What I’ve Been Up To

So I’ve had some people asking me privately what I’m up to now that I’m not writing for Cracked and Mental Floss. That’s an excellent question, and it takes some explaining.

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do and be pretty candid here. Believe it or not, before the fundraiser thing a few months ago, I pretty much never talked about myself on here. So, get ready to hear a bunch of that…

Back in April, I was recruited for a new site called We Are Young. I liked the plan the guys in charge (Jason and Asa) had in mind, I liked their vision, and I thought it’d be awesome to be on board, even if that did mean I’d have to leave the sites where I’d made my career.

I don’t think I mentioned it on here, but a few weeks ago an issue came up regarding my contract with WAY. I don’t want to go into details, but it was something we couldn’t work out (I will also add that I was far from faultless in the issue), so we mutually agreed that we’d both walk away. That sucked, because I had quit the job I had for five and a half years for this.

Let me stop for a second to talk about my old job. I was a third shift security guard, which is actually not a bad gig for a guy who likes to write, especially about creepy stuff. I started in college and I graduated in 2008, when the economy shit all over itself.

A new graduate with an English degree isn’t hot shit in a champagne glass at the best of times, and so you can imagine the pickings were pretty slim. I just decided to take my part-time job full-time. It worked okay, because I had lots of time to write (though I didn’t start that professionally until 2010) and being by myself all night isn’t a real big deal to me.

It wasn’t glamorous, but it paid the bills, just barely. So, naturally, I’ve been trying to get a full-time writing job like a bastard for a long time. Internet freelancing doesn’t pay great. Some people can make a living off it. I am not one of those people. I’ve got too much debt from a period where I chose not to work while I was in college and another period where my wife was unemployed during the aforementioned economy-shitting. (We also got married during that same period because we had already started planning it before she lost her job, which piled things on quite a lot.)

Anyway, back to the present. For about the last month I’ve been unemployed for the first time in over half a decade. Last week, I went back to my security job and it was the worst feeling I’ve experienced in a long time. It felt like defeat and failure and being the biggest loser in history. It’s never been a bad job, but I felt like shit because I had been there. I had the dream – a professional writer. People could ask what I did and I wouldn’t have to sound like a douche when I’d say “Well, I’m a writer, and I have a book and dozens of hugely popular articles, but I’m also paid just over minimum wage to keep drunk idiots out of an office building for eight hours a night. My resume is a total piece of shit nightmare.”

But, as luck would have it, We Are Young got back in touch with me this week and asked if I wanted to come back under a new contract (still working on that). I made some mistakes the first go-round and I wasn’t totally happy (mostly because I felt totally out of my league), but I accepted.

It’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but without hesitation I quit my security job for the second time in three months. If things get fucked up this time, I am totally boned and without a lifeline. I’ve already gotten the “you’re an idiot” speech from my wife and a couple of my friends, but I have no regrets, and I’ll tell you why:

Call me a fool, feel free to tell me all about my hubris, but I’ve worked my god damned ass off for an opportunity like this. I am not a bold person. I am fairly cautious and loathe to make decisions that I’m afraid I’ll regret. But I’ve wanted to make a living off my writing since I was a wee lad who wrote ghost stories in chicken scratch on wide ruled school paper. (Related: I haven’t written fiction in, like, a while and I’d like to change that.)

I give up easily. I admit it. But I don’t want to give this up because I’d be cheating myself. Yeah, I could keep freelancing at my security job. I liked that just fine. But it’s running back to that safety, too. Safe is easy. David Wong, who helped me get this career started and is a font of quotable wisdom, likes to say that nothing worth doing is easy.

I’d argue that probably nothing worth doing feels like a particularly smart decision, either.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I don’t know if I’ll be able to write for my old sites again under this new contract. Probably not. I don’t know if I’m going to get to write a second book yet. It depends on how this first one sells. (Shipping now from Amazon and Barnes and Noble!) I don’t know if I’m an idiot or not yet. Jury’s still out on that one.