by night. My day job is fun; I think I've mentioned in an earlier post how it allows me the time (and more importantly, the working brainspace) I need to write my book and build my career as a dark fiction author. I bet working at the Daily Planet was fun, too.

For a while.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Important Milestone

Friday night I hit 50,000 words in the novel.

I started writing the book in early August. When I realized I was actually going to try to write a full-length novel, I set a goal for myself of 100,000 words (or about 350 pages, double spaced) to be completed on May 1st. I gave myself nine months. Creating this book will be like giving birth, I thought to myself then (and still do now, the labor pains will be coming in the next month or so, and I look forward to them with a mixture of exhilaration and terror); I need to give myself ample time to make it come alive.

And so it has. The characters have started breathing and thinking and speaking of their own accord, and I'm just following them around trying to take down as much as I can before it's forgotten. They're moving around and doing their own things, and I'm just observing. It's great. And insane. But all writers are at least a little crazy, right? It's par for the course.

I held back from trying to write a book for a long time. I've never been good at follow-through, even from the time I was a child, and I didn't want to build up excitement and expectations for myself and then let myself down. Short stories were a medium I could get into because they required only a few days' commitment - then the story was done and editing could ensue. Quick like a flurry of punches or stolen kisses. I knew my propensity for starting things and never finishing them, and I didn't want that to jinx a long project.

But no long project is completed if it's not started, and back in August when I finally realized the short story I'd been writing deserved to be its own novel, I knew I had to try. Now or never, my Mamaw would've said, time's a-wastin. And that was the truth. I realized it was time to make it happen. So I started, and gave myself a goal, and kept pushing against the invisible wall that stands between reality and fiction.

Now I'm at 50,587 words and the story is developing at a much faster pace than it has been over the last six months; it's like the book has hit its stride and is ready to whisk me along to its conclusion, for better or worse. I know I'll finish, or at least get to my goal by May; right now I'm just grinning like a fool and hanging on for the ride.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Submitting via Post

I sent out a submission to moonShine review yesterday. It varied from my normal submissions in the way it got sent to the market; I sent it via U.S. Post.

This is very rare for me. Almost everything I sent right now is submitted electronically; it's faster, easier and requires much less effort to produce a ton more results. I can keep up with my submission tracking with my email up on the adjacent tab in my web browser, if I want. I can send out a dozen stories for free, in less than an hour, including the time it takes to compose a short email for each submission. In contrast, sending stories via post is slow and expensive. It requires ponderous visits to the post office to purchase stamps (and to make sure your envelope has enough postage... how many words were in that story again?). I also hear back much faster from electronic submissions; after all, if I can send an editor a story with a single click of my mouse button, she or he can send a rejection or acceptance back just as fast.

And yet there was a simple, charming hopefulness that filled me when I slid my pages into their freshly addressed envelope and handed the whole shebang over to the less than charming postal worker who helped me yesterday afternoon. The cover letter was handsome and I love the personal touch of signing my letters (one of the drawbacks to email submissions). Holding the heft of the printed story in my hands was exciting, and looking through the pages, it dawned on me that this copy would be in the editor's hands in a few days, these pages which I'd printed myself and then carefully packaged for their journey would be read by another person, someone who had the ability to embrace or deny my work. I liked being able to send a little of my good thoughts and hopes with the pages, from my hands to the editor's.

Sliding the pages into the envelope and addressing it, making sure it had the postage it needed and then ultimately handing it over to the stranger behind the counter was simultaneously exhilarating and daunting. What if it gets lost? How will I know when it gets there? What if someone bends/tears/burns/runs it over with a Nazi Tiger Tank? I imagine it's the feeling parents get when watching their kids drive away without them for the first time... fear, hope, anticipation, joy.

The tactile, personal touch really connected me with the piece again, and the submission process. It's so easy to press a mouse button and submit. With a posted envelope, it's as if your dreams go right into the envelope along with the story, and it makes it more special, somehow.

I also love the idea of submitting in the same way of my writing idols. The internet is so recent; it's easy to forget that. But as little as ten years ago, the majority of authors were doing exactly what I did yesterday afternoon with every submission they made. What perseverance! What raw courage!

What an inspiration!

Fun Discovery

I drive a lot, and often I'm hit with interesting ideas or arresting images that would go well in a story while I'm behind the wheel. Problem is, I often lose those ideas because I don't have a way to record them when I'm driving.

I had a voice recorder for a while, but never really warmed to it - mostly because I hated having to keep up with one more thing; something else to add to the wallet-keys-phone-inhaler-lighter ensemble that lives in the pockets of my pants was irritating. I'd forget and leave it at home, then when I needed it, I'd resent myself and the damn thing for not being where I wanted it to be.

Today in the car, I had another one of those isn't-this-interesting ideas which so often strike me in the most inopportune places (they also hit hard in the shower, and right before I'm asleep at night, drifting in that hazy awake/asleep pseudo-reality). I liked the idea so much, but I felt immediate frustration because I knew there was no way I'd hold on to it until I got to a place where I could write it down. Parts of the concept, maybe, but not the whole thing, not all the nuances; not the things that turn the vision from something ordinary into something spectacular.

Suddenly I remembered my new phone has a lot of nifty gadgets on it that I never thought I'd use. Wonder if it has a voice recorder? I thought. I quickly navigated to my tools. Lo and behold, there was a recorder icon! I was elated. I used it to record the idea I'd had, along with all the interesting little details I'd been noodling.

The discovery made my day. I hope to lose less ideas and thoughts now that I know I'll almost always have a voice recorder with me. Amazing!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Riding the Rejection Train


It's raining here in South Carolina, and it's cold. Wet, raw and gray. Which pretty much matches my feelings when I get a rejection letter in my inbox.

Rejections are never easy. Every story I send out goes with hope, well wishes, and fantastic daydreams. The act of pushing it out the door is a leap of faith. "It's good," I'll say to myself, "really good. I could get paid for this!" I insist, tightening my tentative grasp on new-found confidence. I scour the internet looking for markets to submit to, and use sites like to find a publication that may be a good fit for my piece. Once I find a hopeful-looking market, I go back over my fiction and make sure it's as clean as it can be, and meets the submission guidelines (some markets are very particular about spacing, font, line indents, etc). I compose a carefully worded cover letter, read over it to make sure it says what I really mean (and for Christ's sake, addressed to the right place), and then I sit there for a moment, index finger hovering over the mouse button.


Sometimes I hear back in a matter of hours - Necrotic Tissue rejected me in less than a day. More often it's a waiting game: most small markets will get back to you in 3-6 weeks. Larger publications, like Weird Tales and the time immemorial Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction have thousands of submissions a month, so it may take much longer to hear back from them. Patience is important; I've mastered the art of forgetting about pieces I've sent. It does no good to obsess about them. Switch that part of your brain off as well as you can, fellow writers.

And then, more often than not, the answer is no. No, it's just not a good fit. No, we appreciate the submission, but it doesn't have what we're looking for. We enjoyed reading this, but we're going to pass. And so on. The trick is to look for the encouraging words, buried in the rejection email like tiny nuggets of gold: It has some great moments. This is well written, and you had me hooked. You have a wonderful grasp of imagery. And then there's the coveted phrase, please consider submitting to our market again. YES!! I immediately turn around and send them something else when I hear that - as I did this morning, when my story "Yellow Bus Tuesday" was rejected by Pedestal Magazine. Five minutes after receiving their pleasantly-worded rejection, I had my story "Knights of the Road" headed their way.

Riding the rejection train isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I find if I keep in mind how many rejections it takes to get an acceptance, I can handle it with a positive attitude. In 2009, I submitted 19 times and was accepted once. Once. Because of those kind of statistics, I remind myself every time I get a "no" in my inbox that it's a numbers game. The story is good, so someone will take it sooner or later, right? I always hope it's sooner, but that's not always the case. There's a long journey ahead of me, and I'll be traveling a lot of it via one long, black train... more often than not through cold, gray weather like what's visiting South Carolina today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Zone

The other night I had an interesting thing happen while I was writing.

Not much of the writing I do is planned. I have a general idea of what needs to happen in the scene, and I jump in and write it. Sometimes this starts with a focus on a central image, more often it just plays out much like a setup for a movie scene: the players, the setting, the dialogue. I have an idea and I start writing and the scene just grows from there.

So the other night I was writing a scene where the main protagonist is trying to figure out WTF is up with his brother-in-law, because the guy's done some weirdo scary stuff. The protag gets up early, takes a shower, gets dressed, etc. The whole time we're in his head, listening to him think about all the hinky things that've been going on and adding them up. I knew I wanted him to move through the scene and eventually end up at the orchard to bump into a love interest, but the space between waking up and late afternoon was as yet un-imagined.

So I jumped in and started writing and Jack (my protag) just kind of took over. This is when the writing's best; when the characters do it for you. In writers' group we call it The Zone. When you're in The Zone, it's like tapping into this current of creativity and production that whites out all other thought. You're part of the story, you're in it, and it's more real than the "real world". It's like dreaming awake, but you can remember these dreams... well, most of them anyway. Sometimes after writing sessions when I've been deep in the story, I only have hazy memories of what I've actually written. Maybe it's more like being hypnotized than dreaming...

Anyway, so I'm writing and Jack leaves his house and goes to his brother-in-law's, to talk to him. And of course, he's not there, so Jack decides to go to breakfast and make some notes about the things he's realized, and how he wants to handle the situation. He decided to go to the Venus, a little short-order cafe on Main Street in his town.

Here comes the weird part... Jack's thinking hard and making deductions and trying to figure out what's going on and how he's going to handle it, and I'm pouring myself into the story, hardly aware of what I'm doing, when a woman walks up to his table and starts talking to him. Now I'm just writing this, with no planning or thought, just plucking it out of the ether. When she started talking, I assumed she was the love interest that Jack was going to run into later at the orchard. I just thought it was her, because I hadn't introduced another woman to the story yet. But something about it wasn't right. I pushed on for a few more lines, but the current of Zone had suddenly shut down. I stepped away from the scene for a little while. Later I realized it wasn't the love interest, but the ex-girlfriend who had surprised Jack. I jumped back in and started writing again and the scene took back over. I suddenly had over 3000 words written in just under two hours (smokin, for me).

This is the nature of how I write: I have a feeling, and I follow it. In a way it's like fumbling around in a pitch-black room, trying to find a light switch. You can feel your way through the furniture and (sometimes) people in the room; you can get up close and run your hands over the contours of their faces and their minds. I started writing that scene and heard a woman's voice in my mind, interrupting Jack's deductive train of thought. I didn't know who the woman was yet, because the light hadn't been switched on. So I automatically made her the love interest at first, because I thought that's who she was... but I guessed wrong! When I stepped back and thought about it, the things defining her very shape were a sharp contrast to the love interest in my mind... this new woman had a hectoring, jeering demeanor, completely unlike the nicer character's candid but kind personality.

This was like finding a chair in that pitch-black room, thinking it's an overstuffed easy chair, then stepping back, feeling along the sides, finding the lever on the left, and realizing it's a recliner, instead. Yes, it's a chair - a comfy one. But the actual details of the chair were hidden from me at first. I had to turn on the light - the light of inspiration or creation or whatever that incredible power is - to really identify what it was.

I guess it goes back to my belief that stories are more found than created; I'd found where Jack was, what he was thinking and doing, and even that a woman was talking to him, but I hadn't yet quite uncovered who she was with my careful applications of brushes, shovels and picks. After a little more careful digging, she revealed herself to me.

Neat, huh? Told you it was interesting.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Two jobs, one hope

Like the majority of writers out there, I don't make *quite* enough money yet from my craft to make ends meet. (Insert good-natured yet cynical laughter here; the asterisks above are an indicator of sarcasm, friends). Hopefully that'll change one day, but right now I'm stuck having to work two jobs: the one that pays my rent, gas bill, phone bill, and other expenses... and the other, which offers payment on a much more emotionally rewarding scale: when I'm writing, I'm being paid in the totality of imagination. It's my escape, my voice, my therapist, my joy, my secret, my everything.

It's difficult to work a full-time "real world" job and then turn around and be creative. I don't produce as much as I'd like to; there are days when I can't even shift my brain into productive mode, and am lucky if I can do something as creative as cooking a simple dinner. Forget writing, forget tapping into the elemental ribbon of universal truth: I'm tired, dammit, and I want an ice cream sammich. I'm able to push myself into creative movement more and more often; after all, I understand that talent is a muscle and you must exercise it for your endeavors to grow. You must grind to shine, in other words. But that's easier said than done, more often than not.

The "real world" job I have right now involves sales, lots of sales. But it really is kind of a fun job. I have an old journal, one I left behind when I was unceremoniously booted from the poisonously safe refuge of Corporate America, cast out to drift in the vast gray sea of the lower middle class and the service industry which it so warmly embraces. I read a few entries from that journal earlier today, and now I'm filled with one of my favorite emotions, gratitude.

Gratitude and luck... I feel so very lucky to have lost my 40k a year job, and to be leading a totally different life from what I had two years ago. (Now, I bet you're wondering... is there more sarcasm in that remark? Ah, gentle reader, there were no asterisks around that statement, were there?) Yeah, it's tough. My job pays very little (a bit more than a third of what I was making in C.A., I just got my W2 for last year and it was quite the eye-opener), and I've had to implement a rigid budget to make sure bills get paid on time. And they still don't all get paid on time. Money is ridiculously tight, so much so that I applied for state benefits (EBT/food stamps), and was approved the same day I filed my paperwork. I'm not lamenting that, though. It just adds to the gratitude.

And I have another trade-off... I'm not under the backbreaking weight of constant pressure that builds and builds and builds when you're working in a cubicle farm. I'm not tied to a desk, don't have to be in the office at any specific time, and can leave to go out in the sunshine whenever I want to, provided I complete the work I have to do in the time I'm allotted. I was reading back over all those posts from when I worked in a huge office, and over and over I kept saying, "I hate it here. I hate being here. I wanna be out in the sunshine. I wanna be in a place I can have fun." More than that, the constant emotional punishment of living and working a hefty salary white-collar job ate away at my drive to write. "It's all right," I'd say to myself, "I work so hard, and I'm making good money... I'm too tired to write. I don't have time right now. I'll write later."

Well... it's later, kids.

Now I have what I need... money's tight, true. It's hard to spread myself between two ventures, yes. But I'm on the right path (the write path? heh). I'm grateful, so grateful I've been given this chance to honor the Muse. I'm so glad I've been laid low financially. "Prosperity breeds forgetfulness." Sadly, it's the truth. Right now everything makes me grateful, because times are so hard. And because of that, there's a lot of light and love in my life right now.

And hope. Never forget hope.