1.16.2009

So That Happened...

Thursday was an interesting day.  I began the day trying out a new energy drink, going for a walk, writing for half an hour, and then going to work.  This could have been any day, though I don't write as much as I would like, until about 4pm.

Matt came into my office and closed the door.  He told me had just let Mel go.  Then he said he was eliminating my position.  And just like that, roughly five years to the day, my time at Top Cow was over.  He talked to me about some options in terms of future work, and gave me the option to tell him to go to hell.  He left and I spent about 30 seconds going, Okay, that really did happen.  And that's when it got weird.

I didn't get upset.  Not sad or angry.  I skipped all the stages of grief and went right to acceptance.  I stared at the computer for those 30 seconds, then called a buddy to follow up on a freelance editing gig he had mentioned.  I had a phone call about 8 minutes later, so I just sat there with the door closed and waited for the phone to ring.  I thought, Sink or swim time.  You want to be a writer.  You complain that editing doesn't give you the time.  Here's your shot to do it and make a living.  And I felt totally okay.

I spent almost an hour on the phone, talking about that, other things, and pretty much that.  Talking about it didn't make the prospect of chasing my next paycheck any scarier.  It didn't make me feel undervalued or unappreciated after being dropped with no warning or inkling it was coming.  I remained okay.

I was planning on spending 2009 getting my writing career going so that at the end of the year, or later if I wanted, I would have the option to leave editing behind.  It's not that I didn't love it, but it definitely has its drawbacks and can be very frustrating.  The thing is, it was never the end goal.  I'm a writer, and I want to tell my own stories, not just shepherd those of others.  Ultimately this speeds up what was at best a tentative plan by about 11.5 months.  And I'm totally fine with that.

Some of the creators I let know are kind of sick to their stomachs over the whole thing.  My mom is probably freaking out, my dad is worried, and my sister is probably pissed.  She went through the same thing a few months ago, but she's also still in school for her Master's.  I'm feeling oddly okay with the whole situation.  The hardest part is walking away from creators and projects.

I've come to feel a real sense of ownership on a number of books.  Of course I'm talking about Witchblade and The Darkness.  They're the flagships, the only perennial ongoings, and I have longstanding working relationships with the creators involved, especially Ron Marz and Phil Hester.  They were also the only creators who got the call yesterday.  I got pretty choked up on both calls.  I called, feeling as solid as I was feeling, but then you start realizing that you're not going to be on the phone or IM or even email with these guys all the time, talking about work, life, and whatever else comes up.  I'll definitely be in touch with both, but...  A big part of their lives is what they do to make money, as was mine, and I won't be their creative midwife anymore.  Phil killed me by trying to blame himself.  I kind of cut the tension by telling him it really was his fault.  Ron did it when he said, "I'm not going to say that it's been a pleasure, or anything else like that," and then the phone just went silent for a really long beat.  I'm sure my voice was shaking a bit when I finally spoke again.

There are other books I've really loved and felt a strong connection to like Genius, which I championed like no other near unsellable book, and Madame Mirage, which probably didn't need me too involved but I'm still willing to take any credit for its successes.  It's really tough to just make a clean, immediate break from projects and creators I've spent the last five years working on and with, respectively.

The remainder of Thursday was spent at Busby's, commiserating with Mel (who I should probably talk to more since we're in the same boat) and the rest of the gang.  It was a little weird having everyone tell you how sorry they were to see me go when I was already busy thinking about how great it was going to be to finally be able to devote time to my writing career.  The power of positive thinking (and framing), I suppose.  Perception truly does dictate reality.

I spent all of Friday calling and emailing creators, letting them know my status and that Filip would be taking over all of my responsibilities as well as Mel's.  Lots of shocked creators out there.  I won't blow smoke up my own ass...  But there are many who would say I'm the best editor they've worked with.  It's nice to hear that I had an impact on the work and lives of at least a few of them.  I can self-aggrandize all I want, but hearing it in a genuine way really does mean a lot.  It's really weird to just be done with all that.

I take solace in the fact that for five years I gave all I had to give.  From working for free for a year, to telling Matt I was up for whenever when Renae left, and him putting the faith in me to run editorial (at 22, I think).  I left it all out there on the court, to borrow from my sports vernacular, and there's very little I would change.  Would I rather have my job when I wake up tomorrow?  Absolutely.  There was plenty I liked about the gig and the people I worked with that I wasn't ready to walk away from.  Am I okay with being unemployed and being forced to embark on the next phase of my life?  Absolutely.  I think this is one of the best things to ever happen to me.

I still have a ton of creators to notify, and I'm sure lots to catch Filip up on.  I don't know how that guy is ever going to sleep again.  I'll be doing some freelance writing and editing for the Cow, so hopefully anything I do in both capacities will alleviate some of his stress rather than add to it.  And I still need to figure out how to disconnect from all the books and people I'm so used to being around and involved with on a seemingly hourly capacity.  The 4-Hour Workweek is helping...  One of the things Ferriss goes over is people who are addicted to their station in life.  They'll make every excuse in the world about how they can't leave their job because it's not the right time, they'll never do as well, etc.  And the whole book is about people, including him, who have done all the things others are scared to.  One exercise is to imagine the worst-case scenario.  If the worst is you losing your job, how bad is that really.  It happened to me on Thursday, and I'm living proof that I lost what was one of the most important things in my life and I didn't crumble.  Still here, still standing, still going strong.

***
I'll be at the New York Comic Con next month, and sticking around NY a few days after (thanks to Elaine).  I hope to see a lot of the friends I've made over the last few years there and catch up, as well as score plenty of gigs.  I've gotten a lot of offers for help in whatever capacity I need, I just need to spend next week pounding the pavement and lining up some work, seeing if freelance is a viable option for me to make a living via.

It's an interesting time for me because the only responsibilities I have are rent, car payments, insurance and utilities (plus the never-diminishing school loans).  I have no familial or relationship obligations to lock me down, and my lease is month-t0-month.  I can literally go anywhere and do anything if need be.  It's kind of liberating.  Well, except for the thought that I might disappoint some dodgeball teams if I take off... I haven't traveled much outside of for conventions the last couple years, and already I'm thinking about where I'd like to go, and how easy it'll be to work from there so long as they have an Internet connection.  I think Japan is definitely high up on my list right now...

I don't know what the future holds, but for today that doesn't scare me at all.  Stay tuned to this space for updates on whatever I'm up to.  And I'll have to make sure there's a link in the sidebar to contact me.  In case you're wondering, the email is the blog name @ gmail.com.

6 comments:

Filip Sablik, Publisher said...

I have no doubt that the creators you've worked with over the years will miss you incredibly and will be pulling their hair out at my attempts to fill your shoes. But I dare say that no one will miss you on a day to day basis more than me.
You are one of a kind, Rob. Our loss is writing's gain. It has been a privilege.

Blond said...

Adapt, improvise, overcome.

About said...

I figure, a guy with no job might want to split his NYC hotel with a friend that needs a room? Either way, we need to hang.

Rantz said...

"everything happens for a reason" is so trite, but so true at the same time. When I got canned from Disney my wife said "well, you know this is a GOOD thing... you always talk about it, but you NEVER would have left on your own." So sometimes life gives us that push we need in order to do the things we keep TALKING about.

Looking forward to working with you in the future man, you are one of the good guys in this biz.

marc bernardin said...

"Change is my business, and business is good."

No, no one said that, but it always applies.

I have been edited by some of the best editors in ANY business, and you earned your place in Word Valhalla. You will be missed.

Hugh said...

Best of luck in the future, bro.