My Life as a Worker, Writer, Publisher Who Lives to Create Cool Shit

When the recession hit and I was in my early twenties, my husband and I made a pact: because we both would have preferred to solely pursue our creative endeavors, we would both have to work and pursue our creative endeavors on the side. Otherwise, the full-time working one in the relationship might resent the other one with a red-hot, marriage-melting rage.

That’s how I came to work as a technical writer, even though my dream was to live on a boat, work part-time with animals or sail the San Francisco Bay, writing as much as I could. At that time, the Internet and the technological advances that went with it were not very interesting, or of much use to me because I pretty much only read Melville and Blake and hung out in nature. I didn’t watch TV unless the show was about whales. I worked my first year after college as a historical reenactor on a working 19th century tallship, for godssakes. I didn’t really want to wanted to be a Technical Writer or to work in tech. But, because it was the Recession. I was worried. And I needed money, honey.

But after a few months at said tech company, I was foaming at the mouth. The software engineers did not give a rat’s ass about the so-called skill of writing, and said so. The marketers I worked with loved writing and thought they were writers because they wrote website marketing copy. Oh God, I’ve made a terrible mistake, I thought. These are not my people.

For 26 years, my friends had been writers, thespians, musicians, painters, philosophers. I’d had jobs in publishing, teaching, sailing. I’d worked with animals and children. I never cared about engineering, science, math, or technology in any capacity other than to pull off a passing grade on a test. These math and science-y folks were foreigners in a foreign mental land.

One time, I foolishly joked about this out loud. Me and 5 or 6 thems sat in a meeting room at work brainstorming ways to encourage non-engineers to get involved in a hackathon (a hackathon is a one to three-day session during which people build an app or software feature from start to finish).

“Why don’t we do a skit about the differences between second and third floor people?” an engineer smirked. Third floor housed marketing, sales, account management, and other non-engineering specialties. I sat on the third floor. Second floor housed 90% engineering.

“Yeah, something about how we think you’re nerds,” I joked, “and you think we’re –”

“Stupid,” a nerd interrupted.

This was not the only time the nerds made comments along these lines. The commentary around the office was that people who were not engineers were fluffy-minded, ie stupid, ie the engineers could easily do our easy-ass jobs if they weren’t so busy being paid handsomely to write code.

Being around these people gave me a chip on my shoulder the size of Colorado. These smug engineers bugged the shit out of me. And, at my new tech company, they were everywhere.

Though I continued to write, these tech bros’ consistent, active discouragement about writing during the years I worked at my first tech company started to get to me. So, I started painfully and slowly teaching myself bad HTML, Javascript, and CSS. I started considering jobs that didn’t have the words writer or editor in the title. I was driven to prove to those mofos that I was smart-enough to code. That, in-fact, I could do their easy-ass job, thank-you.

Speed up a few years. I’m now working as a product manager in the website arm of giant media corporation, CBS. I work full-time with software engineers and other product managers who think like software engineers. I have strong opinions about right and wrong ways to write tickets describing engineering specs and argue with engineers about the nuances of security protocols. I also write my own stuff and run a small press called El Balazo — a publishing outfit I’m fiercely proud of.

Though I get to feel relatively stable and not cause marital resentment and stick it to the tech bros who called me stupid and not have to rely on anyone else for my income, I feel like I’m a never-ending treadmill. I work so goddamn much I’m worried I’ll have a nervous breakdown.

I used to complain that that bee-otch, the Internet, forced me into this unhappy balance of work, writing, publishing, work, writing, publishing, etc. etc. ad infinitum forever and ever amen. I hated her for it. But, now I realize this life was my choice.

Yes, the Internet ate all of the writing jobs, and that pisses me off two middle fingers flying. Yes, work eats an ungodly percentage of the precious hours of my waking life and sometimes the despair of that fact often makes it hard to breathe. Yes, I’m positive that I’ll run out of energy or willpower to work at this pace and the dread of that makes me crumple every few weeks into a sad, hot little ball, fingers throbbing.

But, it’s worth it. The running is worth it. Even the panic attacks are worth it. Because the writing is worth it. The breakthroughs hammered out in our upcoming memoir are worth it. The wild bleakness of our upcoming novel is worth it. The weird Twitter is worth it. The fanfic is worth it. The fart jokes and the non sequiturs and the cat lolz are worth it. Your content is worth it. And, my job with the tech bros is worth it because it gives me the freedom to publish this magick content (see more in this essay).

In summation: The Internet’s a bitch. Writing’s a bitch. Life is work. Work is work. Tech bros suck. Panic attacks are inevitable. Cats are funny. Creating weird shit is awesome.

So, come at me, bro/ette. Let’s create something new!

Tori Balazo runs small press El Balazo, which publishes experimental, funky-fresh fiction, non-fiction and poetry. El Balazo accepts manuscript submissions for print publication, but is particularly interested in seeing submissions for short(er) pieces -- poetry, short fiction, essays, macros, commentary -- for publication on the site's blog. This essay was Tori's response to an open essay prompt about the life of writers vis a vis the Internet. To learn more about El Balazo, visit our site!

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