The year was 2009, it was the end of winter and I was sick as a dog, I was also an Assistant Store Manager at Blockbuster video, and was being called in while deathly ill, to be demoted.
You see, my job as an ASM was to drive sales for my store, a store that up until the Summer of 08, didn’t have to work very hard to get its cliental to spend extra money. It was in one of the nicest parts of town, where compared to the store I got my start at, spending an extra $5-$25 was not really a pressing financial choice.
It was easy to up-sell to middle and upper middle class people, and I was already a good sales person before getting there.
I wonder where I might have picked up a deeper grasp of persuasive language and modality, huh?
But anyway, this isn’t a story about the Financial Crisis, the fact that I got my job saved for another year by being transferred because that store closed like 5 months later, or how I learned about open ended questions, no.
This dear readers, is a story, my story, about not kn0wing when to quit, treading water, and disappointment.
So what happened to me? How’d I take that demotion?
Well, I made sure to shake hands with my District Manager before I went home to have a genuine hallucination fever dream where light, sound, and thought became one and I realized I was undefined, and then I spent a couple weeks using vacation and not working while they figured out where to transfer me.
I used that time to partner up with some friends to undertake re-writing the rulebook for the Live Action Role Playing Game (LARP) that I was a part of, and that became my first real literary accomplishment.
I was 27, had a bunch of community college under my belt but no transfer degree, 2 years out from closing up shop on the martial arts school I was a member of and ran for a year, four years out from the death of my best friend which devastated me in ways I cannot begin to describe, and in a job that had stopped being fun a while ago, but still seemed better than a lot of what had been out there… before all those jobs just disappeared in the Financial Crisis.
I’d started working at Blockbuster in 2003 because I loved movies, and because it was very close to home, my other job, and the community college I’d lost my financial aid eligibility for by being… look, I tell people I flunked out of community college because it’s funny, but it was more because without direction and passion my work ethic was dogshit and I couldn’t finish my requirements.
It’s late 2009/early 2010
I started dating a long time friend, a women I had met LAPRing eight years earlier. We always had something, but a combination of factors kept us apart until that fall. I described it to friends as “I was getting ready to get a tattoo and she was getting ready to buy a house” as the difference between where we’d been, but things finally came together.
She lived about 45 minutes out of the city, longer by bus since I don’t drive, and because I’m unable to approach anything at a healthy speed, and took all the sweet talk about the future very literally, I transferred to a branch that was in her town.
-Quick side note: I feel like I should clear some things up. Yes I was a LARPer and a martial artist, yes I had long hair and a trench coat for most of high school, but no, I was not neck beard-y, and I prided myself on being a pretty jacked, dude bro on the outside-
A month later my roommate decided to move out, and not knowing for sure what was happening with my girlfriend, who I was sort of living with (I move “lesbian in a committed relationship” fast, and yes I’ve been given permission to say that), and not being able to afford my place without another roommate, I ended up renting a room from my mom.
It was a weird situation to find myself in, and while it wasn’t “living at home”, it was something I had sworn I was never going to do.
But there I was, and spoiler alert, here I still am, but we’ll get to that.
Being a joint custody adult, what I called living in two places about equally, sucked. It especially sucked knowing neither place was really your own space, and I didn’t realize it at the time, because despite being a very sociable person when I’m out and about, I’m also an introvert, at least when it comes to “my time”.
So, let me explain how all of this exploded in a very short amount of time, and how it all comes down to one perfect moment at my first comics convention.
I’d always kind of thought maybe what I really wanted was to write comics.
I’d tried to figure out how to do it, and in 2008 I’d given scripting one a try. I knew possibly 1 artist friend who I could have teamed up with, but nothing happened, in part because it was a mess.
By 2010 my comics love had gotten stronger, so strong that I finally said fuck it and went to a con. You see, part of denying being a giant nerd meant not doing certain giant nerd things, but when I was pulled back into the LARPing world after a five year break, I kind of said fuck it and owned that part of my life.
(There’s a lot of motifs in this story by the way, A LOT)
In March of 2010 I got to meet the writer whose work spoke to me most directly, whose work touched my adult brain the way Guns and Roses touched my adolescent one, and I looked hum dead in the eye and told him,
“I’m coming for your job.”
That was when I knew, I really finally knew what I wanted to do with my life.
In May of that year I was given the offer from my dead best friend’s parents that if I went back to school full time and quit my job, they’d pay for my first quarter of tuition and books, I said yes.
That same month, my girlfriend and I finally had a conversation that was 3 months past when we should have had it, and ended things.
Summer quarter started in June.
(She ended up marrying a close friend of mine, and sadly, it didn’t last for them. This matters because remember what I said about motifs…)
So in roughly four months I:
Moved out of my place of 8 years
Quit my job of nearly as long.
Broke up with a woman I’d had feelings for for about the same amount of time.
And gone back to school.
I was down to 1 very part time job, which was the least employed I’d been since 2003, and that job didn’t need me that much during the summer of 2010.
It meant I was very poor, had a lot of time on my hands, especially the month between my last day and summer quarter starting, and very heartbroken, but I did 2 things with that time and energy:
One: I said fuck it, and embraced my hypno-fetish, which I had told basically no one about, and started making manips for the Hypnopics Collective, cranking out as many as I could during my free month of Photoshop
Two: I started working on my comic script again. Every day I would walk a mile to the cafe, write for hours subsisting on nothing more than a bagel and drip refills, and then when I was burnt out, walk home, put on movies, and work on manips.
This is also when I got big into podcast listening, and started devouring one podcast that was just in depth comics writer interviews. Some of the best advice and perspective I received about writing came from that month, and then summer of listening.
When school started, due to diet (starvation?) and exercise (too poor for the bus) I was down from about 190 to 175 pounds, my brain was full of craft, and I had a goal:
Go to college to become a better writer, then bust your ass to get into comics.
Meanwhile, as the summer went into fall, then winter, I was learning more about the femdom hypno scene, making friends, and owning that part of myself, and then in early 2011, I met someone in a chat room, we hit it off, and oh wait, I’m burying the other lede here…
I was at an event and I met a friend of a friend. He was wearing that shirt with portraits of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, where they each have their corresponding ninja turtle masks on, and we hit it off.
We started talking about what we wanted to do, and it turned out he was an artist who wanted to make comics, so I gave him my elevator pitch and we started working together.
So where was I?
Okay, I was in great shape, I was back in school, I was working on making a comic, and then I met, became friends with, and fell in love with a pro hypnodomme, and we stared a long distance relationship.
One of the things that brought us together was the shared experience of profound grief, and I can honestly say that I felt understood by her in a way I’d only ever dreamed of knowing.
Also, I might have been poor as shit, but early 2011 was amazing sounding, right?
But again, I’m missing the part of all of this you might actually be interested in!
This woman that I had fallen madly in love with had an idea!
“Max, why don’t you write hypnosis scripts for extra money. I know some people what want this kind of work done, and it’ll fit with you schedule.”
So yeah, I got into porn to pay for college.
(That’s not really true, but it’s fun to say. I did need the money for things like food though)
Anyhow, making comics is hard, drawing takes a long time, there are a bunch of other steps on top of that, and neither one of us was doing it as a job. Also, I can’t draw, like at all.
Anyhow, long distance relationships are hard, and it’s kind of weird when you can fall in love with someone you’ve never met face to face, and who you’re too poor to just up and visit.
Anyhow, going back to school as an adult, applying to a 4 year school to finish your last 2 years to get a degree, and realizing you’re going to have to love on campus as a 30 year old man surrounded by children, is also kind of hard.
Anyhow, when your girlfriend’s plans to come visit you that summer fall through because she has to go take care of an ailing family member, and when all’s said and done you don’t get to meet each other face to face for about a year and a half, that’s also difficult.
Anyhow, it turns out that moving away from your entire social support network, even if it was only 60 miles south (when you don’t drive), focusing on your romantic partner’s well being and being as supportive as you can, while also devoting yourself to school an nothing else, can make you kind of sedentary (fat), especially when you’re just on the phone three hours or more a day.
Anyhow, when your partner kind of freaks out inside because maybe it was less real for her all along and she has crippling insecurities, and you do get to finally see each other, and you still move too fast with everything, when you add all those pieces together, it can make an already challenging relationship that much more difficult.
Anyway, when you decide it’s easier to just commute to campus via public transit, traveling that 60 miles there and back on the same day 3 days a week, that can also run you down, especially when your relationship, this thing you’re working as hard on as you are your education, and means as much to your future as said education does, is falling apart.
Anyway, when you finally graduate after what ended up being a 13 year journey from your first day of community college to your last day at a university, and the most important person in the world to you won’t come up and visit, and all you’ve been doing is fighting, and getting the silent treatment for months at a time, but you stick with her because you love her, because you’re so loyal in the two years you’ve been together you haven’t listened to, or looked at anyone else’s work, let alone, any other porn for that entire time, it can be deeply wounding to hear about her amusement park vacation a month after you graduate.
Anyway, it can be easy to just grab a job to get by when you don’t know where your future is going to be, and where things stand with a woman you’re hoping you’re building a life with actually are.
Anyway, it’s easier to get more sedentary when you find yourself video game testing, and you turn down real promotion and FTE opportunities because you’re finally almost done with that first issue of your comic book, it may have taken 3 years, but you’re just pages away from having it all.
Anyway, it’s really easy when your girlfriend thinks you’ve broken up with her, and you think she’s giving you the silent treatment, and for the next year you think you’re still working on things and she thinks you’re working on a friendship, to start to slide into a profound and powerful depression where you become the worst version of yourself.
Anyway, you get 24 pages of pencils and inks, and you realize, “Hey, all that photo manniping didn’t make me a great letterer, but it showed me where to start, I’m just word balloons away from having made this thing, and made this dream come true.”
Then letter your first comic book, and you make a lot of mistakes, in part because you should have gotten a proof reader before publishing (both times) to print on demand.
Then you talk with your artist about maybe doing issue 2 before sending the book out to try and get picked up. Because you both want a bigger sample size, and because, because you’re kind of broken down and it’s not that you don’t think it’s good, it’s that you know issue 2 will be better, that all of it will come together better.
Then that relationship you thought you were still in finally comes to an end in your eyes.
Then it becomes clear long before he says it, that your artist buddy doesn’t have it in him to do the amount of work that it takes to draw and ink a comic book for free, and you understand because it was your baby all along, not his, and you feel like you conned him into something anyway, because neither of you knew what you were doing until you were deep into it.
Then you’re at a job you hate, your book is dead, your relationship is dead, you’re fat, your mom’s still your roommate, and all the work you put into your future over the last 5 years has withered and died at about the same time.
So what do you do? You realize you can make about what you’re currently making if you quit that job and get either more work from your one hypnosis client, or get a new client, and/or start generating stuff you can sell for passive income.
So, you get some help from your ex putting you site together, because you’re still friends and because maybe she feels like she owes you, also you two have no idea at this point that you broke up at separate times, so that’ll be a fun conversation a few months later.
So you pay rent 3 months ahead, you get to it, and you double down on being a fucking professional writer, because the one thing you have left, the last god damned thing you have left that you’ve put your soul into, is your ability to write well.
So you launch your site, score two new clients pretty quickly, and are on your way to getting by.
So you plan, and organize and do your best, but face your undiagnosed depression which can seem a lot like writers block, and face the fact that your library content sells about a tenth as well as you’d hoped it would.
So you make the same mistakes for years, but you keep going, because in your life other people might quit on you, or because you’re a child of divorce and you don’t know what stability is, or because while you know that you might not know how to always do better or make better choices you do know that you only lose when you quit.
And after a few years in the wilderness, you stumble into making some better choices for yourself, you start getting the help you need, and you heal.
And when you’re healed up, when you feel like a person other people would actually like again, when you know what’s going on in your heart and in your head, when you like you again, and you see some light on the horizon, you try again.
So that’s the true story of how I’ve come to this moment in my life.
I don’t mind saying that this work wasn’t my first choice, and if something better comes along in the writing world, I’ll be gone, because I’ve learned that it’s really fucking hard to do this stuff and have energy left over for my own projects.
But here’s the thing, I care about this scene, and I care about the people in it deeply. I care about other fans/subs/subjects/etc. because I know how hard it is to come to terms with this stuff. I care about the women that make this content because I spent years sharing a life with someone who did, and experienced how hard it was on her end.
Knowing who you are and what you want is hard, and this is already a lonely, difficult world, and while it doesn’t quite measure up to the practicality of script writing, I feel just as good when someone reaches out to me to say I’ve made something easier, better, or more clear in their lives as it does when I get to tell people that, yes, I am a professional writer.
And if you’re wondering what I say in polite company, “Oh, I’m a freelance writer, I do a lot of ghost writing, nothing I can put my name on, stuff like that.”
People can usually tell I’m vague for a reason, and they let it go. The ones that don’t are the ones that can handle me saying, “Adult entertainment”.
That usually does it, but sometimes people want to go a little further, and I say, “I’m happy to talk about the specifics of what I do, but that means you’ll end up knowing something very intimate about me.”
That’s when I get to find out how freaky the person I’m talking to really is…