Paying it forward is a well known principle of all Heinlein fans, since he advocated it so strenuously.
I know why too. Coming up in writing, even now, but particularly under trad, you needed so many people to give you a hand up that it was impossible to pay them all back. Impossible, particularly, unless you became a mega bestseller, since a ton of the people who helped were bestsellers.
Sometimes you managed it, little by little. The first person to give me a chance at magazine sales eventually asked me to be in an anthology that didn’t pay but was HIS labor of love, and I could say yes (even if it came at the worst possible time, as I was very ill.) Other friends I’ve helped promo or done work with.
But that’s not the idea anyway. In the field as it was — and to an extent still is — without formal education or rules of admittance, you had this generational chain link. My mentors helped me because they’d been helped (one of them by Heinlein!) and in turn I’ve helped everyone I can because I’ve been helped.
That’s one form of paying it forward. And don’t discount me, okay? It’s a very important one. Without it, while the field would no longer collapse, we’d all be stumbling in the dark and learning everything from scratch. In indie that includes “what works for promo.” and “How to format things” “What’s good pricing” etc.
But there is another form of paying it forward, and it occurred to me that’s what I’ve been engaged in for the last month and change.
That’s when you put yourself through hell, so that you can take it easier later.
It can be relative hell “if I finish the report/job today, I can take the weekend off.” Or it can be what I’ve been doing, working at things that aren’t my specialty for way too long, and not being able to sit down and write (which is driving me bonkers” because once this is done, we can then have a much easier time as long as we live in this house.
So, we’ve replaced the flooring in the room where the former owner’s cat had marked and which our cats had turned into a pissoir. That was insane work, because I had to KILZ the room several times, and repaint the walls which had pulled the moisture up about three feet. Then we had to lay in the flooring (Dan did all the measuring and cutting.) And then I had to polyurethane it. THREE TIMES It’s right now waiting a sanding and a final coat (I need to go to the store for another can of poly.)
We also bought the shelves (about half of them half painted, to organize the library.
Let me explain that while I don’t mind these jobs, and they’ve been great research for Dyce (I really needed it, honestly. It’s been too long since I’ve done remodeling hands-on. Like 15 years. I mean, we rehabilitated the Victorian before selling, but that’s a different kind of job than making/building/refinishing.) I don’t mind doing them on the weekend, like two weekends a month. When they stretch to a month, full time, then I do mind them, as they interfere with the writing. Also, I’m too old for this stuff full time and my body rebels.
OTOH, polyurethaned wood floors, as opposed to the dying carpet will save me much time both in housekeeping (I will be able to clean with a swifer cloth) and in cat-endurance. Our cats are all over 9, and geriatric cats pee EVERYWHERE. with wood floors and rugs I can take outside and hose down, my housekeeping will take a fraction of the time I now spend with the carpet cleaner. And I won’t live with pissy smells which are depressing.
In the same way, the library being set up and our books organized will save me both time and money. Because I won’t rebuy books because I can’t find them. And when a project occurs, I’ll be able to do the research instead of spending half my time looking for the books.
So, in a way, the time I’m spending now will save me more time later. It’s not spending, it’s an investment.
This is way harder than paying it forward to someone else, though. I understand why so many people (and cultures) have trouble with the concept. You have to weigh in things that haven’t happened yet, and a future you can’t be sure of. This is why cultures with uncertain property rights (or rights to life) have more trouble with it. And why I’d never have done that if trad were the only option. I mean they could stop buying me tomorrow, out of the blue, so more time next year might not help. Now, barring unforeseens, like sudden death, which can never fully be excluded, it will.
Now if only I hadn’t woken up tired enough to go back to bed, I’d feel way better.
But I’ll do what must be done, because, yes, I can conceptualize the future. And I’ll work hard today for an easier time tomorrow.