People often look at me with something of a vacant stare when I tell them that I am a writer. I have to confess that saying what I do for a living is still a little odd and even feels somewhat pretentious when I spit it out. Perhaps it’s because I have something of a different view of what it entails to be a “real writer” that makes me so reluctant to use the word on myself. I have written for as long as I can remember, crafting strange little tales from places in my mind that aren’t usually accessible to the general public. I never told anyone that I wrote, as it was viewed as something that nobody really did, despite the fact that our local library was full to brimming with books.
I continued to write, and finally got the nerve to start sending out my stories to magazines that I thought might be interested. Weeks and months would pass before I received the obligatory, usually painfully rude rejection letter. This process became much like playing a round of golf. You would convince yourself that you were truly terrible until the moment you hit that one great drive or chip shot that made you feel like the game was easy. That was the same feeling I got when I first got published, albeit in an obscure little Canadian magazine that is now long since gone. It didn’t matter, I got paid and I was a published writer; they could never take that away from me.
The problem was that my little tales of terror didn’t pay very well, which made any thought of writing as a career nothing more than a pipe dream. That all changed with the internet and a need for content to be used as a marketing tool. I found myself a nice little niche in there and was finally able to give up my job and work at writing full-time. The fact that what I was being asked to churn out was more of a chore than my previous warehouse position was of little consequence. I was writing and making a living doing it. The creative itch continued to niggle at me, though, and as luck would have it, the rise of e-readers and portable devices created a whole new avenue for struggling writers.
Self-publishing has been around in one form or another for a long time, although it used to involve sending your manuscript, as well as a check for a few thousand bucks, to a shady publishing house who would then print of a couple of hundred copies. It’s all free now, and sites like Smashwords and Lulu give you the creative freedom to put up your content as you see fit, including the cover, which can then be downloaded by readers at a price you set. It’s an absolute dream come true to be able to have that level of control and not have to wait months for a nasty rejection. Yes, there is some junk out there, with some thinking my stuff should be in that pile, but self-publishing is that glimmer of hope for writers everywhere. It’s a good place to hone your craft, receive unbiased feedback, and generally just find a way to improve. I’m still not getting rich off of the type of writing that drives me, but at least I can get it out there to those that are willing to pay a very small price for the privilege.