As of January 8th, 2022, it’s been 2 years since I received a paycheck. In those 2 years, I wrote 6 books, while a psychedelic delusion grew in the dark like a funny mushroom: I am the golden child. Watch me escape the rat race with my first book. After all, “If you build it, they will come.”
I published it on October 16th, 2021, and my minuscule sales burned down that field of dreams.
After a week of hoping for a miracle, something caught my eye in the kitchen: By 2026, my passive income from self-publishing will match my living expenses. I wrote that on January 8th, 2020, and attached it to the fridge. Underneath was another forgotten sticky note: Publish the first book by 2022 and go back to Big Tech as a contractor until the author’s life becomes self-sustaining.
I had been so engaged in Fox’s story; I forgot about my pragmatic goal and its supporting objectives. The initial release from an unknown author is the lose-leader. It’s meant to build a fanbase, not wealth; I knew this, but I guess my heart didn’t believe it.
With the lunacy lifted, I changed my diaper and continued the plan. No days off. Every waking moment was prolific. In 2 weeks, I gained a small following, dropped a paperback, hardback, and developed the audio version while prepping the second book for release. Not to mention the full-time job of marketing. Everything was flowing like the wind.
November arrived. Time to shift gears. My tech-fu was almost 2 years stiff, and I needed to develop my website. I could have WYSIWYG’d it, but my nerd wood craved the raw, so I dove in like a starving beast. It took me a week to rejuvenate my rusty skills. I was high on engineering again. Terraform, AWS, and Ansible were feeding my grin as I zoned in the wee hours with my first love.
Half the month went by before I realized I was behind schedule on my editing projects. But the promise of bootstrap cash made my deadline spillage worth the sacrifice. In fact, by month’s end, I was readjusting my budget with glee. Then, December 1st, 2021 came, and a dark cloud emerged.
Why was I blue?
I scratched my feelings into a journal, but something blinded me to the black and white truth. So I remained self deceived as the teakettle blew.
One day, a good friend dropped by. I’m an author. Everything is going according to plan. That’s the truth — and the facade. “So how’s the book coming?” was all it took to unmask me.
I need more time. To hell with the plan. I can’t wordsmith and do tech work. Left and right brain context switching is impossible to maintain. It’ll suffocate me and murder my legacy. Fox’s tale will never be told. I need more time. If I can publish the audio book and the next e-book, I would be okay with click-clacking for Big Tech again. But I only have enough money to survive for a few months. I need more time.
My former friend said nothing. What could he say? He was fond of ignoring the muse’s call. Resistance enslaved him long ago. So I didn’t expect him to understand, nor was I asking for a donation. But there was unexpected cheer beneath his pseudo-concerned expression. It glared from his eyes like a spotlight as he surveyed my misery.
After his cordial dismissal, I got back to work with watery vision. I put on my headphones, and after 3 minutes, cigar ashes filled the sky when I smashed my fist into the table. I would need to redo track 14. It was the last straw. The learning curve of sound engineering snatched me down to earth with a sonic boom. I plopped on the couch and stared at the ceiling in silence. I needed more time.
Going back to my 19 year career was a part of the plan from day one. However, I fell in love with working only for the muse. I didn’t want to share my energy with anything else. But a reluctant return to my former cash cow was coming, and the bitter reality made bullets look scrumptious.
The promise of fiery lakes, and the childhood values instilled by my mother, kept that unholy craving at bay. So I remained in a living crucible, learning and burning. I stopped smiling, and barely ate, as my pants sagged like a 1990s gang member. Empty cigar boxes grew exponentially before the fireplace. “Thy will be done,” and “Please help me with this,” were my daily mantra, as I continued to cultivate my legacy.
The grief subsided over time with the inevitable rise of acceptance: I’m an author and an engineer, so act accordingly. Happy New Year. Time to go back. I splurged on some Chinese food to celebrate. Yichen came within minutes; the benefit of tipping big.
“Man, that’s a nice truck,” he said. Strange. This isn’t the first time he’s seen it. I peeked at my fully loaded 2019 Ford Edge ST gleaming in the driveway and smirked with pride. Only 5K miles on the odometer so far; it would last forever. I really needed to use it more, but I’m an all-weather true biker.
I rushed to the table and moved my scribbled notes of script revisions aside to make room for the feast. Dessert comes first in my house and two entrees means two treats. Crunch. I devoured the first one.
“Fortune is right under your nose.”
Hmph. Wouldn’t that be nice? Crunch.
“Fortune is created with action. Don’t wait.”
Fortune-fortune-fortune-cookie. How redundant.
I ate in front of my laptop and scanned some interesting articles. A car salesman begging at the junkyard snared my attention: there was a scarcity of new vehicles because of “you know what.” My appetite disappeared. I put the chopsticks down and rushed to the Ford dealer, sweating with anticipation.
One hour later, a Lyft driver brought me home. The trip was pleasant, but eerie. He didn’t say a word, just drove in silence, like the robots that will replace him.
I walked through my door and dropped to my knees, thanking my GOD for yet another miracle. This wasn’t the first time HE granted me clemency in this fight for freedom.
Tech can wait. I have an extra year to serve the muse.
This — is the war of art.