The Process of Becoming a “Professional” Writer

IS
7 min readApr 23, 2021

> be born into a bourgeois family in the USA in 1987

> move from New York City to Maine when you’re six; lose all your friends in the process, become incredibly isolated, and escape via books, TV shows, movies, video games, legos, etc.

> family gets its first PC in the mid ’90s, a Compaq Presario running Windows 3.1

> use that slow ass motherfucker to play video games, write thinly-veiled Star Trek fan fiction, and look at pictures of pretty ladies which take half an hour to view

> be a mediocre student who is nonetheless called “smart” by his parents because they were ceaselessly called “stupid” or neglected entirely by their own parents

> unconsciously write more in order to prove to yourself that you don’t suck, even as you continue to be a C-student through high school because you have trouble understanding what everyone is constantly telling you: that you’ll do fine if you just finish your fucking homework. Nonetheless you have written hundreds of pages on your own at this point.

> get into jogging on your own

> get interested in politics and history in high school, gravitate toward nineteenth century European literature because some of those books are luckily in your house (like Anna Karenina, one of the best!). You are partially interested in this because your public school English classes are focused almost entirely on mediocre American novels written by liberals in the 1950s.

> spend a summer in high school at George Washington University learning about politics, intern in a pretty decent labor law office, decide that something about politics horrifies you, even though you can’t put your finger on it exactly

> at the same time, find yourself reading about radical education theories, Howard Zinn, and something you call “democratizing the economy,” even as you know nothing about communism or Marxism and think that it sucks and is a total failure, Cuba is just a few years from total collapse, etc.

> hate George W. Bush passionately, support Howard Dean in the 2004 primary, but pretty much accept his loss, support Kerry entirely because he is not Bush, be surprised when he loses to Bush

> attend Hampshire College, take almost nothing but nineteenth century literature courses dealing with writers in Europe and Latin America. On a few occasions professors bring up or use Marx as though he’s just another social scientist or philosopher rather than the He Who Must Not Be Named Horror-of-Horrors that he was in high school.

> take writing more seriously, start actually finishing novels even though you have yet to understand that writing is a craft that depends on way more than mere inspiration

> be such a dork that you travel to D.C. with a good friend to see Obama’s inauguration

> graduate college in the middle of a recession, travel to South Korea to teach English

> hate living there so much in the beginning that you barely write (much less finish) anything. Nonetheless, the job pays enough for you to pay off your student debt, save money, and travel. There’s also free excellent health care. This insulates you from the worst of the ongoing economic collapse taking place in the USA. Nonetheless, you support Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter bewilders you, however, because Obama is president, which means America is good.

> travel to Southeast Asia during your first vacation, come back to Korea feeling a little better, start dating a nice Korean girl, after a few months bring her back to America for a week and tell her you love her

> oops, she’s pregnant, guess we should get married (she agrees)

> around the time the baby pops out, suddenly develop the idea that traditional publishers will never accept your work (even though you’ve barely submitted anything to anyone), start working on self-publishing because that’s taking off now

> finish a long meandering postmodern scifi novel about colonizing another planet, try to self-publish via lulu, fail in the middle of the process and give up while maybe a total of five people have actually seen the book, blow your chance to get a debut novel published by a traditional publisher (the market likes debut novels for some reason although you don’t know this because you still don’t treat writing like a craft or business)

> life is pretty stressful living in another country with a young child as well as your many backward assumptions about what it means to be a husband and a father. the most basic relationship advice — happy wife, happy life — is unknown to you

> after a couple of years you find yourself with a pretty swank university job in Korea, hella impostor syndrome, and a few novels about Korea self-published on Amazon. Not many people buy or like them, though. You quit Facebook years ago and embarrassingly spend most of your online time on Reddit

> you randomly self-publish one of those “what if Hitler won?” novels and also submit it to a semi-professional reviewer who trashes it. You are so embarrassed that you commit to hiring an editor for all future projects and also decide to learn a bit more about this writing shit since it isn’t as easy as just finishing a book and self-publishing it. You begin reading the classics on the craft of writing as well as many newer books about self-publishing on Amazon.

> you are in your mid-20s. you run a lot in your spare time to keep from losing your mind. very strangely, you can speak Korean.

> years pass, you self-publish more books with basically the same results, you now have two kids and you and your wife want to raise them in America even though everything seems pretty fucked up there for some reason. Obama is still president though so everything must be okay.

> it takes about a year to prepare to move to the USA. During that time you manage to write, edit, and self-publish a trilogy of scifi novels. Trump wins the presidency, which is probably the most shocking event in your life. You return to Facebook (embarrassingly) and vow to become more active in politics.

> you return to America with your family. For a year, neither you nor your wife have jobs or health care, forcing you to live on your savings and help from your parents. Your wife passes the NCLEX and gets a job as a nurse within a week or two of running completely out of money. You are also subjected to yet another awful landlord and a freezing house in Maine.

> you give yourself partial brain damage trying to advertise your books on Amazon and Facebook. After several months you give up on advertising completely.

> insanely, you run for local political office as a Bernie Sanders Democrat, work insanely hard, and lose to a moderate anti-vaxxer. Some months after your loss, you discover the Chapo Trap House subreddit. The Dirtbag Left is a massive breath of fresh air. After consuming many hilarious memes, you begin to read Marxist theory and listen to Marxist podcasts.

> you continue to write and self-publish novels, but now you also try submitting your work to agents. You contact hundreds of agents over the course of several years. One of them finally says yes.

> you are in your early 30s

> you and your agent are unable to publish two or three of your novels. You submit an unpublished utopian scifi novel to a small independent publisher. They not only accept it, but ask you to write an entire trilogy!

> sometimes you submit articles to leftwing magazines you haven’t even heard of. They’re actually pretty good about getting back to you, though, and while none of them accept your work, some give encouraging replies.

> you have run in five local elections, winning two of them, but now you view the American government with profound contempt and find your electoral past embarrassing. you live in an area somewhat insulated from the economic collapse taking place across the rest of the country, meaning that revolutionary activism is basically nonexistent here. You have lost interest in Chapo Trap House because they’re too lib and you now have way more interest in podcasts dealing directly with people like Marx, Hegel, and Lacan.

> you have written two and a half novels in the trilogy, and have edited (with an editor) two of the three books dozens of times. The first draft of the third novel is about a third of the way complete. Once the trilogy is published, you will honestly be happy if you can just get another publishing contract for another trilogy that will keep you busy for the next year or so. It’ll also be nice if not everybody hates it. Although you have removed 99% of the political references you originally inserted into these works, you nonetheless strongly suspect that readers will complain about how “political” the books are, since many science fiction readers tend to be on the liberal or conservative side (especially the ones who have the money to buy books). You believe that as a revolutionary it is your duty to attempt to depict the utopian world we could win for ourselves by overthrowing capitalism. Such depictions are actually hard to find (outside of Star Trek, itself infested with liberalism).

> sometimes you manage to do a 5K in less than 25 minutes (on two occasions: several minutes less than this). you have always wanted to be fast and think this is cool even though nobody else really cares.

> you make a Marxist speech to a crowd of several hundred people during the George Floyd uprising in 2020. For months the local newspapers drag your name through the mud, although they have difficulty explaining exactly what it is they find so disagreeable about you

> you are halfway through your 33rd year on Earth with a great deal of hope for the future. Though the old world is dying, a new world is struggling to be born

--

--

IS

I'm a Marxist worker, activist, and writer in Maine.