Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Why I'm happy to pay taxes this year
Sounds odd, doesn't it? Why should anybody be happy to pay taxes?
For me the story goes back to 2004, when I suffered a crippling injury at work. Two surgeries later it became clear that I'd be permanently partially disabled, and I had to accept medical retirement. A neurosurgeon told me bluntly that due to issues with pain, physical endurance, etc., I'd never again be able to work at a 'normal' 9-to-5 job, so I'd simply have to accept living on a disability pension.
My immediate reaction was, "To hell with that!" My parents raised me to believe that a man looks after himself and his family; pays his own way; and relies on the assistance of others only when there's no alternative, and even then for as short a time as possible until he can stand on his own two feet again. I was hampered, of course, by the fact that few employers would hire someone who couldn't do a full day's work for a full day's pay. This grew even worse after the current recession hit in 2008; with so many able-bodied workers desperate for a job, partially-abled folks like me weren't even considered most of the time. Nevertheless, I had a plan.
In 1984, when I was 24 years old, my first book was published. It dealt with prayer and wasn't commercial in orientation, but it proved (to me, at any rate) that I could write in a way that was interesting to others. Several articles in professional journals had preceded it, and more followed until South Africa's civil unrest got in the way of further writing activities. Therefore, after hearing that skeptical neurosurgeon in 2005 (and biting my lip to hold back a rude retort), I made up my mind to work hard at learning the craft of fiction writing and to try to make a living that way. After all, my physical limitations wouldn't stop me writing whenever and wherever I could.
When pain woke me (as it often did, and still does) in the small hours of the morning, instead of taking another painkiller, I went to my study and wrote. The pain wasn't fun, but it spurred me to harder work. I found I could do a surprising amount while the rest of the world was asleep, even if I had to catch up on my rest during the day. I wrote almost two dozen partial and complete novels over the next eight years, totaling a couple of million words. None of them were very good: but I learned from each failure, and worked harder, and the results got better and better. (I wrote about the process at greater length last year.)
The publication of my first novels last year was the culmination of almost a decade of hard work. I'm not earning a full living from them yet, but I made enough in 2013 for Uncle Sam to want a chunk of it. I was happy to pay it. It's concrete evidence to me that I'm contributing once more to the upkeep of the society in which I live, instead of just being a burden on it. I'm once again a producer rather than a parasite. That makes me all sorts of happy. If I continue to work hard, and you continue to enjoy what I write, I hope to be fully self-supporting within another year or two. I'm looking forward to the day when I can cancel further payments on my disability pension.
It's a good feeling.