Writing about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman the last few weeks has reminded me of how envious I am of him. Not in a BAD way, mind you. Rather, in the way that makes you more eager than ever to bust your ass and create things until the world sits up, takes notice, and says, “Okay, good. You can live your life doing this full time.”
Here’s a guy who was allowed to create something that afforded him the ability to write pretty much any kind of story he wanted to write. Horror. Fantasy. Adventure. Mythology. Romance and historical and crime and drama and a hundred other things. This when he first broke into comics. When he was a totally unknown quantity.
And he took it, and he did it, and it worked … and that was just the start.
See, ’cause while I greatly admire Sandman, that’s not where the envy comes into play. I’m envious because he has reached a point where he can write damn near whatever he pleases in whatever field he chooses. He has written a film script. A play. Novels. Short stories. Comics. Graphic novels. Nonfiction. The text on the back of a cereal box. He’s Neil Gaiman. If he wants to write ad copy, someone is going to fall over themselves to let him do it.
Yeah, that’s the dream right there. That’s the goal.
I do a lot of writing. I can’t claim it’s all great, or good, or noteworthy, but I like to do it and sometimes I even get paid for it. People read it, and some people like it, so that’s cool. I still have a long, long way to go, though. It’s still beyond my reach to just, say, decide to write a film script and actually see it come to fruition. Hell, it’s still beyond my reach to decide to write a novel with the knowledge that yes, it will see print. I may or may not be capable of doing the work — and I think I am — but that isn’t the question. It’s that I can not yet (yet!) earn a living doing it.
I mean, I make more money doing freelance ghost writing for a PR firm than I do on my fiction. It’s great that my fingers + a keyboard can earn me money, but were I to claim it’s the sort of work that fills me with pride I would be lying. I work hard at it and do my best, always, but …
That’s where the envy comes into play. The part where you hope for one big, raging hot success. Not because you want a giant payday so you can retire and drink gin and tonics on a beach somewhere for the rest of your life and have people serve you and drive an awesome car and spill your drink on Paris Hilton on at party in Monaco, but so that you can afford to go ahead and do all those other projects dancing around in your head without the pressing worry of money, money, money. That one project that gives you absolute creative freedom over your future.
That’s it. That’s the thing. It’s the star for which you shoot.
I’m proud of the work Jim and I did on A Year of Hitchcock. It’s a great book. While not always happy with my work, I’ve had fun writing for DVD in my Pants and Pop Thought and Weird Tales, among others. My (as yet unpublished) book on local history is pretty good and when I start shopping my young adult fantasy novel some time this spring, I’m confident someone will show interest. I even think I’m pretty good at my day job as an editor and writer (though these days I no longer do much writing on the job).
Oh, make no mistake, I have room to improve. Loads and loads and LOADS (and loads) of room to improve. I could complain all day about my clunky phrasings and shaky characterization and the way in which many of my plots seem to just taper off and die. The way my lack of attention to detail lets errors slip through.
I’m just saying that, hey, I’m ready to start devoting myself to this full time, all the time, right?
But I’ve still got to pay the mortgage and put a roof over my family’s head, and all this stuff is in my head, and man, guys like Neil Gaiman?
Good on them. Makes me happy as hell to see that they’re out there doing what writers dream of doing, pursuing what makes him happy, and entertaining people while he does it. So I’m envious, yes. But on the very BEST of ways. In a way that makes me think, “That’s fantastic. I look forward to when it’s my turn.”
Because one day, it will be.
You can read the my latest essays on Gaiman’s Sandman here: