Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 09/28/06.
My parents recently started getting a subscription to The Kelowna Daily Courier, and so now can read these articles since eVent! is now delivered to their door. I'm quite glad because finally they actually believe me when I tell them that I write for a newspaper, and actually get paid for it. Ever since I told them that I wanted to be a writer they've been concerned. See unlike being a carpenter, accountant or vampire slayer being a writer rarely offers a steady income, an office and a company car. Since I have to maintain a full time job in sales in order to continue my freelancing career my parents seem to be under the impression that like my Popple best friend, my writing career is make-believe.
Take for instance when I was in university, writing full time for The Phoenix, the local student newspaper and in creative writing courses as part of my studies. My mother, helpfully, wanted me to take evening courses in writing in a continuing education course at OUC in creative writing. Explaining to her that I was already in school did not convince her that I had any idea what I was going to be when I grew up and that a month of night courses in the continuing education program would set me on the course to write the next great Canadian novel.
The other week my mother found an ad in a Vancouver newspaper for a contest where readers could write a chapter of a mystery novel, and have the chapter published along with the other selected readers' chapters to make a big collaborative novel. That it was a contest, and that I'm not a mystery writer did not deter her enthusiasm for my taking on the project. I tried to explain that I get paid real money to write and wasn't looking to do it for free just for the slim chance to win a chance to have written a chapter in a novel. I'm a professional freelance writer; I actually get paid for this.
It's not just me who gets this sort of professional skepticism from their parents. Mark Millar is one of the most popular writers in comic books today, penning best selling series like The Authority and more recently best selling Marvel comics like The Ultimates, The Ultimate Fantastic Four and Civil War. Since American super hero comics are not as popular in his native Scotland as they are in America, in a recent interview he claimed that it's only when he gets short articles published in local Scottish papers that his mother really sees he's actually writing for money.
Of course I've written before, though a lot of that was for student papers or publications on the web. Despite writing for places with readerships much larger than eVent! it wasn't really real to them because it was on the interent. And I certainly never showed them my articles in the Phoenix, because I cursed a lot in those. Plus to be honest I was only paid in wooden nickels by the student society that owned the newspaper. (Where they kept getting so much money made out of lumber I never knew.)
I appreciate that my parents want to see me be able to become a full time writer, with enough money to afford food to stock my fridge and pants to warm my legs. They feel guilty because they had to be the ones who informed me that my previous dream of being a math genius like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting wasn't going to work out if I was going to insist on using a calculator for long division. Then they had to inform me that there was already a Lord of the Dance, and that can't have been easy for them either.