It all worked out.

35 years ago, I was a recently published author of three mass market fantasy paperbacks. My fourth and fifth books had made the rounds going nowhere, but my sixth kept coming so close I could taste it. I was being rejected nicely by the top editors in the field, big names. In other words, I was on the cusp....

Or not.

I was 30 years old and mowing lawns to actually pay the bills. Sometimes I filled in at a comic shop called Pegasus Books. I got married to Linda (with Todd and Toby), and almost immediately after that, I was offered the chance to buy Pegasus Books.

So I naively thought I could buy the store and sit at the counter and keep writing.

I was immediately disabused of that notion. I tried to continue my landscaping job, but nearly had a nervous breakdown--literally, I was at a stoplight and started shaking and couldn't stop. That's never happened before or since, but it was scary.

So I dedicated myself to the store, putting off everything else, working 60 and 70 hours a week, trying to keep it afloat. It became a wild ride, and always writing was in the background beckoning and I kept telling myself, "Plenty of time."

I remember distinctly thinking--"Hey, I'll be 40 in about eight years. That's not too late."

40 went by and 50 and things weren't any easier.

So I finally quit putting pressure on myself to write. I told myself that the world didn't need any more books. (Which is true but irrelevant.)

The things is, I always wondered what would have happened if I'd just continued writing, asking Linda to more or less support us until I got somewhere.

Even then, I saw this as an enormous gamble. Even "making it" wasn't a guarantee of a living. My mentor, who had written over 60 books and worked in Hollywood, lived a modest life and I do believe his wife worked during that whole time. I also began to see other artists of different fields make the choice to do nothing but art--and they were struggling.

What may have made the decision easier 35 years ago was that my writing was struggling. I had horrible work habits, ridiculous expectations, and lots of doubt.

Anyway, I enjoyed being self-employed, and the store finally got to the point where it paid off, and there was lots of creativity involved, and the product I carried was artistic and fun. In fact, I think I learned a lot from reading comics about sheer creativity and fun.

The store made me more social when I needed to be and I grew up quite a bit.

So when at the age of 59, I had employees who were really good at their job and who I could leave the store with (and I was nearing burnout, as well) I stepped away and decided to write one more book, just to see if I could do it.

7 years later, I've written over 30 books and novellas, many of which have been published, and I've made some money (not enough to live on) and I've really enjoyed it.

It seemed to me that I was back to my 32 year old self, writing the books I would have written, but without the constant money pressure and without the bad habits. (And much faster too--I always had the creative energy, but the system back then wouldn't really allow it.)

Meanwhile, a strange thing happened. I began to notice that some writer's my age--who had made the career choice to be writers--seemed somewhat burned out and cynical about the whole thing, whereas I was excited and having fun.

I also noticed that many of them were struggling financially, even though by my 32 year old standards, they had been highly successful. Turns out, only a few writers really make good money at it.

Anyway, it probably all turned out for the best. I still enjoy writing, I'm not dependent on writing for a living, and I've managed to produce a career's worth of work without spending decades to do it.

Good or bad writing, I couldn't tell you. It was the writing I could do-- and probably better than I would have produced 35 years ago.

And meanwhile, I had a very satisfying career in business--mostly because it wasn't dependent on anyone else but my own efforts. If I could pay my bills, I succeeded. Didn't matter what anyone else thought. Thank God for that.

I hope this doesn't come across as smug. It's just interesting to me how it turned out. I'm not sure I would give anyone else the advice to try the same thing.