Joshua Guess: Year One / by Josh Guess

I posted on my Facebook page a little while ago that the anniversary of my first year as a full-time writer happened. To be honest, I'm not sure when it came and went. Sometime in early March up to possibly today. I could probably go back and look at a pay stub or something, but it's really not important to me what the actual day was as much as what that year signifies.

When I quit my job, I had no illusions at all about living the dream. I had enough money to get me through a couple months. Jess was worried about me getting another job in enough time to prevent the money squeeze both of us expected. I stressed over it a lot, and that stress took its toll on me creatively. There were whole weeks when I could barely tap out a few hundred words.

Imagine my surprise that the success of Victim Zero and Dead Will Rise, as well as The Passenger, was enough to keep me going. More than enough, actually, which is good because I like keeping my taxes paid up.

In general, I would not have made it this far without you. Yes, you. All of you. You're the ones who have supported my work, bought my books, and kept me from going insane. Without you, the readers, I would be working a regular job right now instead of making up things and killing fake people for your entertainment.

Very specifically, I wouldn't be here without James Cook. Jim and I co-authored The Passenger, but the story doesn't begin or end there.

You see, back when I was still writing Living With the Dead, Jim was not an author. He was, like me, a voracious reader. Stumbling across my books, he found out I was self-publishing and decided that if a schmuck like me could do it, so could he. He put it in much more flattering terms than that, but I'm allergic to self-aggrandizement.

Jim wrote a book, the first in a series, and it was successful right off the bat. His own success makes mine look like small potatoes, and that's okay. Writing isn't a contest, nor is it a zero sum game. The sale of one of his books does not prevent me from selling.

More than that, we're friends. We got to know each other well over the course of our collaboration. Without his support, Victim Zero would not have done nearly as well. Without a timely payment from him relating to The Passenger, I would have run out of money completely and had to go back to work. In very real terms, Jim gave me the help I needed right when I needed it, without which I wouldn't have published Dead Will Rise when I did and would be back at a regular job.

I will give myself some credit. To do otherwise would be disingenuous. After all, I did write these books, and they aren't bad stuff, at least according to most of you. So I'll pat myself on the back, but with the crystal clear understanding that without you as an audience and James Cook as a lifesaver, I would not be here in my office right now.

And man, it's awesome. It's only after 365 days (or so) of not punching a clock that I realize how stifling and stressful my job was. Physically, mentally, spiritually, pick pretty much any aspect of your life and it was rough on me in that way. I hate to sound like I'm bragging, because I feel for every person who has to put up with the same to make ends meet. I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to make myself sound awesome for living my dream.

You did this just as much as I did. You who have been there to support me to the hilt, you who have put up with my delays and problems, never wavering in your support. You're generous and excellent, and you're beautiful/handsome/whatever the appropriate compliment is.

But the truth is, it is awesome. Setting my own schedule, working at my own pace, not having to put on a brave face at some job because my miswired brain is telling me the world is going to end. Being my own boss is the best, because that guy fucking loves me.

I like being at home. I didn't know if I would, but I really do. I get to see my wife more, spend quality time with our bevvy of furry creatures, and cook real food.

A year in and I haven't lost the appreciation for what I have. While I feel it's a less tenuous situation than it once was, it's still not a guarantee. I'm not rolling in money or anything. I have enough of a reserve to see me through a slow month or two, maybe one month of no other income whatsoever. If I get to the point where I have that huge wad of extra cash, I'll feel more able to pursue projects with greater ambition and risk. I'm not there yet, but I can at least imagine it as a possibility now, rather than as the punchline to a joke.

It has been an exciting, amazing year for me, and I'm looking at year two with greater hope and confidence.