We sat in a café. Kaif leaned back in her chair.
“Well, I guess we’ll need money,” she said.
I got out a pad of paper. “Let’s see.”
We figured that if we made every sacrifice—lived somewhere shitty, split the rent, ate minimally, owned nothing and didn’t go out much—we could get by on a monthly income of $630.
This was before Milwaukee Stew. It was before Deployment. Actually, it was before I even quit my job.
A friend, fellow writer, and former student of mine, Kaif was interested. If I was going to quit my job and travel the world, she wanted in. For me it was a spiritual quest. I think it was for her, too.
It never worked out that way. Our plans would diverge within months, as plans do, and I haven’t seen her since that summer. But at the time, we intended to make our names.
When all the math was done, we looked at our monthly budget. Even a low-end part-time job would be enough.
“I think I can do that,” I said. “I can live lean if it’ll let me be a writer.”
She nodded. “We can be poor together.”
I raised my cuppa, cheers.
Thoughts came. A flame kind of burned up inside me. Everything I had been reading—about business, about self-publishing, about The Web—came tumbling through the fog. A sense of resolve. I looked up.
She raised an eyebrow.
“What if we’re not poor. What if we’re rich.”
The conversation took a new turn. We began to talk blogging, self promotion, long tail, how to make a living without a big publisher. We got excited. We got planful. I believed it.
Actually, I still do.
It’s not an easy road. I learned how to write SEO articles, ad copy, stuff that would pay. By September I started freelancing, one $4 article at a time.
Savings disappeared. I had enough to live in Thailand, not quite enough for Mexico City. By the time I got back to the US I had to spend weeks hunting new clients. Blissfully, for a few short months, I had so much work that money wasn’t a source of stress.
In all this, I put off the dream. I made a living writing, sure, but not my writing. Ad copy is a job. It’s not my art or my novel, not a treatise on adventure or occult philosophy.
This week I’m writing nonstop. Sabbatical in Wisconsin. I have a tough choice. Clients are dried up again, so I should spend the week chasing new ones and doing paid work. But this is the best opportunity I’ll have to put that stuff aside and finish real writing, real art.
It’s publish or bust. I choose publish.