Alternative Careers I Have Considered Throughout My Life

Being a freelance writer isn’t for the faint of heart, nor for anyone who truly cares about money. As this year, especially, has shown, you’re at the whim of countless elements outside your control, from editors whose tastes are unintelligible and unknowable to budgets that change with little notice but control if you’ll meet rent that month or not. In the (gasp) decade-plus that I’ve made it as a freelance writer, I’ve often thought about giving it up and finding something else — something better-paying, something more stable, something with a set schedule that might actually involve some level of physical activity to keep my muscles from slowly atrophying on a near-imperceptible basis — to do, instead. Really, who could blame me? Here are three of alternate options that I’ve struggled with.

Librarian or Bookseller

Pros: I like people. I like books. What if I could put both of those things together, and help people find the books they really wanted, and make them happy? Cons: You have to go to school to become a librarian, I’m pretty sure. And even if you didn’t, I know that I’d judge people’s poor taste relatively harshly enough that I’d risk getting fired for failing to disguise my horror at some of their choices.

Some Kind of Comic Book Industry Professional

Despite how vague this sounds, it’s rooted in some kind of reality. I know a surprising number of people who’ve jumped from writing about the comic book industry, like I do, to actually being part of that industry, whether as an editor or some executive level position. There are even people inside the industry who’ve made noises that I should make the switch myself, and there are certainly days when it feels like an option I should consider — and then, almost inevitably, there are days when I’m writing about the industry and remember that it’s a cruel and unforgiving one without any true loyalty or retirement package that transforms even its most beloved figures into exhausted husks by the time it’s finished with them.

Plus, no-one’s actually, like, offered me an actual job or anything.

Postman

This has been, for years, my unofficial retirement dream — to give up being a freelance writer and instead deliver mail part-time. I’d get exercise, I’d be part of a community, and perhaps even get cookies from grateful households during the holidays. Unfortunately, 2020’s apparent destruction of the United States Postal Service has maybe put paid to this fantasy.

Guess I’ll just have to keep writing for now. If you’ll excuse me, I’m pretty sure I need to get to work on some pitches…

An Image Image Problem

A different take on the idea of sharing a THR graphic, for once; this wasn’t done for the newsletter, but for an Image Comics story for the site proper. There’s a rule at THR that you can’t just post images of a corporate logo to accompany a story, which makes a reasonable amount of sense until you have to find an illustration for a story where the only thing that makes sense is the corporate logo.

In this particular case, it was a story about changes at Image Comics’ sales department, which… isn’t really about a specific comic or anything else with a visual hook, per se, but about a company. So, company logo, right?!? Or some kind of graphic to encompass Image as a publisher. The only problem being, that’s not something that really exists — indeed, given Image’s ethos, the idea of one image (no pun intended) that sums up Image Comics is almost antithetical to the publisher’s operating theory. So, what to do?

I made something I thought skirted the rules enough, merging pictures from three different titles that felt “Image Comics,” but also big enough for the casual reader to get — in this case, the new Brubaker/Phillips title, Reckless; Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga; and Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead. Each one put into a color filter to let them be differentiated, but also play well together. Oh, and then there’s the Image Comics logo, because I needed the damn logo in there.

The graphic was rejected, because it was seen as being a corporate logo. In the end, we went with cover art from the first issue of Bitter Root, an Image Comics title that I chose more or less because, fuck it; I’m going to pick a book that I liked.

I still liked the graphic, though, so I rescued it and posted it here. Look, if I can’t use this site for something like that, what’s the point…?

It Can Happen to You, if You’re Young at Heart

I think about getting old a lot.

That’s not entirely surprising, I guess; I’ll be 46 at my next birthday, so my next “big” birthday is the half-century mark, and it’s really not that far away — 2024,  motherfuckers; here’s hoping we all make it there alive. But I am, perhaps, preoccupied with getting old and what it means and questions of how to do so successfully, for want if a better way to put it. It’s been something in my head for years now. The only thing is, my definition of what actually constitutes “old,” has changed dramatically.

I remember, for example, being 10 years old and nearly paralyzed at the idea that I would one day be 20. It’s an astonishingly clear memory even now; I was in the kitchen of my parents’ house and someone had mentioned something — I don’t remember what, sadly — happening in 1994, and the realization that I’d turn 20 that year literally froze me in my tracks. I stood there, unable to move, horrified at the very idea I would one day be twice as old as I was then. That, I thought, was old.

I can also remember my existential anguish when I turned 29, that my next birthday would take me out of my twenties. What horror, to have reached that landmark without the feeling of being a successful adult who deserved to be in their thirties already! In my defense, I was in a relationship with someone whose definition of success involved specific financial benchmarks, and who was unafraid to tell me continuously that I failed to measure up. C’est la vie.

And again, there was a memorable chill when I turned 38. I had officially exited any reasonable definition of being in my “mid-thirties,” I realized, and that could only translate into the depressing fact that I was, unavoidably, “getting old.”

There’s a constant in all of this, noticeably — I am never, in my head, actually old. I’m simply always in danger of becoming old, with the definition of the term constantly revised upwards unintentionally, subconsciously. I read a news report today, and someone mentioned in it was described as 58 years old. “That’s not really that old,” I thought to myself.

Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about getting old. I’m never going to get there.

Don’t Speak, I Know What You’re Thinking

One of the things I initially intended when I set myself the rule that I’d post three times a week on this site, back at the start of 2019 — in the midst of a divorce and trying to find a new structure for myself, as well as a new sense of agency, and having literally no idea that a pandemic was a little over a year away, because who did? — was that I’d share things written elsewhere that I wanted to keep track of, whether they were stories written for print that didn’t appear elsewhere on the internet or simply things that hadn’t appeared publicly for whatever reason.

It’s fair to say that I haven’t actually done that over the past, what, 20 months or so, by this point. Part of it was, simply, that I didn’t get around to it — there was always something else to do, or else I was simply forgetting and ending up writing new posts instead of repurposing old ones. But part of it was that, when I did write things that I would have wanted to share, it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to share them.

A case in point: I did what could, I guess, be considered unpaid consulting for a publisher earlier this year. It didn’t start off that way; it was, instead, a simple question asked by someone at that publisher about something that I can’t share because it’d break confidences. My answer, however, was a short essay, going far bigger than they’d intended, and creating a Unified Theory Of That Publisher’s Public Image that, sure, answered the question but did a bunch of other things, too.

(So many other things, in fact, that I worried that I’d gone too far and wrote a follow-up message that was basically, “I’m sorry if I went overboard.” I hadn’t, I was reassured.)

I couldn’t share something like that, because it was all said in professional confidence, for want of a better way to put it. And so much of the stuff I’d want to post here that was originally written elsewhere falls under that category. The moral of this story may be either, I should shut up elsewhere more often, or perhaps I should publish and be damned, anyway. I’m not sure which, or if it’s either one at all.