Despite the Freedom to Write Whenever He Wants and About Whatever He Wants and
Despite the Life-Enriching Daily Adoration of His Baby Daughter,
Stay-at-Home Dad Dreams of Becoming Super-Rich
While Writing Super-Long Headlines
by Adam Rynkiewich
Like many other stay-at-home fathers with B.A.’s in Literature and no aversion to letting children watch an hour or two of morally sound, vegetable-centered cartoons laced with infectious ditties, I have deeply considered possibly becoming a freelance writer in my spare time some day if I ever happen upon or, for Heaven’s sake, think of a good story idea that does not involve me personally or have anything to do with the phenomenon of stay-at-home-fathers.
I am writing a novel. It is my fourth in a series of what is becoming a wildly uninteresting artistic endeavor to me (though I see no end to my pain) as the years pass and my sister says “I love it” and my wife says “I love it” and my dad says “Uh-huh, good for you!” and then I file 40,000 words and a year’s worth of work away in a desk drawer all the while thinking to myself “Why did I write that?”
The main character in my fourth novel (they’re all more novellas admittedly - both in the sense that they are shorter than real novels and that they are less significant than true novels) is named Mel Marvin. He cannot help but make money as a writer. He lives on the royalties of three erotic novels he wrote as a young man until one day, after years of being a benefactor to artists of all types (the only things in common these artist have is a willingness to beg for money and a profound love of self), he begins to run out of money. So, quickly and effortlessly, Mel pens two more erotic novels, which sell millions of copies in sex-tome markets from Canada to Papua New Guinea and inflate his bank account once again.
Money should be free, says one of my characters (who is herself, in a semi-clever/ semi-trite layer of fiction within a fiction, a character in a short story written by another one of my characters when she says the line). But, not so amazingly, it isn’t free, I now add needlessly. If it were free, money that is, then of what worth would it be? Of what value is anything inherently? Is all worth ascribed?
I had a friend in college, who laughed at me when I complained that my J. Crew shirt was not worth what I had paid for it.
“Of course it is,” he said. “It is worth whatever you paid for it.”
So worth is what I have traded away for ownership, in his estimation, and has nothing to do with the cost of production or the materials involved in the creation of the object. The shirt I own is equal to the shirt that was sewn no matter if the manufacturing cost of the clothing item equals about a quarter of the price I paid.
What was the price of the approximately 130,000 words I yoked into three (and a half!) obscure novellas? And whom did I pay? And why am I searching for it to be worth only money? Can worth, within my narrow skull, not be discovered unless it is dyed green and cut into two and a half by six inch rectangles?
Seems to me that, as I age, I grow unfortunately more interested in money. For a guy, who as of writing this sentence, has not made a penny in two months and who, honestly, even when working full time, has not made over $18,000 a year since 1996, but who has, by the grace of God and the grace of his wealthy parents-in-law and his hard-working wife, never gone hungry, I do concern myself with dreams of mountains of cash way, way too much.
Worth, worth, worth. The free gifts of grace from God and from family, do these not have worth?
“Yes!” screams something deep within me (and I hope in you). Still, my own eternal salvation and the merciful hugs I receive from my strawberry blonde 18-month-old because she knows that daddy is not a perfect daddy but a guy doing the best he can in the role of daddy, these things, as wonderful as they are, receive a scabby, pointy elbow from my money-lust each day and end up taking a back seat to my day-dreams of lucre.
I daydream of being worth lots of money.
I daydream of my work being worth lots of money.
A portion of that daydream is only that I wish I could provide for my family. I am not being swayed, at least not completely, by some idea of the traditional male role. Rather, I just wish – and I assume my wife would think the same if the roles in our family were reversed – that my spouse did not have to work so hard to keep our daughter out of daycare (a family choice).
Another portion of the daydream is only that, against all the literature I love, including the Christian Bible, and against all of my favorite songs and against all my favorite paintings (or surely this feeling would be against my favorite paintings if I had any), I am full of avarice. It’s not an easy thing to admit. Clearly, I am not driven by greed in such a way that I intend to go out, study hard, pay my dues and then attain a job that would bring me lots of money. That’d be great and I wish I were. Instead, I am only given to futile fantasies of winning the lottery or signing an extraordinarily lucrative book deal (with no effort on my part to contact a book publisher or literary agent in, say, the last five years). Where in the Bible am I encouraged to hope for a windfall of greenbacks? In which John R. Cash song are the lines, “Avarice Adam wants something for nothing/ He dreams of gifts night and day/ Lord, why does a man ask and not freely receive?/ Avarice Adam struts along the Good Way.”
No, nobody celebrates avarice. It’s a disgusting characteristic. Still, knowing greed’s unpleasantness and admitting to this sin could give me a chance to feel a little more at home in a Johnny Cash song. Maybe, like a bitter weed, I’m a bad seed. Or, on the positive side, maybe I’m just an old chunk of coal. Alternately, maybe I’m no earthly good. Could I be likened to a kneeling drunkard? Or is there a beast in me?
This is not a whine, for a whine is feeble and I am writing too plainly to be considered feeble. This is not a lament, for a lament is sorrowful and I am too blessed to be sorrowful. This is just more of a jealous grump.
Don’t hate me as I hate me. I hear your eyes rolling. I only wish to be posted on Don’s website. I only wish for one of you dear readers to find my writing so enthralling that you wish to become an advocate for my fiction or my column-writing. Maybe you will contact those literary agents for me? Maybe you are a book publisher yourself? I only wish for easy money. Name a writer who did not want to be rich. You cannot.
Anyway, I hear the baby waking from a nap and I want to go snuggle her and drop these greedy ideas for a while.
Next: How I taught myself to cook over the past five years and why Ernest Hemingway needs to rise from Hell to write a review of my risotto.