Of Odd Jobs and Otters
Last week, I had my first anxiety dream about my upcoming book release. It started with a gathering of hundreds of people in a library atrium, all waiting to hear me read from my young adult novel, Being Roy. If only the dream had stopped there, a delicious tableau vivant to treasure upon waking. Instead, copies of my book were passed out to the crowd, and as one was given to me I noticed that the cover image was of a river-slick otter waving his little paw at the camera.
In horror, I flipped through the pages and saw that crude pen and ink drawings of cutesy animals were interspersed throughout the book, yet the text remained the same. It was still the story of a gender-queer high school kid who finds herself launched from a West Virginia trailer park into the rarified world of an exclusive prep school. My book is a sweet coming-of-age story, but is also a little dark. There is blood. There is sex. There are no otters. In the dream, my publisher explained to me that my input on the decision to go in the cutesy animal direction was solicited, but I was too busy with other things to reply.
It would be crazy to quit a job because of a dream, and though it was far more nuanced than that, quitting is exactly what I did. I realized, just in the nick of time, that the moment I had been working toward for years, the publication of my first novel, was about to pass me by while I was busy trying to have a “normal life” and writing in the slender margins. I’ve done everything, including truck driving and donating my body to medical science (and excluding stripping and sex work) to buy more time to write. Until this year, I thought I might be one of those heroic breed of writers who could get up at four thirty in the morning, write until it’s time to go to work, put in nine hours of a “straight job”, then go home to crack open the laptop again while wolfing down a hasty dinner. I tried it, and it sucked.
Writing has ruined me for the straight life. My writing requires way more time staring out of windows, going for hikes, and getting into conversations with strangers on public transportation than a nine-to-five lifestyle allows. It also requires days, months, years, rather than stolen moments. My muse is not the kind to respond to the sound of my laptop powering up. (That sound actually seems to cue her lunch break.) So I’m back to writing front and center and the rent-paying, grocery-buying work can damn well jostle for space at the edges. I’d rather eat beans from a can and get pulmonary exams for pay than trade my path for a paycheck.
(Note: If you represent a fancy brand of tea and want to pay me thousands of dollars to be seen in a café pounding away at my laptop with your product by my side, my path will happily accommodate it. You can reach me through my contact page.)