The Business Rusch: Fun, Fun, Fun
The Business Rusch: Fun, Fun, Fun
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I have just spent the entire day on what I call business. I revised and mailed a manuscript to a major market. I read and signed contracts. I completed banking forms, and then I completed taxation forms. I visited the bank, was on the phone with the same bank’s 800 number, and I made lists, lists, lists.
But weirdly, I had fun.
Let’s look at this for a minute. The story surprised me on my run earlier in the week. I had planned to write some minor stuff, considering I am leaving on Friday. I figured my brain would be preoccupied. Instead, it served up a major story that Dean (my first reader) approved of. I had to make a few tweaks, which I did, and tomorrow the manuscript will head to my first choice market. No guarantees there, but at least the story has a shot.
The contract—which was intense—was for an audio recording with the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC). As air time gets closer, I’ll let you know more of the details. But here’s the thing. The contract was with the BBC. That may not mean much to y’all, but as a lifelong anglophile, I’m thrilled. I have listened to and watched BBC programming since I was a kid.
So I had that kid-thrill. One of those things where—if I went back in time and told myself what happened—I’d be even more thrilled than I am now.
The tax forms prevent double taxation for another project. In other words, I sold the project overseas and I don’t want to pay the foreign government’s taxes as well as U.S. taxes. So I just applied for tax relief (actually, I completed step 3 of a five-step process. I have more to do). Yes, this was a pain—taxes always are—but it was fun in the sense that I have to do this because people in other countries like and want to buy my work. Oh, my. Beat me some more. <VBG>
The bank form was for yet another project, so that I could get paid by wire transfer. Each organization in each country has a different form to complete, and I’ve just gotten in the habit of letting the bank know.
Since I was there, I also let the bank know I’d be traveling next week, so if they got charges on my various cards from overseas, they wouldn’t deny the charge, thinking my i.d. had been stolen. The bank had me call an 800 number for that rather than handle it in house, but fine. I did. And now I’m covered…for more fun.
I’m heading to Germany because I was asked by readers in Leipzig. If you’re anywhere nearby next Friday, stop into the convention and say hello. The convention, Elstercon, will also feature Greg and Astrid Bear. Here’s the information, in case you want to come.
Once again, fun. Yes, there are two 15-hour plus days of flying involved—it’s not easy to get from here to there—but my Kindle is stocked up, and I’m ready to go. I’m taking the opportunity to research a project I’ve long wanted to do about Nuremberg, so I’m going in a few days early. Who knows what projects I’ll get out of this? Some you’ll recognize because they’ll be set in the actual communities. But some you won’t.
For example, the bulk of the idea for City of Ruins, my upcoming Diving universe book from Pyr (May, 2011), came from my trip to Rome, and my experiences in the Paris catacombs, not to mention one very scary trip into a mine in Nevada. Amazing the things that become part of fiction.
I’ll probably mention some of the ideas next week as I blog. I plan to natter on this site about the entire trip, and when I post depends only on whether or not the hotels have the promised wireless connections. The same goes for next week’s Business Blog. If I can log on, you’ll see something here. Otherwise, it might mark my first miss in more than 76 weeks.
Two other things besides the trip and the weird business work I had to do today got me thinking about fun. The first was Scott William Carter’s most recent blog post on the fact that right now is the best time to be a fiction writer. With all the gloom and doom coming out of the publishing industry right now, it’s nice to see some perspective. Scott’s points are excellent. Even if you’re not a writer or in publishing, go take a peek before going farther, because I’m going to discuss the blog a bit.
Not his content, which I agree with, by the way. But his attitude.
Like so many of us, Scott has looked at the changes coming toward us like a barreling train. Instead of screaming and jumping out of the way or standing frozen on the tracks, Scott has been trying how to harness the energy of that train for his own business. Before I bend this metaphor until it breaks, let me just say that what Scott has done here is what everyone should do when facing a rapidly changing business model.
We should analyze the changes, try to look toward the future as best we can, and then see how those changes will affect us. Most changes of this type—the technological type, not the Act of God type (which is still going on for businesses in the Gulf)—have good and bad sides. If we see the change as all good, then we miss problems. But if we see it as all bad, we miss opportunity.
It seems to me that Scott’s well balanced blog looks at the opportunities in the changes and puts a reasoned tone on what is, for many, a shrill argument filled with loss and fear.
The second thing that got me thinking about fun was my own Freelancer’s Survival Guide. I spent the past two weeks since I got home from the aborted LA trip organizing the Guide. What I had planned as a four-day exercise turned into a marathon. I had somehow practiced a very effective form of denial, and did not look at the length of the Guide.
I will say this in my own defense: about the time I started making noises that I thought I was near the end of the Guide (nearly a year before I actually completed it), I was at the word count that would have made up an average long novel. My page-count instincts were correct; my topic list, however, was overwhelming.
What I noticed as I went through the Guide, in addition to the length (and the fact that I didn’t repeat myself as much as I thought I had), was that I often mentioned that working for yourself was its own reward. I especially pounded this into place in the last post of the online Guide (which is also the last chapter in the print/e-book edition of the Guide), “The Benefits of Freelancing.”
In the “Benefits” chapter/post, I discussed the actual benefits, and talked about enjoyment, but I really didn’t discuss why I found the work enjoyable. After all, who enjoys filling out tax forms? Who likes reading contracts? Who enjoys revisions?
If I had to do any of that work for someone else, it would have been drudge work. But as I mentioned above, all of it was in service of my own business and my own dreams. Even while I struggled with legalese and figured out which form goes with what piece of paper, I was very conscious of the reasons I did the work. And none of those reasons was money—although I would get money from it.
Honestly, the reasons I enjoyed the work was because these were byproducts of what I do for a living: I like to tell stories to as many people as possible. When I sell a story to the BBC or have a story published in a magazine, I’m telling stories. I can’t see my audience, but I know it’s there—if I think about it, that is. Sometimes I think about it because y’all write me letters or comment on the blog or Tweet at me when I’m online. Sometimes I think about it when someone thinks it’s worth their time and money to invite me to their conference because of my work. I can’t tell you what an honor that is.
But it’s also an honor to have someone tell me a book of mine gave them an evening’s worth of enjoyment. And it’s an honor to be able to give that enjoyment whether I hear from the reader or not. After all, I do hear indirectly when they buy my books. The first book is an introduction. The second means they enjoyed the first.
I felt this way about my work before I had sold anything. I loved making up stories. I loved learning how to write a proper setting. Each milestone—from getting into the college creative writing class (that changed my life because I met Kevin J. Anderson) to giving my very first reading of a story at the college library (and nearly dieing of stage fright)—meant as much to me as the milestones I mentioned above.
Enjoying the work isn’t particular to writers. Everyone who runs a business enjoys what they do—or should. I said this a lot in the Guide. If it’s not fun, then why do it? Work for someone else in that instance. Freelancing is just too hard.
Dean and I frequent a local restaurant so much that our writing students from all over the globe have the restaurant’s menu memorized. We’re regulars, along with a Christian writer, an auto mechanic, and a retired couple. I’m sure there are other regulars, but you can find all six of us at the restaurant at the same time nearly every day.
And we get treated like royalty. I’m allergic to perfume, and I get warned when I come in which tables not to sit near. If one of us makes a request for a favorite special, it’ll be on the specials board within the week.
This kind of behavior is normal for businesses. If someone likes your work, you accommodate them. A friend who runs a retail store sets aside items she knows will interest her regulars; they get to see that item first. Sheldon McArthur at North by Northwest Books sends signed first editions all over the country to his regulars, and often carts the books all over town to locals who hadn’t made it into the store during the week of the book’s release.
This isn’t an attempt to drum up business, but an act of appreciation for the people who help him stay in business from a man who loves his job.
What’s fascinating to me—and I have yet to see an exception—is that people who work for themselves have fun much of the time. Study after study shows that people who work for themselves are happier than people who don’t, even if the self-employed person earns less money. Control is part of it, but the very act of doing something you love is at the very heart of it.
In service of my work, I have gone to neighborhoods in major cities that most people flee from. I have spent days researching events that make me cry. I have learned contracts, and spent weeks doing math (which is tough for me, a dyslexic who has the most trouble with numbers). I have done things, in service of my work, that I would have said (once upon a time) that no one could pay me to do.
And oddly, no one did pay me—until long after the fact. I voluntarily did those things so that I could better tell a story, because that’s the kind of writer I am. I like to see a place before I write about it, and I like to know as much as I can about a topic before I put down a single word.
That’s my work. Other people feel the same way about theirs. I once had a discussion with a man I’d hired to cut down a dying tree in my yard. He had a degree in computer science from UC-Berkeley, and had job opportunities all over what became Silicon Valley at the very beginning of the computer revolution.
He doesn’t regret turning down those job offers. To him, torture is sitting at a desk, staring outside. I asked, “Even on a day of horizontal rains and matching winds?”
He grinned at me. “I love the weather,” he said. “I’d rather be in it than watching it. It’s one of the perks of my job.”
Me, I’d rather be watching the weather on rainy days than in it. But if there’s wind and horizontal rain next week on my days touring Nuremberg, guess who’ll be slogging through the weather in service of a story? And guess who’ll enjoy it?
My job is the best job in the world for me. That makes all aspects of my job fun. I’ll be honest. Some parts are more fun than other parts. But as long as I have the right attitude, as long as I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, I love even the most difficult parts of my work.
Am I happy every day? Hell, no. Am I even aware of how wonderful my life is on a daily basis? Are you kidding? I whine and bitch and complain with the best of them. But I do surface fairly regularly and remember why I do what I do.
I do it for love.
And I have a blast.
And if that’s not a great reason to work for yourself, I don’t know what is.
Surprisingly, to me anyway, I love writing these nonfiction columns on my blog. I think about them all week, and have a topic list going at all times. If you’d like me to talk about something, send me an e-mail and I’ll put it in the queue. I have a few questions already, which I’ll get to when I get back. And, I suspect, the trip itself will generate even more ideas.
I do, however, need to get paid for my work, and the payment for these columns comes from y’all in the form of donations. So I’m putting the donate button below, in case you’re inclined to support my ongoing efforts here. Thanks!
“The Business Rusch: Fun, Fun, Fun” copyright 2010 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.