“Don’t Expect To Make A Living At Writing.”

“Don’t expect to make a living at writing.”

This is the first advice that I ever got, talking to someone about becoming a writer. While the people telling me this were already in the industry, and felt as though they were handing down valuable advice, it really fucked me up for a while.

There is nothing more that I have come to hate than the words ‘don’t quit your day job’ and ‘don’t expect to make a living at writing.’ Of course you don’t quit your day job until your work pays for itself. That’s common sense. I know people like to paint artists as having their brain in space, but really, most artists actually do know what baseline reality requires.

Look, writing is hard. Art of any kind is hard. You’re not producing something that fulfills a mechanical requirement or providing a directly tangible service. It’s not cooking food or selling products for a third party. It’s scary shit. It’s like going to college – you put a shitload of time and money into learning and polishing a given discipline that you have absolutely zero guarantee that you’re going to be able to turn into a job once you get that paper and get the hell out of school. Please, people. If you have a friend or loved one who’s trying to write – or do any kind of art – don’t tell them the obvious. They already know it’s scary as hell. They already know that they might fail. They are literally trying to crystallize human experience and emotion into a tangible, consumable form. They’re already working without a net, they don’t need a push.

Just support them. Listen, talk with them, and never assume that their work isn’t going to succeed just because you don’t like or understand it. There are people who still think that cave paintings are the raddest shit ever, your girlfriend’s webcomic isn’t some kind of bizarre aberration and your son’s poetry is going to get better over time. And even if they aren’t doing well right now, don’t pass judgment on the whole of their life moving forward. This shit takes a lot of time – but I promise you, even if they don’t end up doing what they wanted to or making a living off their work, the act of creating in a supportive environment is so much better for their mental health that you may well find that you’ve made their life bearable in ways you never knew existed.

And for those of you who DO quit your day job and devote yourself to this full time? Holy shit, you guys. You will always have my undying respect.

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Happy New Year, I Am Not Dead.

But I AM riddled with pneumonia, so that’s making things pretty hardcore for me right now. Still writing the third book, which is getting massive. Have assistant helping to go through it and pare back to streamline the editing process. Want to get this motherfucker done and out for everyone who is asking for it, which has been a surprisingly considerable amount. Love you guys.

New policy for 2015: 5% of all earnings from book sales go straight to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. This is liable to become a permanent policy, but for now I’m going to do it for the rest of the year. Yes, now you too can do good for people all around you while buying cyberpunk literature. I really should have done this earlier.

So that’s where I am. Also, I have severe, SEVERE feels about Scarlett Johannson playing Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Ghost In the Shell movie. Spoiler: I am not on board. Not that I don’t love me some ScarJo – she’s amazing when she’s properly cast, and she does a lot of amazing movies. But on the other hand, I am sick to death of white folks being cast in roles for other ethnicities and nationalities where there are a host of potential actors and actresses fitting that role. How are they going to do this? A different story with Motoko being in a very Anglo prosthetic body? Maybe in a sequel, but not if you’re going to crack this IP out to the public on screen for the first time. Yes, I know that you need a star to draw cash for some productions, but I sure as shit didn’t want to see one of the capital works of the cyberpunk genre given the whitewashing treatment.

But then again, that’s what’s so bad about the Hollywood whitewashing machine – they might have indeed have auditioned a host of Asian actresses and truly felt that Scarlett was the proper fit. We’ll never know. That’s how the beast has become. How it’s always been. Man that shit has got to change.

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In which I talk about how Neil Gaiman owes me pancakes.

By Michael, Age 36

Neil Gaiman owes me pancakes. He doesn’t know it, of course, but he does.

So as I have mentioned, I have really bizarre dreams. Often they are horrifying and violent, and are the stuff of nightmares. That kind of thing. Whatever. Occasionally, however, I dream about writing – as in, the art thereof. Usually these are postcards from my brain, motivating me to write something when I haven’t. But when I was working on my first novel, I had a couple of dreams in which a very famous writer appeared to chastise me, and that writer is Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman owes me pancakes.

In my first dream involving him, he flew in through an open window in the form of a raven, transforming into his rumpled self, and said, ‘You really need to just write the book, you know.’

‘Yes, Neil,’ I said, ‘But I’m having a lot of problems with motivation.’

‘If you write this book,’ he said, ‘You’ll start a career. If you start a career, you will eventually become popular enough to feature at conventions. And you will meet me. We will have breakfast together. You’d like to have pancakes with Amanda and myself, wouldn’t you?’

At the time, it did. So of course I said ‘Fine, fine’ and he nodded, turned back into a raven and flew out into the summer night.

The SECOND time, I woke up one morning after a particularly long stretch of being completely nonproductive, only to see that in the corner of my bedroom was a small wrought iron table, on which a large stack of pancakes was set up with some lovely country crockery, and there was Neil, munching away and shaking his head at me. He looked very displeased.

So that’s my story about Neil Gaiman, dreams, and how he owes me pancakes. I doubt I’ll ever collect, but it makes for a funny story to tell people.

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