It’s Been a Good Run
About six years ago, I quit my dayjob and went full-time freelance, working for SFWA, Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales, Prime Books, and others. Since then, I’ve handled an amazing variety of clients, from simple advice for self-published authors, to the memorable time the Ambassador from Finland and his cultural attache plied me with drinks while we talked about how to use geekdom to reboot Finland’s cultural development (no I am not kidding this happened and will always be one of the most amazing moments of my life).
I’ve gotten to do some pretty great things, things that will make the industry better for everyone, safer, smarter, more evolved. Stepping back and looking at this all from the outside now, I can honestly say that I contributed a great deal and helped develop a lot of things that are just part of the scenery now. That feels pretty awesome.
It’s had its share of horrors, too. I’ve lost a lot of hope and faith in the community, and in people in general. I haven’t lost faith in the power of what we do, just in our desire to actually be beneficial, benevolent forces in the world. I’ve seen dozens of people I care for hurt by the vindictiveness and squabbling in this field. I’ve been preyed on by people who are respected in the field, and dismissed by people I used to idolize because of my gender. As I told a friend the other day, it’s been years since I felt safe or welcomed in geekdom, with the exception of actual friends.
To be honest, I’ve been burning out for a while now. It’s been a struggle to stay the course, much less stay positive. I’ve almost walked away three or four times now, just flipped the table and walked out. Sheer stubbornness kept me in. But I am tired, and angry, and feeling more than a little lost. I never thought I’d stop loving SFF, but I have. I barely even read it anymore, except for slush and some trusted authors.
I need a break, and a little distance, and a lot of perspective.
So, two weeks ago, I moved to Seattle and started a new day job. I won’t be telling you what it is. It isn’t in PR, or communications, technically, but it actually kind of is. All you need to know is that I’m getting a very up close and personal crash course in very problematic and troubled humanity. Strangely, I’m making friends and discovering quite a lot of interest in this damaged subset of humans. I’m working about 60 hours a week right now. I barely have enough time to keep myself running, let alone do much else.
But I *am* writing again.
Which brings me to the heart of all this. I will no longer be offering freelance services to anyone except existing clients and a few close friends. I will not be able to offer much advice, either, nor will I be appearing at many conventions. I will no longer be giving workshops at all, or appearing on panels more than two or three times a year, max.
I will be writing. Lots. Want me to write something for you? Email me, or hit me up on Twitter (but paid only, please). I will be sitting down to outline two novels in the next few weeks, and I will be reaching out to the agents I have spoken with in the past to see about establishing some communication there, as well as the editors who’ve expressed interest in my novels.
I’m finishing up a short story collection right now. I will still be editing, although cutting back a little there for sanity’s sake. My existing clients and friends will continue to have access to my services. I’m stepping up my Systema work, digging into some heavy-duty books, planning a trip to Iceland with my significant other, looking for a way to get back to horseback riding, and I’m running again.
And after 2 weeks of the day job and living on the west coast, 2 stressful weeks that involved my first-ever accident and some other serious issues, I am happy for the first time in…a long time. And not just a stolen moment here and there. It’s a constant, mild relief, like when pain goes away for the first time in a long time (I have had enough serious and chronic injuries to know this feeling). It’s kind of amazing, and it’s something I intend to enjoy for a while.
I knew things were broken, that I was making a lot of excuses for something I love, but guys, we’ve got to talk. Just two weeks back into the normal world has reminded me of how broken the creative world is. How much time we spend fighting, tearing each other down, destroying the thing we think we’re trying to create. How nasty and ugly and angry so much of our communication is, and how much of that gets out to the world in place of all the wonderful words we write.
So here’s my thing: this industry, this beautiful, weird, gorgeous, angry, brilliant industry broke me. I came into it as a bright-eyed young woman who knew full well how powerful words and stories could be, and am stepping back not even a decade later, bitter and exhausted. I’m not the only one. I wish I could say it had been longer, or that I’d done more. I wish I could fight harder and care longer. But I’m done. At this point, to protect the weird, gorgeous, angry, beautiful things that I love and want to create, I can’t get involved anymore. I have to step back and get my perspective back.
And that makes me so very sad I can’t even express it.
Do better, SFF. Be kinder. Remember that your words have the power to literally save lives. You saved mine, once upon a time. Be bigger, brighter, wiser than you think you can be. Know that you’re being heard, for good or ill. It matters. Your words matter. Act the part.
25 thoughts on “It’s Been a Good Run”
First and foremost, I’m glad you’re happy and you’re creating again. that is the most important thing. And, second, you did a lot of good in this field. Few people can ever say, “I left things better than I found them.”
But, alas and lastly, you’re not alone in this feeling that something you love is so broken and hurtful, you have to step away from it. I work with congressional staff, reporters covering the government, non-profits and association folks. Most of them come into this work literally glowing at the idea of serving their country and helping make the world a better place for their stakeholders.
And then they see the how power struggles, entitlement, cynicism, and outright hatefulness tear everything apart. It’s hard to keep a faith when the you see people destroying causes for a consulting fees, slander used as a campaign weapon and people being given six figure salaries because they’re drinking buddies with the right person as opposed to competent…
But you’re out. You can look at it all from a distance and, maybe, even help a few folks who are going down the same path you did. That’s a small hope, but holding onto it is the best thing in the world.
(Sorry, this got a bit ranty…)
FRIEND! I just left creative 2 weeks ago and am a thousand pounds lighter hearted–it’s like getting my body back, my instincts back, & yep, feeling capable of happiness again. A world of support for your new path & thank you for speaking so articulately here!
Wow, what an eye opening post. I appreciate you sharing and being so transparent about your experience. What a shame others would rather tear you down instead of support and build you up. Congrats on the new direction in your life. I wish you the best in your job and writing!
I’m really sorry for whatever experiences you had that caused you to feel broken. I honestly haven’t been here before so I don’t actually know what happened to you, but I think most people who’ve had the time to live a little have felt broken at one point or another in their lives and so can relate to someone currently going through that feeling. It’s good that you found a place that makes you smile now, even if it isn’t the place you expected to find yourself. I wanted to comment because I had a quick question, that I feel a little weird asking because I don’t want to sound like I don’t feel for your situation. The thing is I sort of need to ask because you’re on the list of two of the events I plan to take my family to this year and I’m trying to plan my shopping list in order to spread out purchases so they fit in budgets. So if this comes across as rude or unfeeling I apologize. My question is, do you still plan to attend events where you are currently listed as a guest or are you canceling those appearances? I know you said no more Comicons, but I wasn’t clear on whether you meant you don’t intend to commit to any new ones or if you meant you were canceling appearances where you were already listed as a guest too. So if you could possibly clarify I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much for your time and I wish you the best of luck in your new day job.
Sorry it took me so long to reply, I’ve been taking a bit of a vacation from being visible. 🙂 I’m still planning to go to Origins. I’m unsure if I’ll be able to make ConCarolinas, I am going to need to make that decision very soon, but work is making that difficult. Still planning to attend DragonCon. 🙂
Love to you. I quit a job that was killing me, too (heavy construction safety engineering in NYC) and am finally able to concentrate on my writing. So I can relate.
I’m so sorry that the industry has been crappy at times. I really don’t understand it. I assumed that, like when we elected Obama, that his country had turned a corner. Then I see Trump and I feel like not much has improved. I see so much bigotry in publishing, when it would be so much easier (and kinder) to simply be more inclusive. The SFWA and HWA can do better.
I was talking to my wife last night and why is it that being inclusive seems like an evolved trait? It should be a BASIC trait, inherent in us all. With that said, when Gamut Magazine opens up to submissions, I’d love to see something from you. We don’t have a website yet, but you can view the successful completed Kickstarter (we raised $55,000!) here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/richardthomas/gamut-magazine-neo-noir-speculative-literary-ficti
Oh, we’ll also be paying ten cents a word for original fiction.
Best of luck.
Best of luck, Jaym. Welcome to Seattle. hope you find what you’re looking for.
good luck and creator bless you.
I got here via Ursula Vernon’s twitter account.
J have no idea who you are. I’m sorry to say that your name isn’t familiar to me at all. But I’m glad that you’re happy again, even if it’s only been for a little while so far, and that you are looking after *you*.
The rest can go hang for the moment.
Welcome to Seattle. We’re glad to have you. Also, join the SFR Brigade on Facebook. Yes. We mostly write sci fi romance, but there are a few of us writing straight romance and everyone is 100% supportive. We’re low key. And you’re welcome to just come hang out.
I’m in the same boat, mostly, as you. Leaving fandom in general and convention fandom in particular is like divorcing an abusive spouse when you have kids together. Good for you for getting out.
Thank you for writing this. I too despair over how vicious and toxic is the SFF community. SFF isn’t the only social circle I have, but in my other social circles, including those with much more diversity in culture, ethnicity, and religion, people are nowhere as mean towards each other as they are in the SFF community, both fan and pro. It’s so trivial and nonsensical sometimes, like the American fan who now sends me hate email because he blames Canada for influencing some Americans to want a socialized health care system. To this guy, it’s my personal fault that there are Americans who disagree with him (as if it’s a fatal problem that there are people who disagree with him). He’s not the only SFF person who carries these types of blood feuds to conventions and Facebook and online.
What I find ironic is that sometimes the people who complain the loudest that they are being persecuted are themselves aggressively persecuting others (Requires Hate comes to mind.) I suppose they can justify such behaviour as a good defense, but seriously, that’s just perpetuating the toxicity.
Thanks again for writing this. Everyone should read it. Good luck with your new job, and I hope you recover enough to come back into the SFF community in the future.
Sorry to hear this Jaym… I understand some of it. Silly me, I gafiated years ago and now I’m trying to start again. The SFF community that I adore is still like a dangerous animal and working in it is exhausting. Hugs my dear.
For what little it’s worth, I’m sorry. I know from personal experience that you are not alone in feeling exploited, and alienated by the petty squabbling and vindictiveness of the industry. I know from second-hand experience that you are not alone in feeling devalued and degraded solely because of your gender. Why, when the game industry is so progressive in other ways, it should be so regressive in basic human-rights sorts of issues baffles me. The brain drain continues.
That last bit—I feel that right down in my soul.
I am happy that you have found happiness again—that makes it better. ^_^
Writing is always a good thing. It’s a shame that you have to stipulated paid writing, but that says something about the state of our craft these days.
Thanks for saying this! Believe me, you are not alone.
I’ve followed your blog since we met at WFC in San Diego. I hate to think that con was the catalyst for the journey you were on, but I think the incident there may have. It was, by far, the most news I’d ever seen on the topic of harassment at a con.
Regardless, it was a pleasure to meet you there. Over the years I had intended to send work to you for the anthologies you were working on. I’m sorry I never did. That’s entirely my fault.
Following your blog and facebook, and seeing you try to beat down the ugly side of fandom, I’ve watched all you’ve gone through trying to make things better. Your efforts were valiant and I’m sure in many cases drove others to be better and more vigilant.
That said, I’m sure there were many that still tried to keep you quiet and keep the problem as hidden as possible. Brush it under the rug. Hide it from the daylight. Quiet all the voices speaking up against abuse. No one should be afraid to speak their voice.
You will be missed as a vocal voice in the community. For your own piece of mind, I hope the change does you well. You were a hero to many for a long time, but no one should be made to suffer in silence while trying to keep others from expressing their suffering. Bless you for all you’ve done. Enjoy all the time you deserve to be yourself once more.
I’m glad to hear you’re getting some you time! I love Seattle and trust you will too. Keep us updated on the novels!
Looks like you came to the conclusions I did, albeit from a different direction.
Drop me I line if you want to chat or do coffee I’m still here. Still live in the woods around Redmond. Still publishing. Slowly, ha!
Thank you for writing this. You’re not alone in your experience. Sounds like things are looking up though! So glad to hear it.