Adulting as a Writer, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Chaos

Most people I know, particularly most writers I know, don’t enjoy adulting. I hated adulting so much I told myself I was happy with part-time service industry jobs for 10 years before I finally went to college. At the time, I thought I was going back to college so that I could get on with conforming to adulthood. By the time I graduated last summer at the age of 32, I’d realized, thanks to friends and most of all professors, that being a responsible adult does not mean a soul-crushing 9-5 job, and that my skills as a person are, actually, valuable in the “real world,” no matter what anyone outside my fields of expertise might tell me to the contrary. It has been an inspiring and revealing year for me as a young-30’s writer.

I got a degree in anthropology because I wanted to do archaeology. I got a job with a local archaeology firm before I graduated. I still work for that firm, and people still tell me there are no jobs in archaeology. When people ask if it’s full time and I say, “Not at the moment,” they often look smug, and I look smug right back, because here’s the thing: I never wanted to devote all my time and energy to one thing. The best way for me to go from loving something to being soul-crushingly bored by it is to do it all the time. Granted, archaeology has enough variety in itself that 40 hour weeks would definitely not be a problem. But I get to work in my chosen field with people I get along with, getting exercise and spending time in nature frequently as part of my job. My favorite pastime as a child was playing in dirt and finding stuff to put in my “museum” (i.e. playhouse).

The rest of my work week consists of researching and writing articles for the history website Clio, and doing freelance editing for other writers. Which makes for a nice triad of activities to keep me (1) paid and (2) interested in everything I’m doing. Physical work and research/writing for reports at Corn Island Archaeology, historic research and article writing for the Clio, and reading fiction and working through edits for my own business…it’s a good mix for me. It keeps me a little busier than I’d ever intended to be, and I work more than 40 hours a week, but I enjoy it all and I make a living! I get paid to do things I grew up doing for fun! What better way to adult??? Funny thing is, I still didn’t think of myself as a successful adult until my mother pointed this perspective out to me. (This is one of many reasons I am lucky my mom is also a writer and is awesome.)

Perhaps because I’ve learned to live in chaos and a perpetual state of having something I should be working on, I’ve rePerBastet_tallcatcently added to my agenda the role of Marketing Director for Per Bastet Publications, the house through which my own novel, The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, is now published. Strangely, taking on more in this case has made me feel more driven to work on my own fiction, something I’ve let slide far too much this year. The more I think of what the press offers (so far, a number of excellent speculative fiction novels and collections of short stories!) the more I find myself wanting to write more stuff, wanting to actively work to share more of the ideas that bounce around in my head all the time with readers.

So, you might be wondering, what am I writing these days? I’ve got two projects in the fire at the moment, both of which I’m actively working on (most days), as my schedule allows. 1. A sequel to Erica Flynn, which I have around 20,000 words on and no title for yet. 2. A series of interconnected steampunk/cyberpunk short stories featuring Penelope and Puddingfoot in post-apocalyptic (no zombies) adventures across America (the first of which was published in the Circuits & Steam anthology). I’m working on the second story now, with a four-story plot arc lined up.

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The Pros of Cons

Last weekend, I attended the first annual Imaginarium Louisville – a convention for writers, readers, and cover artists.  This was easily the best-organized, friendliest, and best-programmed convention I’ve attended in the last 5 years or more.  And it wasn’t just the folks running the event who made it awesome.  I met some intensely creative, fun, and interesting people last weekend that I look forward to seeing at next year’s Imaginarium (if not at another event in the meantime!)  One of the things I’ve always appreciated about being around other writers is that 99% of all writers I’ve met are generous with advice, interested in everything, and respectful of others’ styles and ideas.

The only down side is, now I’m so fired up about writing AND I HAVE NO TIME TO DO IT!!!!!  School, much as I enjoy it, and work (lucky as I am to have two part-time jobs that I love) and all things related to school and work take up pretty much all of my time…and what little I have left is used on maintaining my sanity and doing things like, you know, sleeping, eating, and taking showers on a daily basis.  However, winter break will be here before I know it…  If I am never NOT insanely busy (and I hate being busy, so this is fairly likely), here are the things I want to work on:

1. The second edition of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, which will be released through Per Bastet Publications as soon as I finish proofreading it and writing the new “director’s cut” scene in the final 1/3 of the book.  This will hopefully happen in early October!

2. The second book of the trilogy (yes, I said trilogy), which is partially underway.

3. A full collection of post-apocalyptic short stories, all set in the same world as “She Who Dines on Heavenly Food,” my cyber/steam punk crossover starring Penelope & Puddingfoot.  And yes, I want to write a second Penelope & Puddingfoot story…I’ve already written the beginning.

4. Another book of speculative fiction short stories (which I haven’t started) based on pieces of Russian history.

Now, all I have to do is graduate…

Catching Up With Fiction

So I’ve made it through another school year, and have over 250 pages of essays and notes to show for it.  As usual when I don’t have time to write fiction, I’ve been missing the process of putting together stories, settings, and characters – but they say a variety of types of writing is good practice.  I know for a fact that my expository writing has improved this semester, and connecting ideas and maintaining pacing  is important in either style.  Now that it’s summer, I’m so excited about the chance to get back to fiction that I can’t decide which project to work on!

Not that my summer is going to be much less busy than the school year…for the next few weeks, I’m doing book events, hopefully getting some editing work, and preparing for my archaeological field school.  Then I head off to Spain for 3 weeks to help excavate a Celtic Iron Age necropolis (stay tuned for updates on that!)  When I get back, I’ll (*fingers crossed!*) have a job waiting – plus more book events and independent research for my senior honors thesis for next year.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you!

Still, it’s high time to make time to write.  I’ve got a sequel for Erica Flynn to work on, a follow-up story to my steampunk/cyberpunk short story for 3 Fates Press’ anthology (Circuits & Steam) and a series of other interconnected post-apocalyptic short stories to go along with it,  and a prequel story to King Kong.  I feel like a kid in a candy store just thinking about all these projects!