Today was a challenging day. The agency I find work through has been throwing some goose-eggs at me as far as clients. When I feel that crunch of writing for money versus writing for the pure joy of writing, this is always what happens. To be honest I’m a little mad at myself.
You see, when you sit down for an hour to write about concussions or estate planning or diamond cuts, the work is pretty fucking bland. It’s even worse when you get a “No thanks” on something you just wasted an hour of your life on. And if they buy it, yeah, you get money, but you never get a byline for it. I had two posts get rejected today. Hell, right now I’d take the money.
Sometimes your house expresses what your words cannot. My house was a shambles. Today, I did a week’s worth of laundry and four or five days worth of dishes. I completely ran out of forks and spoons, so there was no choice to put it off for another day. It was a day for chores and trying to produce some work that will actually let me pay child support in a month. I’m on mean rations now.
The bummer about the paid gigs versus working on the book is when you want to write something, everything else is an irritation. Yesterday I finished second draft edits on two chapters. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the first book. I’m finding the story and the voice. I’m cutting out all sorts of redundancies and superfluous elements of the story without remorse. The story is becoming. Unfortunately second drafts don’t put money in your pocket.
Then I have those moments of doubt when I think I’m doing all of this work for absolutely nothing. In this climate, nobody will want to read this story. Much less buy it. I have to get it past an editor, so to speak. It wasn’t always like this, I don’t think. Editors were people who could find that diamond in the rough. Now it feels like they are that kid who got held back a few years, playing Red Rover with the rest of us.
Another reason today was hard was because six years ago this week was the last time I saw my oldest kid. I dropped him off at school on a Monday (the 4th), and his mom never sent him over again. She claimed she couldn’t make him come back. Truth be told, he did what he had to do to find peace in his life. He couldn’t hack the retaliation and conflict he got going back and forth anymore. Believe me when I say I know what he was going through. I cut off my own parents for years because it made life easier at home.
Please don’t give me the platitudes or pep talk of “One day they will come back.” They usually don’t. I’ve done the research and that is a harsh reality of alienation.
It’s like a death, only worse. There’s a person out there walking around, living, breathing, and for whatever reason has convinced themselves they hate you and never want to see you again. Unfortunately life has a lot of that, I’m learning. Some I’ve been willing to oblige them, but others…like my kids, are something you never really get over.
I saw a TikTok the other day where a woman said that a Red Flag in dating someone was when they don’t see their kids. I guess I’m damaged goods. “Why is this?!” she asked. Oh, sweet summer child…All sorts of reasons, Caitlin. Not many of them are good. None of them are easy. Some of us tried our damnedest, but of course that’s all just an urban legend. After all, “Fathers Have Rights.” Until we don’t.
Honestly, we don’t have rights. None of us do. All it takes is one judge to make up their mind about a situation. They might have you in their courtroom for less than twenty minutes and make a decision that affects your and your children’s lives for generations. The courts did nothing to bring my son back to me. The only consolation I’ve gotten is everyone from lawyers to psychologists telling me “The System is broken.” Without a conviction, without a trial, and without the burden of proof, you can lose your kids in this country if you are a dad. All someone has to say is “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
So when I write, I let myself go into other places. Places that kind of fucked up reverse logic can’t fuck with my peace. The stories I tell might be better or worse than reality, but at least it has to make sense on some level. Real life rarely does. And it’s not like I can criticize any of it. There are consequences when you start making noise.
Today, I watched the Dan Harmon documentary, Harmontown, and I saw a man who has made a career out of pulling the rug out from under himself. He’s had the fortune to keep knocking at that gate and the gatekeepers keep letting him in. He’s a man who will never have enough attention, enough praise, or probably enough money. He drinks too much. He sees moments he could just be enjoying the ride and makes a sudden sharp turn, on gravel. He’s the villain in his own story. I had to stop the video a few times because I’ve seen myself in that place many times. I come from generations of that. Unfortunately, generations after me will be the same; a broken system has seen to that.
Lately, the only solace I’ve found has been in writing my story. At this point, the momentum of it feels like crossing the crest of that first incline on a rollercoaster. The rest of it is just holding on and screaming my head off. In a good way, for once.
It’s true what they say. They can kill you, but they can’t eat you.