The Ending and Beginning of a Journey — Into the City

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  And when I first started thinking about this idea, “writer,” in correlation with my life, I really didn’t quite have a grasp of the image of what made a person a writer — or how the hell I could become one.  The one thing I thought I knew from reading my heroes (Hemingway, Twain, and Kerouac) was that I had to live my life, in some shape or form, as if I was living in a book.


Now, when I was younger, to try and fulfill this prophesy, I would travel and move as much as possible.  In fact, I thought that if I didn’t travel widely, I wasn’t really actually traveling like a writer.  Destination is death!  I was hungry for experience to write about, searching for it in Guatemala, Prague, Detroit — places that have become as much a part of my identity as my childhood.  And while that idea has changed — experiences come in all forms — the aspect that I still hold true about living my life like a book is the idea of structure.  For example, like the old cliché goes, there are chapters to one’s life, closing a book, beginning a new, a personal renaissance — all that bullshit. Each year, each period, each section of my life plays a larger part in the whole, and I have begun to expect the dramatic changes — almost yearn for them.  Because in a certain sense, saying goodbye is the ultimate freedom.

What I’m trying to say is that a chapter has ended; I am no longer a full-time freelance writer.


I’ve been looking back over this blog, and it’s been six months since I wrote my first real post about quitting my job, pursuing my career as a freelance writer, stopping the soul-sucking commute, and beginning to write, write, write.  And I did.  I wrote for some great publications — Salon, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, The Village Voice — and I told some great stories.  I wrote about the ports, the closing of a fish market, Jack Kerouac, truckers, books, poets/actors.  I even wrote a cover story.  And it’s been wonderful.  I worked with some great people who helped me out along the way down in the LBC and Orange County. (Sarah Bennett, Gustavo Arellano, Nate Jackson are incredible people!)

Fish Tacos at Berth 55
Fish Tacos at Berth 55

But in the end, I just felt that I couldn’t make enough of a living.  My student loans, my rent, and my medical insurance bills were always speaking to me — “Hey, you know you’ve got to pay me, right?” — and I found that I wasn’t happy waking up and hustling for pieces that paid very little — though some paid much better than the others.  And writing for me isn’t initially about the money, unless that’s your income — then, yes, it’s about the money.  I do like security.  I do like a steady paycheck, but I also love writing.  If an opportunity comes up to be a full-time writer, of course, I’m going to consider it.

And I’m going to still freelance on the side and pitch the stories I want to pitch. Meantime, an opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse. As of last week, I have started a job as a Writer and Social Media Specialist at a public relations firm in Westwood.  From my window, I can see the Pacific Ocean, The Getty, and Westwood.  I moved to West L.A., and I’ll be working 2 miles from where Heron will be working in July.  It’s an opportunity that I feel lucky to have.

Red Berth

But there’s something else I’ve had to confront about working full-time as a freelance writer — besides the struggle to afford basic living requirements — is that I haven’t had enough time to work on my memoir.

I don’t know if you remember, dear reader, but a few months back, I wrote a post about revising my novel.  Six months ago, an agent at an amazing literary agency asked for some revisions.  The biggest revision: turning my novel into a memoir.  Well, because I have been so focused on writing to make money to survive, well, I haven’t really worked on the memoir.  I have pieces.  But I don’t have a manuscript.  And out of all the writing I’ve done, this is the most important to me, because it’s my story, my town’s story, my family’s story — the story I must tell before I can really write any other stories that I have in the back of my mind.  And in order to write this book, I need some consistency in my life.  I need to be able to come home from work and work.


So, I begin again a new but the same journey.  So from now on when you read my blog, you’ll still see me sharing stories I’ve written for some magazines, but you’ll be following the longer journey of me trying to publish my book — plus, just what it’s like to live in L.A.  And I’m no longer chasing being a writer, because, well, I am one.  Nothing can take that away anymore.

I will share everything along the way.  I hope you’ll stay around to see how this story develops.  Really appreciate you being a part of this.

So let’s see what happens in the next chapter — Into the City.


18 thoughts on “The Ending and Beginning of a Journey — Into the City”

  1. Dang, Joe! Congrats on your job, but we already miss your presence in Long Beach. You accomplished more in 6 months of freelancing than most do in years and though it’s not a glamorous job, someone’s gotta live on ramen and without health insurance to get dem words written (as a poet, I’m sure you find it wholly depressing the minimal value our society places on words).

    Good luck on this next phase of your and Bianca’s adventures. I feel honored to have been involved in even just a small portion of this one. Let’s get drinks soon–positive changes like these are cause for celebration!

    1. Thanks for the congrats and compliments, Sarah. I’m going to miss Long Beach, too. Just took my last run along the ocean. It’s a great city, and I was lucky to have you and Aaron introduce us to some cool stuff.

      You’re right, though, it’s depressing how little emphasis is placed on words. But I believe things are changing, and maybe I just walked into it at the wrong time. We will see.

      I feel honored to have shared time with you as well. I have a feeling we’ll see each other still–especially in the writing world. We’ll be back this weekend to clean our apartment; I’ll hit you up and see if you’re around.

      Thanks for reading my blog!

  2. Good work Joe! Looking forward to reading the new chapters of your life’s experiences. Good, bad, or indifferent I’ve become interested in the journey and growth of others that I shared such a small paragraph of my life with. To your next chapter, and forever “saying goodbye”- Cheers.

    1. Paul! Good to hear from you and thanks for reading my blog. Been reading your tweets and enjoying them. It’s interesting how we can keep in touch with people from a long time ago. Glad you reached out. If you started a blog, I would read it!

  3. Glad to read you have realized you already are a writer, Joe, not trying to become one. Miss your jokes in person but glad to see you doing well and continuing to live fully. You are still a great inspiration to me as you, no doubt, are and will continue to be for many others.

    1. Sarah Frank! So good to hear from you. You’re right; it was a good realization, and it takes some pressure off. Thanks so much for your kind words, and I’m sure you’re still impacting those kids and all those who get to know you. Appreciate you reading my blog and reaching out. Tell everyone I said hello.

    1. Thanks for reading and your comments Cecilia. Struggle must mean something good though. Adversity must lead to knowledge…maybe. Here’s to the struggle and story success for the both of us.

  4. What a inspiring story! I’m finishing up my memoir, too. I haven’t even shopped it around yet, but the fact that you had an agent interested in it is super encouraging. I graduate this spring with my MFA, and I have been warned against teaching as a profession for the same reasons you’ve discussed: it can interfere with your work.

    1. Hi Lennon sundance, always great to hear from a fellow writer. What MFA are you at right now? You know, something I’ve realized since graduation is that everything and anything can interfere with the work. But what you can manage and write is another story. The mantra I heard in grad school was, yes, you can right; but what are you going to do to survive. Finding a balance between art and survival is part of what my teachers could never have taught.

      1. Good point. I’m at Hamline in St. Paul. I defend next month. The balance is something that is so individual and a struggle I see with other writers, too. Thanks for the message!

  5. I do have a few questions for you if you have time… namely, how did you break into the freelance business? And what is your take on this whole agent representation for longer works? I’m trying to figure out what my next steps are…..

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