I identify as a humorist, writer, cartoonist, and certified fool (Yes, I have a certificate from the Children’s Writer Institute that proves I once foolishly believed I could learn how to make money as a writer). But my current novel project is a horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, which I twice before tried to turn into a completed rough draft novel. This time I mean to follow through to the bitter end.
In order to reign in the goofiness enough to deal with the issues in this novel I have been doing a lot of horror reading. I have also undertaken the reading of a very good author examination of the life of Edgar Allen Poe.
Poe’s life was highly instructive. You may not have realized this, but most of the giants of American Literature prior to and contemporary with Poe did not make most of their money as writers. Emerson was a clergyman. Nathaniel Hawthorne worked as a customs clerk. Poe, the first to try to make a living solely on work as a writer, editor, critic, and poet, was subjected to the horrors of poverty, illness, and want. His wife was chronically tubercular and ill. He never made the money he was obviously worth as a creator of popular horror fiction, poetry, critical essays about other authors, and as an editor for profitable magazines of the day. Other people made loads of money from his work. Poe, not so much.
It is instructive to a writer like me who can’t seem to land any sort of income from my own creations. There is no demand because there is no recognition of my work. I have come close, having my work praised by editors and fellow authors, and being a finalist in novel writing contests twice. The goal is good writing. I will probably never see a return on my investment in my lifetime. My children may not acquire anything by it unless one of them really devotes a lot of effort to it. Like Poe with his drinking problem, chronic depression, and ill wife, I face physical limitations and poor health, grinding financial issues, and family factors that make it near impossible to put marketing effort into my literary career.
And this novel is a hard journey for me. I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten. A lot of the fears outlined and elucidated in this particular story leap right out of that iron cage in my psyche where they have been contained for fifty years. Fear of nakedness. Fear of sex. Fear of being attacked. Fear of the secret motivations in others. Fear of the dark. And, most of all, fear of what fear can make me become. Fear of being a monster.
But I have not become any of the dark and terrible things that fear can make me into. Instead I became a school teacher, mentor to many. I became a family man, father of three children. I became a nudist, hopefully not a dark and terrible thing in itself. I became Mickey.