I’m working on my book this week, I’ve decided. I’m working on a book, you probably didn’t know that since I rarely mention it. I rarely mention it because I have barely written a new word in the last year. I stopped working on it because I realized it would be years before I saw any money from the book and I need money. I need money now rather than later when I will probably be dead anyway. I stopped working on the book.
I decided I was going to try my hand at freelance writing. It seemed straightforward enough. I contact a publication, tell them I would like to write for them for pay and here are some things I’ve written in the past, etc, etc. The editors would read my previous work and immediately agree to pay me $500 to write 750 to 1,000 words on something interesting. This would continue, with the occasional polite refusal, until eventually my name was on The New Yorker cover every third week. There would be just enough time in my schedule for work with The Oxford American, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Granta. For funzies, I could cover NASCAR for Vanity Fair. I don’t know. You get the picture.
It will be at this point that every one of my readers who are also freelance writers will be wiping a tear of mirth from the corner of their eye.
In the past months, I have answered submission calls for personal essays on breast cancer/experience thereof, breast cancer/October awareness campaigns, breast cancer/screening, breast cancer/politics, breast cancer/recovery from, etc. etc. I have sent pitches to editors. I pitched timely essays on the mess with Planned Parenthood or the NFL and breast cancer. I pitched informative essays on chronic side effects. I pitched essays about old movies. Food. Southern food. Southern food in old movies featuring breast cancer patients.
All rejected. Called for submissions rejected. Cold pitches rejected. Timely and poignant rejected. Informative rejected. All of it, rejected.
Now, before you begin shouting advice at me, let me admit, here, I haven’t pitched a tremendous number of places. It was a shock, all of the rejections. I took them personally because many of them were based on deeply personal experiences. It was more than a bit unnerving to have an editor younger than many of my t-shirts tell me my experience of terminal cancer was not interesting enough as a stand alone article. But not nearly as unnerving as having my emails go unanswered entirely. It took the wind right out of my sails.
I got sick again. That was hard. And then sickness brought on insomnia. Insomnia brought on other things. Other things brought on depression. And I stopped submitting.
Now, here I am, no closer to a sustainable living than I was a year ago. I still need to earn a living. I still haven’t figured that out. I know I am a decent enough writer. I know I can write on damn near anything. I know there are worse writers than I making a good living writing. I read them every day.
Trying to figure it all out while also putting together the puzzle that is my life and my brain and the basket of shitty shitty side effects I deal with, I don’t know, maybe I can’t do it. Maybe the planning and the attention span and the executive function needed, maybe I don’t have it to do it all any more. I don’t know.
Today, I’m going to work on my book.