Yes, I've sold bits of writing from time to time, and I've cashed the checks. That means I've been professionally published. But to really be a professional writer, I'd need to make a living at it, or close to it. Aside from a thick skin about rejection, being a professional writer would require much more of a commitment to the business of writing than I'm prepared to make.
People who make their living as writers, as for example John Scalzi does, tend to be writing something new all the time, often geared to specific markets, whether they are interested in the subject matter or not. (Yes, this is a gross over-generalization.) My personal history as a writer shows that I'm not at all good at that. The real reason I stopped writing the music articles wasn't so much the single rejection as the fact that I'd pretty much already said what I wanted to say on the subject. I'd written about the Beatles and the Clash, and said some long-overdue positive things about Yoko Ono. Anything beyond that would have just been reviews of Ohio rock concerts - and a New York-based rock magazine wasn't an ideal market for a review of Talking Heads at Blossom Music Center outside Akron. A professional writer would have either found a market for Ohio concert reviews or found something else to write about. Instead I stopped writing for about four years. Shame on me!
Then in 1985, I discovered the tv series Route 66 on Nick at Nite. I taped all the episodes, and got interested in writing a book about the show, or at least a TV Guide article. When John and I got to drive around the country for several months in 1986, with Jenny Dog on a mattress in the back of the van, part of the purpose of the trip was to research Route 66 the road, which didn't officially exist any more. We bought a Route 66 sign in Oklahoma, followed a bit of frontage road until in dead-ended in a cemetery full of browsing cows, fell in love with Gallup and an obscure county park north of Winslow, and took lots of notes. We even interviewed the stars and producers of Route 66, the series.
Then Nick at Nite stopped running the show, and it became obvious that at least two other people were writing books about the road. So all the material for the book, some of it in these red folders, the rest on Commodore 64 floppies, was essentially abandoned.
It appears that I'm a dilettante when it comes to writing. I write in spurts, and then quit as soon as I hit an obstacle. Yeah, it seems like that. But really, except for a few brief periods, I've been writing all along. I just haven't always been writing professionally.
Take that fallow period in the early 1980s, for example. I'm sure I pulled out The Tengrim Sword a few times, and at least tried to write it. Then there was the Route 66 project, and the Critters book, another abandoned project. In 1989 I co-wrote the Christmas Trivia book with John, and finally finished the novel, by then called Lost Heirs of Mâvarin.
In the 1990s, aside from the Starlog articles, I was in fanzine mode. For a while I was editing about eight magazines a year, writing about a third to half of the material myself. Later on, we cut back drastically on that schedule, but that was also the period during which I wrote several series of Doctor Who trading cards, revised the first novel, and started the second one. Eventually I gave up editing the two fanzines, but I continued to write for The Observer, and designed the covers - for a while. But I was terribly bored with the fan stuff by then. It had become a chore instead of a pleasure. So I stopped--mostly.
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