Written by: Mack Moyer
I’m thirty-one years old. When I decided to dedicate my life to writing, I imagined that by my early-thirties I’d be living in a van, selling short stories for beer money.
That’s not to say I wanted to be a transient type, I just thought it would probably happen.
Now that I’m thoroughly not homeless, I’ve come to a stunning conclusion.
I don’t have that option.
Writers can’t be vagabonds anymore, even if we want to. It’s hard to do blog tours when you’re sleeping in an abandoned ice cream truck and cardboard boxes rarely have internet connections.
Sure, you can write in the car you’re sleeping in on a typewriter, or scrawl your novel by hand on napkins you stole from Burger King, but if we’re talking about having your work consumed, slightly appreciated, and maybe even get compensated for it, you just can’t do it as a homeless person.
The market doesn’t allow it, what with the cross-posts and review swaps and whatever the fuck else I should be doing right now instead of wasting your time with my impotent rage.
But, as usual, my flaccid anger has helped me find a target for all my negativity.
Homeless musicians, those lucky scumbags. I hate them.
I hate them because they can, and do, sell their bullshit for beer money.
Every time I see one of you lice-covered vagrants strumming those strings of yours on the street, I want to strangle you out of pure jealousy.
You may use a dead possum as a pillow but you likely earn more from your art jamming out front of the 7-11 than most writers do in a lifetime of obsessing over Goodreads contacts and working overtime to pay for the cover art for a self-published novel that’ll sell, like, two copies.
With your unwashed, greasy hair teeming with insects, smelling like someone took a piss in an old coffee tin then let it sit overnight, you goddamn lucky pricks, you make more money than us with nothing more than a guitar, some talent, and an empty paper cup.
Kiss my ass. Because…
You can wander into a dive bar and play for a few shots of rotgut.
And I want to do that with my art so badly, you have no idea. Yet as a writer, that’s impossible unless I storm the stage on karaoke night, cut off that witless jackass fucking up the lyrics to my favorite Keith Sweat song, and start from the beginning. “Chapter One: Life sucks…”
Don’t even mention spoken word poetry night at the café for the following reasons:
One: There’s no beer there.
Two: Spoken word poetry is just hip hop with really bad lyrics and pretension instead of music. It’s worse than all of Hitler’s gas chambers, Stalin’s work camps, Native American genocides, and chattel slavery combined.
I’m not exaggerating.
Random mini-rant about spoken word poetry.
If you’re a spoken word poet, you’re a cunt and your family will be glad when you’re dead.
Also, if you’re a fan of spoken word poetry, I’m so sorry to break this to you, but you don’t exist. But if you did, yes, your mother would attend your funeral with barely concealed jubilation.
“Oh, they’re homeless. They’re not successful at all!”
We’re creative. We’re not like construction workers or engineers or plumbers, you know, people who work hard to become skilled at a viable trade and get compensated thusly.
We’d just like a few quarters here and there. I sold my first short story for three dollars. (Three AMERICAN dollars.) I was ecstatic. I never cashed the check but if I had, it would have bought me three whole beers at Dollar Pint Night in that dusty corner of the Philly riverwards where I routinely pummel my liver into submission.
My next story sold for five bumper stickers. (Five AMERICAN bumper stickers.) I was equally thrilled, even though I didn’t have a car at the time. And I was never able to get beer for those bumper stickers but if I tried really hard I might have been able to trade them for half of a truck stop speed pill.
The musicians I know – of the non-homeless variety – measure success the same way. I’ve never seen anyone happier than a band playing for free booze.
The vast majority of artists, from writers to singers to painters and whoever else (except spoken word poets, you people are insufferable), are resigned to a future of either near-poverty or working a series of shit jobs that allow us to write or rehearse with a roof over our heads.
Most of us don’t dream of riches. Sometimes we just want three-dollar checks, beer money, or maybe some bumper stickers. But that’s not the point either.
I just want the option to do it is a homeless person.
Mack’s short story “Never Chase Space Potatoes with Teenage Girls” is available for just 99 cents on Amazon. I’m not saying he’ll kill himself if you don’t buy it, but if he does, the blood will be on your hands, you heartless monster.