Five years ago this month, I was in the middle of a bonafide mid-life crisis. Leaving a high-profile blogging gig, 11 months prior, had triggered something in me that I needed to deal with, some trauma that had been festering in me from my early years. I had good days and bad days. On the bad ones, it was like being in a blizzard, unable to see the road ahead of me. On the good ones, the storm was clearing and I could begin to see what was next for me.
Now, before I got paid to blog, I had tried many different careers. I waitressed as a young adult. When I moved to California, I sorted wool Afghani socks in a hot Berkeley warehouse. I later managed production of a popular, though old-fashioned, weekly paper. I then played art director for a local film magazine. As the print world started shifting to a more digital one, I shifted into marketing and communications for dot-com tech companies. When SJ was born in 2004, I decided that when it was time to re-enter the workforce, I would need to get out of the corporate tech world for my sanity. When she was ready for preschool, I started at a nonprofit thinking that it would be a kinder, gentler kind of job. It was and it wasn’t. Eventually I left there, got some training, and started over (again) by opening an estate sale business.
It was going along, though the work was hard and the pay was low, when I was offered a blogging gig. Now, I had never blogged professionally before but soon learned I had the brain for it. All those years of going to flea markets and picking “treasure from the trash” were finally good for something besides losing money. Plus, in the early Internet days, we’re taking mid to late nineties, I had been “blogging,” it just wasn’t called that yet. Moving into pro blogging changed everything for me, and while it prompted that mid-life crisis, I have no regrets.
As I tried to figure out what was next for me during my mid-life mishaps, I gave a hearty attempt at running my own daily blog. I soon realized I was limited by its format and pondered making the switch to a fun e-newsletter (though I did run both the blog and the zine simultaneously for a couple years). I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew I really wanted to start right away. So, I temporarily called this new entity:
I’m not kidding. “The Newsletter Thingamabob.” Yikes, right? Well, before long I had settled on the name “Rusty’s Electric Dreams” (RED for short!) as a tribute to my favorite eighties flick, Electric Dreams. I even cribbed stills from the movie to use on the electricdreaming.com site. (One early reader thought RED had something to do with Philip K. Dick and unsubbed in a tizzy after learning otherwise.)
In the beginning, I experimented a lot with what I coined an “inbox zine.” Those early issues look nothing like today’s. In early 2015, I got a shout-out from THE Pee-wee Herman on his blog and loads more like-minded readers joined the fray. At some point, I learned of the term “positive deviance” and realized that it helped me frame what I was doing here. I believe there’s a lot of hope in living a strange life.
It’s a labor of love and, in my own weird way, an act of community service. When I travel, I try to find a guest editor to take the helm in my absence. This is always fun for me, and them. (If this sounds like fun, inquire about getting on the sub list.)
A reader recently asked me if I make any money from publishing Electric Dreams. I don’t, not really. Ads don’t make sense for something this small, though I do have readers who send me a few bucks every month. There are costs to publish it, so thank you to those patrons!
RED does have its perks. For instance, you might remember in April when I posted that I was looking for work. Well, that caught the attention of Fairyland’s then-executive director who sent me a description for the marcom gig I now hold. Also, in a funny roundabout way, my sweetie found me through the zine. Plus, I’ve become a much better and faster writer. You wouldn’t believe how much I write in a week’s time, sometimes accurately! And, of course, there’s all of you. There are thousands of you now. I never check to see who exactly is reading because I don’t want to get off my game. But I’m so thankful for each and every one of you. Without you, what I’m doing doesn’t exist. Thank you, for real.
How do I keep this ship moving? Well, besides Children’s Fairyland, I have other clients that I help with social media (and all kinds of written communications), marketing, creative strategy, and product ideation. Plus, I blog over at Boing Boing which I love. I never meant to spend my days writing, but here I am. I also sell stuff. You may recall I recently offered tiny wigs for cats and jars of Fluff for sale, and last year I made and delivered Fluffernutter fudge. This year, I’ve spent a lot of my free time crafting items for the Mystery Merchine, my in-home vending machine. If you get an invitation to my house, bring at least six dollars in quarters so you can leave with a souvenir.
What’s next? I’m glad you asked! I’ve been toying with writing a book for several years now. I’m just now narrowing down the ideas. Don’t hold your breath though, I’ll get to it when I get to it.
What about that mid-life crisis? It’s in the past, thank goodness. After several different kinds, and years, of intensive therapy and loads of soul searching, I feel more ready to take on the world than ever. RED itself has proven to be its own form of therapy, a much-needed constant during my turbulent forties.
So, that’s the short version of how RED came to be five years ago this month. Thank you all so much for reading. I know many of you have been here since the very beginning and I appreciate your support! If you just subscribed and this is your first issue, uh don’t run, this isn’t normally how it goes. 🙂