I don't really remember when it happened- It was quite some time ago- but there came a point in my writing life when I quit asking Why am I doing this? and started asking myself How am I going to keep doing this? The answer turned out to be Any damned way I can.
First off, let me just say that I hate manuscripts. They look like crap, they feel like crap, and the words trapped inside their barren pages hate them as much as I do. A story in manuscript form is like a bird in a chicken-wire cage: You should kill it and eat it or else set it free. I released mine into chapbooks and gave them to my friends.
Back then, fifteen years or so, it was just me, a sturdy little tank of a laptop computer, an inkjet printer and a bootlegged copy of Wordperfect. A ream of printer paper, a ream of cardstock, and a big-ass stapler. I was in love.
Things are different now.
For one thing, I'm a better writer than I was back then. Quite good actually, thank you very much. I haven't done a chapbook in a while either, though I've kept copies of most of the old ones, and I still have that big-ass stapler. Nowadays I have the internet. I upload files to create print on demand paperbacks. I create paperless PDF's that I've been giving away for free. I keep this blog and I find my way onto twitter and facebook when I can.
But the biggest difference? Back when I was making those chapbooks I used to think that it would be great to be picked up by a "real" commercial publisher. Now, I know that what I really wanted was to be able to play with their toys and dig in their sandbox. I've come to realize that I'm just not terribly interested in writing as a business. I'm not a merchant, I'm not a brand, and I'm not a commodity. And I'm still too in love with my own vision to have it any other way.