Friday, June 12, 2009

On being a travel writer

If you'll allow me a shore digression...

Today mashed up two things that put on me edge:

1. I don't have central air. My little brother was supposed to install my AC window units but didn't. I have one in the bedroom, but none in my office. It's HOT in here.

2. I failed the digital TV conversion because my TV is old (a free used one from a cousin) and is stuck in antenna. It has no remote, so I can't fix it.

I posted about both of these things today on Facebook and Twitter and was shocked by the response. The reaction was almost horror that I didn't have cable and that, before we figured out what the problem was, I'd be OK living without it. I rarely watch TV -- usually at noon to listen to the news while I eat lunch.

As for the AC thing, I find most people don't "get" why it's a big deal, usually because most people go to an air conditioned office for the day. I'm in this stinking humid mess all day long. I also lived with a microwave for three years. I didn't have space for one before I bought a house that had one installed in the kitchen.

I thought a lot today about why these things bothered other people -- or not so much bothered but thought that that this is a weird way to live.

Could I get a job and make more money so I could afford these other things? Maybe. Will I be making that change any time soon? No. These are the things I give up in order to call myself the boss, and to own my home rather than rent another space.

I think this post comes in part, too, from comments people have made to me recently, suggesting that it must be nice to live a glamourous life. Far from it -- I work 60-80 hours a week, many on weekends, and between Easter and last weekend, I think I was away from home more than I was here. Then there's publishers who don't pay me on time, or not at all (I'm still owed $500 from someone who vanished last year). Or the assignments I pitched that are given to someone else, or being asked to "audition" for a writing assignment, or offered insultingly low rates, like $2 a story, or being asked to write for free in exchange for "exposure." If I wanted exposure, I'd stand on the corner in an open trench coat.

Then there was this snide post that assumes a website has a big budget because it's throwing an event, which is not the case. Those events are usually sponsored and combined with other venues so that it's more trading space/promotion than cash being exchanged (hence why my book launch party only cost $250 but looked more expensive). When people assume otherwise and make snap judgements for it? In public? No matter what you think of, it's not fair to make that kind of assessment on so little information, just like it's not fair for a neighbor to say "must be nice to travel all the time" without realizing it's work. Gets my back up.

Anyway, this is a round about way of saying thank you for helping me out, whether you've forwarded me story ideas, sent links from this blog to friends, encouraged me in the comments, or bought a book. Because on days like today when I'm lying on my basement floor, crying because I tried to pick up an AC unit and to install myself and failed, wondering why the heck I live like this; or going out on the road for my fourth or fifth weekend away from home, it's those things that keep me going. It might not seem like a lot, but it's keeping me in business (even if central air is a distant dream...maybe after I sell the next book!)

But I don't want people to think this is a pity party: I have a roof over my head, food on my plate, an exciting job, and the love of family and friends. After hearing my AC plight, two friends are coming over to help me out (I can't lift AC units because of a shoulder injury), and they offered a few weeks ago to give me a TV they don't need anymore -- one that isn't stuck in antenna! That is worth more than any flat screen.

Digg this


Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

It's amazing how judgmental people can be when they haven't walked (or ran :) in another's shoes, isn't it? Glad you will be getting AC and TV soon.

Ann Delaney said...

I've heard people say that my job must be soooo easy- but after 25+ years, I know the truth: it's hard work to sustain any wothwhile career. Writing my blog has been a great outlet during the past few years of a down market- and your blog has inspired me! Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

People just don't get it!
Glad you are getting a AC and TV!
If it makes you feel any better, you are a great writer! This blog is the best (keeps me informed on the great Jersey Shore) and your book has been very helpful! Keep up the GREAT work and know that you make other people happy with your writing, which says a lot!!!

Mike S.