In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.
Today’s guest is a genuine renaissance man! Father, teacher, swordsman–and gifted writer–despite all his excellent qualities, Travis McKenzie still manages to be a humble and all round good guy–lesser men might let it go to their head! Travis is a fellow Satalyte author, and you can check out his new release here (and how awesome is that cover?!), or go along to his launch by joining the Facebook event here.
It hurts to talk about how I fund my writing. It hurts because in doing so I have to admit certain uncomfortable truths. Like the fact that I am a lazy man. That I am full of anxiety and fear of failure. That I am a hypocrite, who spouts the virtues of hard work, persistence and growth mindset theory to his students every day, yet would rather time travel to the point where my books are published, than have to go through the slog of actually writing them. But admitting these problems is only the first step to recovery. And this brings me to my central metaphor, which I intend to twist, stretch and mix to make my point. If writing is my answer to self-actualisation, then not-writing is a dark addiction I must overcome.
I made the drastic choice in 2014 of putting myself into procrastination rehab. I took long service leave and wrote every day. Then, after a term of one long hard-work-montage in which I re-wrote my first novel from scratch, I went back to work, albeit at a much reduced part time load. My money wealth was limited that year, but the time I bought was worth it. I continued to live the Hemingway dream (minus the hunting) and polished up my sequel then outlined book 3. It seemed that I had cured myself forever. But as any addict will tell you, only your behaviour back in the real world counts.
I re-entered that real world last December with the arrival of a new baby, and the move to a new home that was needed to keep us in the comfortable upper levels of the Maslow pyramid scheme we had signed up for. I went back to full time teaching because it turns out you can only pay a mortgage by the alchemical process of converting time back into money and then giving it all to the bank. And here is the hardest admission of all. I used that as an excuse and haven’t written a thing since I packed away my study last November.
I lied to myself, of course, like any addict does. I said I’d write at nights, on weekends, in the spare hour on Monday after my Year 9 English class. But I was back on the good stuff: pure procrastination (intermixed with moments of new-baby panic and nappy changing) After all, I consoled myself, I had earned it.
This is where my higher power of anxiety comes to the rescue. Many try to silence this voice, but I have learned to trust a little of the truth it tells me at 4.15am when my son decides to jump in our bed and warm his frozen feet on my lower back. I need to get back on the wagon.
The good news is that I already know the answer. I need to give up my beloved HBO and write at night; I need to stop trawling Reddit posts and write on the weekend; I need to close the Facebook tab at work and use that hour after Year 9 English to, you guessed it, write.
Of course, had I stuck to that last rule I wouldn’t have seen the post from David calling out for a writer to talk about how they pay for their passion, and it turns out that this has been a wonderful moment of catharsis. Mostly, I guess, because for the first time in months, I’m writing.
Born just before the ‘80s began T.B McKenzie grew up in South Gippsland Victoria, where boys either surfed or played football. He did neither and, as this was a time before the Internet, he found his escape in books. Somehow he missed the boat on Tolkien but discovered instead the works of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le-Guin, who all had a lot to say about things people seemed to have forgotten.
He never looked back and ever since his first story — written in grade four about a monster, a sword, and a hero — he knew he wanted to be a writer. He lives now with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where he makes money to pay the bills as an art teacher and stays up way past his bedtime writing the sequel to The Dragon and the Crow.