Before I wanted to be a millionaire entrepreneur (but after I wanted to be a juggler) I wanted to be a writer. There was a phase where I trained to climb the tallest volcanoes and BASE jump into them, yet the idea of writing remained in the back of my mind, and even during my practical deliver-postal-mail-for-forty-five-years-and-retire-with-a-great-pension period, I couldn’t shake the desire to scribble a few silly thoughts onto paper and call them a story. So, unemployed and bored, I once again returned to my writing aspirations, which partly explains why I haven’t done any writing. On this blog, I mean—so allow me to catch you up.
In May I worked on two short stories with only limited success, one story spawning some seven different versions, all bad; in early June I completed a first draft of an entirely different story about a horse on a trampoline; a week later, invigorated by the trampoline tale, I completed a first draft of The Portraitist, my longest story to date (about 7,500 words); around the same time I tinkered with something about a spaceship crewed by TV-loving robots; late June I began working on a novel. (That’s all true, too.)
The novel is loosely based on my short time as a Senate employee, although by loosely I mean not at all. The son of a late Senator is appointed by the Governor to serve out the remainder of his father’s term and is thus charged with passing the bill that will solidify his father’s legacy. Joining him is a cast of ridiculous characters who make his every move pretty funny—at least in my head it’s funny. Progress was initially quite slow, as I morphed the story from butterfly to caterpillar to donut, but now that I’m set on a firm course with a detailed plan, things are just as slow. The good news is I’m about 17% of the way to 100,000 words (or an average novel size), and my plan has me finished with the first draft March 1.
The first anniversary of my job-quitting is nigh, and although it looks to the average person that I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing in three-hundred-and-some days, you now know for real that their presumption was accurate.
As you know, I moved home to small town Iowa to continue living the self-unemployed lifestyle.
Here I can live in something resembling comfort while only doing ten hours of freelance work a week. The remainder of the time I’m free to pursue my own interests. I can go to the gym or work on a novel. I’m supposed to brainstorm on some business ideas, but I don’t feel like it at the moment. The pace is slower here, and I’ve lost my sense of urgency. Partly it’s that I’m no longer rushing from place to place; more significantly it’s that I have no great ambition for the future.
Monday and Tuesday are strenuous two-hour workathons. Sometimes I even work overtime. After work I hit up the grocery store before lunch. I always buy an item that requires a “price check” because I think it’s fun. For those of you unfamiliar with small grocery stores, this occurs when the item you want to buy isn’t logged in the computer and an actual human person must locate the poorly-described item in question, discern its price, and return this information to the checker in the form of a high-pitched scream. The checker then enters the price and the computer promptly forgets it so you can do it again next time.
Wednesday I take my middle weekend. I play Mario Kart, watch movies, read a novel, break out a 20oz pop. I get a burger and cheese balls. I may run some errands or mow the lawn. I’ll probably wash my tower of dishes that’s glued together with pasta bits.
Thursday I recuperate from my middle weekend. I decide to get ethnic food, which means a taco burger at the greasy spoon. I usually go into the backyard sans shoes and lock myself out. Then I have to walk a block to the middle school and inconspicuously meander down the halls to my mom’s office for the spare.
Friday I mentally prepare for my coming weekend.
Saturday and Sunday I brood about how I can’t get anything done.
I can get used to this.
When I tell people I don’t want a “real job” they don’t believe me.
Not deep-down, anyway. Sure, you don’t want one, but you’ll have to face reality someday. You’ll come crawling back, oh, yes, you will.
So, I suffer their kindness. I get emails with job postings or notes about so-and-so’s brother at IBM. People will ask me, to fill a silence, “Did you find a job yet?” They sign me up for resume workshops.
And I just sigh. How dense are they!
But reality does set in. There are bills piling up and nobody’s taking the responsibility of paying them. I know it’s either get a real job or… or what?
I pace around my apartment and notice it’s a little too freshly-painted. There’s no baked-on grime to the oven burners and by apartment operator’s math that cleanliness is probably costing me $25 a month extra in rent. I start mentally subtracting things from the apartment. Fireplace – $100. Balcony – $50. No saintly person ever needed a machine to wash dishes. I don’t eat breakfast in the nook anyway. If this place was just a lot crappier I wouldn’t even need money.
So I do something that would have seemed impossible six months ago. I load all my stuff into a van and head out for small town Iowa, where I will occupy a dilapidated rental house in a low-cost-of-living paradise. And if for some reason that doesn’t work out, I’m not too proud to move in with my parents, get my old job at the grocery store, and re-enroll in high school.