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.