There have been two sides of me writing for the last few years. One knows I'll never make money off this, and does it because there is something burning inside me that has to come out. So he writes because he has to. To this person, writing is its own reward and its own curse.
There is another side of me, though, that I can't quite get to hush. It dreams of somehow, miraculously, in spite of all the facts about publishing these days and how unrealistic it is to dream of ever making real money at this, somehow turning writing into what I do for a living. Part of that is just that I want to leave my current job. I don't hate my job. I probably have it better than most working people in America. It's just not always a great fit for my personality. I feel a lot of anxiety, mostly because I'm afraid of what happens if I fuck it up.
95% of the time, I manage to squelch the voice that would beguile me into thinking of making a living out of writing literary fiction. But 5% of the time, that voice breaks through, makes me dream unrealistic dreams, and then I'm all the more crushed when reality inevitably settles on me again.
For the last few years, I've been using writing as the thing that makes my day job bearable, the thing that shows I'm not just what I do at work. But writing also keeps me from doing what I sometimes think I ought to do--get another bachelor's degree in something other than English and find another career in life. I'd have to give up writing for a while to pursue a new field that would allow me to do something new with my life. But writing is also kind of what sustains me in the here and now. Which is why I sometimes fall into the foolish trap of dreaming of making a living off writing.
I didn't expect my book of artsy short stories to sell a ton of copies. But right now, I'm a little bit humiliated--I don't know another word strong enough for it--by the lack of sales. For Chrissakes, I know a lot of people, even though I'm a heavy introvert. But unless Amazon's sales tracker is very, very wrong, almost none of those people I know bought a book, in spite of my uncharacteristic, unpleasant self-promotion of it on Facebook and in person. And nobody who doesn't know me has bought one yet. I refused to give up and self-publish all those years, but there are plenty of self-published books outselling me by a wide margin.
At least one of my brothers hasn't bought the book or said anything to me about it. Lots of friends seem to have not realized that this was a big deal to me, and I really needed them to step up, buy a book and maybe write a review. I don't get paid for them buying a book--not unless 1,000 copies sell, at which point I start to get a share of the sales. It's not about money. It's about legitimizing what I do so it feels like a real thing. It's about making a strong showing with this book so I have a chance of selling the novel that is my real goal here.
I worked hard for years to get a book published. Tomorrow is the official drop day, and all I'm thinking of right now is how I want to put this whole stupid midlife crisis writing phase behind me and do something practical with my life. People seem to need HVAC repair more than they need artsy stories about death, poverty, and male identity.