Sorely Tested

How many parents ask their wee ‘uns what they want to be when they grow up, and are devastated to learn their child wants to become a writer?

Why? Why would you want to be one of those Junior? Be a plumber or a janitor, or a felon, anything but a writer.

Sorry daddy, it’s deep in my soul and I can’t pretend it ain’t. But go ahead and make me second-guess my passion because I'm too young and dependent to distrust you. Then maybe I'll follow your lead into a dead-end existence, and, like you, I'll end up fat, stressed, broke and bald, licking the balls of some corporate machine that knows me only as a number. Thanks for the great direction.

The universe has funny ways of leading it’s writers to their calling. Deny it all you want, but if your DNA is programmed that way, eventually, after what seems like eons of slogging through shit, there will be no denying the truth.

I think I have a good placement test concept for someone who's wondering if they might be a writer. It has yet to be proven successful, but please bear with me. Here goes.

To start with, live a lifestyle you despise for as long as you can drag it out, working dead end jobs until the overwhelming disappointment of how badly you have failed at life finally outweighs the fear of starving to death, and then quit. Quit working in general I mean. Just stop.

You've already lost the sexy truck you were using to prop up your anemic ego, because your last peon job wasn’t lucrative enough to cover the payments. Even though you've been living rent-free on a foreclosure property for six months. Just a scenario here, totally made up from past... ahem, “fictional” experience.

Anyhooo, after losing the ego-crutch, you could then buy a shitty vehicle from a buddy for whatever you have left in your pockets, and live in it with your better half until it dies on the street. Then you, your lovely partner, and your son will have to push it through the city to the parking lot at your children’s fleabag apartment.

Well, before it died, you would have split up the time in said "shitty vehicle" with time spent staying on the dilapidated boat you had previously abandoned for over a year at the marina. The only reason the boat is still yours is because your life story has been so pitiful over the last many seasons that the bigwigs running the show can’t bring themselves to heap further disgrace upon your family. Disgrace that taking the derelict vessel would cause. A lil’ mercy bestowed upon your perpetual shame.

Let us just state, for the record, that throughout your fairly long, and very unorthodox, life, you have developed many, many skills, and are fundamentally employable. There is less than zero chance of not getting a job if you so desired. But, because you have chosen the path of the writer, you won’t. You would rather die than spend another second under the yoke of indentured, yet sometimes ludicrously lucrative, servitude. You realize that such a life, for you, is worse than death. Just need to get that out there.

It’s a good thing your kids learned at an early age to fend for themselves, because dad can be a little unreliable in providing luxuries like food and non-foreclosure roofs over their heads. They probably got motivated to be self-reliant after we once went hunting for birds to eat with sharpened sticks. No birds that time. Thank the lord for apple trees. And flour. And mom. Why do you guys love me? Idiots! Thanks idiots, I probably wouldn’t even try and maintain any semblance of respectability without you. You save me from myself.

Ok, as we continue along with this totally fictional writer test I made up completely out of my head, you could then move in with your self-reliant kids in their cockroach-infested apartment, and convince yourself that you are gonna learn to be a web-developer, though you were barely stumbling around a computer not two years prior. You can learn anything right? Well, think about it, in all the time you've spent strengthening your web-developer skills to the point where you are absolutely certain in your conviction that being a web-developer is the last thing on earth you really want to be, you could have finished at least one book. But you voluntarily pissed away the last few years because you're so fully aware that everyone has to pay their dues, through trial and tribulation, before they can earn success. Right? You would have known that bit of truth before making mistakes that caused so much suffering and hardship for you and your family.

We all have to pay our dues. We're a family. And father knows best how to thoroughly complicate all of our lives. You're very welcome for the valuable lessons we've learned these past years. I do what I do so you know what not to do. I suffer the most here, and at least all of the bad debts I've racked up over the years are on my head and not yours. I hope. I haven’t asked, but I'm assuming I have been a scary enough person (or nice enough?), that nobody is dumb enough to try and come collect, or harm my family. Who needs a good night’s sleep when hardcore stress is such a satisfying substitute?

To make absolutely sure you are made of this invaluable writer stuff, why don’t you not work for over a year while slowly selling off everything you have of any worth? During which time, your lovely other-half can work long hours, for peanuts, so you can both eat? And, once in a while, maybe throw some money at whatever debt seems the scariest at the moment. At this point though, that fools errand is like throwing one steak behind you as you run from a pack of ravenous hyenas, hoping it stops the entire slavering horde long enough for you to find a hole to hide in.

Lucked out yet again. Dive into the hole. Feel safe for a moment. Let’s celebrate our little victory by taking what money we have left and going out for dinner and a few drinks. This hole is full of snakes anyway, and the dogs will be sniffing around soon. Best not to have any cash left for them to smell. Our frivolity should throw them off the scent for a bit.

By now you should only have a few non-saleable cherished items left to your name (nobody is gonna pay shit for the kids’ grade-school artwork anyway), and a vehicle your father-in-law bought you. Even though his life-situation sucks way harder than yours. At this particular juncture, you would live in some backwater burg in the middle of nowhere with someone you've only known for a few months. They're paying the rent of course, because, as usual, you're broke. Oh yeah, you would also be living there with your lovely other-half, because she, for some utterly mysterious reason, still loves you. Must be because artistic types, especially writers, are known to have such agreeable dispositions and are famously easy to cohabitate with. Must be.

Well, after getting to the point where you can’t stand the sight or sound of the person you and your lovely partner have been living with for free, you should be considering selling the vehicle your father-in-law bought you, the only thing left in your life with any cash value, and leaving the backwater burg of Buttfuck Nowhere to try your luck in the city. At least there you could walk holes in your last good pair of shoes as you trek from coffee shop to coffee shop in hopes of completing your pièce-de-résistance. Now the real trick is to try and sell it.

The race is on. Get paid as a completely unheard of writer with absolutely zero sense of financial responsibility or logic, while frittering away the only money you and your angel of a partner have to your names before you both end up officially homeless. At least now you have no vehicle to live in for the remainder of the winter if things don’t pan out.