Winter solstice blessings brought a bounty of beautiful beginnings on the development front. It looks as though 2024 might be like gunning for a merge window onto a crowded, speeding freeway. I’m down for it! Okeydokey.
Settle coffee mug in the holster.
Tighten seat belt.
Check blind spot.
Mash the gas.
The last week of December has been a mad dash of pushing out emails and swiping everything off my desk to reset the flow for upcoming volume. Yes, I had hoped to have a nice quiet winter of reboot and novel writing, but timing being what it is, Tangle of Mermaids might have to take the back burner for a minute or two. That’s the speed up or slow down process of merging.
Thankfully, the last few months of 2023 have been relatively tame so I’ve been able to get real sleep, and reorient to priorities.
You heard it here first… I am coming out of the woods. It’s a long story. It’s all good. Good reasons. Happy reasons. Healthy reasons. It’s time. More details on all that to come. Don’t worry—I’m quite happy to start making steps back out into the real world, towing a wagon full of work created over the seven years I’ve been sitting out here in the wilderness.
Seven years of building and stashing writing, ideas, concepts and planning models. Now it’s time to put it in the chute.
I’m always charmed by folks who are curious about my last seven years alone in the wild. When I say, “I needed to be alone to able to hear myself think, so I could get work done uninterrupted.” Most creatives immediately understand. Then there are those extroverts in the room who visibly shudder.
It’s equally amusing when I explain my corporate background, or work history which runs parallel to my writing life. Are you a business developer? Or a creative?
Who says they aren’t the same thing?
Molecular genetics. Regulatory and Compliance. Director of Finance. R&D. Project Management. Commercial loan auditor. Document Control and Database Management. And finally, owner and operator of a small business development firm, and a publishing label. (and waiting tables in between as needed)
All of my former corporate jobs have run on the same creative matrices as my writing and art—yes, even the jobs in finance and molecular genetics. Which means, thankfully, I happen to be one of those lucky artists who can build a budget, read a balance sheet, manage a team, run my own PMP, and build a contract from scratch.
Do I enjoy it? Actually, yes. I adore performing those functions. I still think pivot tables are the playthings of Satan, but I handle them just fine. Business development and Storyverse Construction are actually VERY similar. They run on a hierarchy of constructs, with gears and levers. Business functions such as auditing commercial loan files for internal cohesion and consistency for clients gives my left brain something to chew on while my right brain takes a break from writing and story craft. When people ask me how I relax in the evening, I honestly tell them, “I perform internal reviews on multi-million-dollar conglomerate loan packages and file indexing reports while listening to my favorite popcorn astrology podcasts… What do you do to relax in the evening?”
Everyone needs a hobby… preferably one that pays well, and only requires a few hours at a time.
Then I save my artistic mind, the build energy for story craft and world building—and because there is no pressure to make my art pay me what I want to be comfortable, I’m able to make creative decisions that are uncompromising, riskier, and which produce higher yield--at least for me--in the emotional fulfillment department.
Thus, my HOBBY life as consultant PAYS FOR MY REAL JOB as a creator. All if which I do from the middle of nowhere in the backwater woods of Oregon.
I hope that makes sense. It seems to be confusing at meetings. People seem to be flummoxed by my background on the regular.
A young exec in a meeting said, “The target margin for a cost-plus model is on the budget sheet. You just stick to the writing. Artists can’t really handle the numbers anyway.…”
My old financial aid boss would be laughing her ass off at this right now.
I was legitimately taken aback. My brain was processing quickly trying to decide if he’d intended to be so careless, or if he was young and possibly embarrassed to not know the answer to the question, or if he was trying to obfuscate and hide figures because he wanted to end the meeting early.”
“I dunno… I guess you could just try me on the budget sheet. I might surprise you.”
“Budget sheets take years to understand.” He said curtly.
Oh, pookey. It’s about to get really uncomfortable for you.
“Maybe not years, but with a little focus, they make sense. I’ve seen a show budget and schedule before. Every industry has different terms, but money is ALWAYS money—every industry still answers to the SUM. Whether you’re in banking, or entertainment—everything runs on the bottom line. Is your budget exportable? I have Excel or I can do a Google doc, whichever you prefer. Or do you just want to share your screen?”
I could tell he felt like I had somehow betrayed him. I wasn’t just a novelist from under a bridge somewhere in the hinterlands—it showed on his face that I’d been the asshole tricking HIM this whole time. How dare I?
“I thought you were an artist.”
“Worse. I’m an artist who understands the business side of making a creative living. There’s no shame in ethical profit—so I make money. Then when I want my art to make money, I ask for it to do that, too.”
Anywhoo, it is what it is. When you look like a dumpy gnome that just crawled out of a hole, all mossy-haired and yellow toothed, and step into a room to sell a script--assumptions will be made. It’s the nature of humans to quantify or judge quickly in order to navigate social expectations.
So, I guess some smile brightener, hair dye and a freshen up on the wardrobe will help a little in this regard. I mean, it’s been a minute since I’ve had to be presentable. Like, seven years kinda minute.
Long story short, too late, this is to say that coming out of the woods and back to society means bringing ALL previous experiences to the high-speed merge. I mean, lesson learned, I’ll clean up a bit first to assist with the being presentable and believable. I also provided my new agent with my corporate resume to help alleviate any confusion about my work experience running alongside my creative world building and writing experience when she’s making introductions or connections. Hopefully that will help some.
There’s not a lot that can be done about taking meetings in an industry where folks seem to be eager to be seen, but not to see. Eager to be heard, but not to listen. Desperate to reach, but not to be touched.
Hopefully, this next part of housing the IPs will be quick and easy and we’ll be on to assembling the teams in no time at all. Because I WOULD LOVE to see people, talent, builders and creators in their most authentic and creative selves. I would dearly love to hear them, learn them, discover who they are and how they work—then invite them to come play in these amazing sandboxes being built for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic. I can’t think of anything right now that would bring me more joy than to be able to see, hear, learn and reach for those creative geniuses who want to build.
So, I can’t even be mad at the kid about the budget. He knows what he knows. He’d been conditioned how he’s been conditioned. Though my crinkly Grinch heart felt for him. Being disabused of one’s illusions can be a rough kind of day.
It just makes me more determined, I guess, to find those unicorns in the Hollywild that want to see, hear, and be welcomed. But first things first.
Settle coffee mug in the holster.
Tighten seat belt.
Check blind spot.
May your 2024 be filled with all the joy and magic of your wildest dreams. See you on the other side.
Athena lives and writes in the Siuslaw Forest, Oregon.