Slightly-Related News!!

Open Letter, September 20th, 2004

As promised in my last Open Letter, there’s been news in the queue that is “slightly related,” while still being of sufficient import to merit the application of some suspense.

That news has now broken. September 20th was my last day as a Novell employee. I resigned voluntarily, and am now officially “unemployed” for the first time in 11 years.

Most folks, upon reading this, will immediately let slip the hamsters of speculation, spinning those wheels with rattling incessancy. Rest assured, for every thought you readers may have on this matter, I’ve got at least half a dozen things I want to say, and ALL of them would segue appropriately from the statement in the above paragraph. The hardest part about all of this is choosing which thought to follow up first. What to say, what to say?

Let me start this way: there are numerous reasons why one MIGHT choose to leave a lucrative position as a visionary with a leading technology company, and most of them have little or nothing to do with what really happened in my case. What it really boiled down to was the simple fact that God told me it was time to quit.

God did not say why. He also did not offer me any specific bits of encouragement, like saying “Schlock Mercenary will be netting you a high five-figure income by the end of 2005″ (which revelation I would have greeted with all kinds of jubilant praise, yessirree, halle-LOO-ya.) No, for all I know the spiritual experience I’ve had in conjunction with this decision is leading me on a path that involves poverty, desperation, abject humility, and then a return to Novell as someone hungry enough to really get down to business.

The truly spiritual person doesn’t care about the destination in cases like this. For saints, it’s enough to know that the decision is the right one, and that God’s ways are not necessarily understandable to mortals.

I’m no saint. I’m scared spitless. But I’ve had this kind of spiritual prompting in my life on three other occasions, and I know that for all my fears, things will work out okay. I just don’t have a specific value for “okay” yet.

Now, before you start throwing money at me with the Paypal button, I need to say a couple of things.

  1. My family and I can get by through Christmas with no income other than what we know will be in my final check. We’ve always lived well within our means.
  2. If I get hungry enough in the bleak midwinter, I know I can find Novell-related work with my former customers, GroupWise partners, or even with Novell.

These two points are amazingly liberating. In the face of this new-found freedom, I’m going to spend the next 90 days pretending to be a full-time cartoonist. It may be little more than a sabbatical, or perhaps a pilgrimage-at-the-drawing-table. Then again, it may be a pretense that dictates the shape of reality. I’m not unemployed. I’m SELF-employed. Pretend that with me, please.

For those of you uncomfortable with the thought that God might be talking to me, feel free to pretend that He is just another one of the Voices In My Head. I mean, as long as we’re pretending stuff I might as well enable you in some comfortable fictions, right?

Watch this space. The game-of-pretend has just begun, and I think you’ll like the way it plays out.

42 thoughts on “Slightly-Related News!!”

  1. At some point, you have to take the leap, lest you spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been. The last time I did that has turned out less wonderfully than I’d hoped…but I’m still happy I did it.

    The famous aviation writer Gordon Baxter wrote of clutching his typewriter to his chest and leaping off the cliff to see if it would support him. It did, well enough. Here’s hoping your pens do the same.

  2. Howard, good luck. I’m not much one for Godding myself, but I do respect the folks who have the vision and courage to respond to God’s call, even if I’m a bit doubtful about the reality of said call. As a want-to-be self employed author, I respect the desire to be self employed and I am going to do my damnedest to scrape up enough money to take part in some commercial type interaction involving Schlock merchandice. Back to substitute teaching I guess. Good luck and God be with you.

  3. Wow, I’m glad to hear this is at least a voluntary move and one that you seem relatively comfortable with. I hope it all works out for you okay.

    I must admit, I was ready to click that Paypal button, but you seem to prefer we not do so, though you didn’t quite ask us not to.

    So I figured I’d settle for a tshirt and, if I can find it, a book. Are any available yet? Or is this one going to be the first?

    Best of luck to you!


      That particular book listing is a work of vapor-publishing on the part of the very ambitious Chris Crosby. I’m not sure how many pre-orders have been listed, but I have NO intention of publishing with Keen at this point.

      I’ve told Chris as much. I guess he’s not gotten around to pulling the listing because from HIS standpoint it can’t do a whole lot of harm to leave it there.


      1. Re: DON’T BUY THAT BOOK


        First, good luck to you.

        Second, the SM book was included in our upcoming titles file because at the time it was written (about a year ago) you seemed to have a pretty clear intention of publishing it with us at some point. That said, it shouldn’t have been included, and we’ve asked for it to be removed from all book databases (CDS handles that, including our Amazon listings). We haven’t promoted it in any way, aside from the inclusion on the list.

        Though last I heard from you about the book (June), you told me you were leaving the book rights open for us (or another publisher). So it wasn’t exactly made clear to me (at least from my rememberance) that you had NO intention of going with us on it.

        But I think it’s pretty clear now! 🙂

        1. Sorry about that…

          Sorry about that, Chris. I thought I’d made it clear in an email back in August. Obviously I hadn’t, so I gots no bidniz dissin’ da Crosby in public. 🙂


  4. Good luck, my friend.

    You know I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the subconcious mind doing all sorts of weighing and calculating behind the scenes and giving you a swift kick in the rear when things aren’t adding up right in your life. So I might not think your move is as loony as one might expect.

    If anything, I’m envious. 😉

  5. My Opinion

    It seems appropriate for me to comment and say that this decision of Howard’s has my full support. In fact for every step he has made sure that this is Our decision and not merely something he inflicts on the rest of us.

    I’m scared too, but I know this is the right thing for us to be doing right now.

    1. Re: My Opinion

      I wish the both of you every success. My Lady_Anne and I have been self employed for decades. It can be scary, but there is an old adage that carries much truth: People tend to be happy to the extent that they feel in control of their lives.

      It works for us; it is an excellent experience, and I have great confidence that you will not only do well but enjoy the process.

      And, to the extent that a bit of practical experience at the self-employed-and-enjoying-it gig can be of value, feel free to bounce ideas in our directions.

      Best wishes, and may good fortune bring you everything you deserve.

      ===|==============/ Level Head

  6. Howard,
    I wish you the absolute best possible fortune in your new endeavor, whatever it may turn out to be.

    For those of you uncomfortable with the thought that God might be talking to me…

    Hey, I figure even He needs some intelligent conversation once in a while. He could pick a lot worse people to talk to for it …. 🙂

  7. I don’t think saints are saints either, in that respect; the true measure of courage is not lack of fear, but action in spite of it.

    Good luck, and I hope whatever voice it was (and who is to say what voice it was, indeed) was very right. In fact, I don’t doubt it is.

  8. Count me strapped in for the long haul! Let us know how to support, ‘cuz I, for one, will not let anything stand between me and my website of Schlockatey goodness.

    Good luck, and godspeed, Howard.

  9. Good luck to you brother Taylor. Just remember, most of the time when God drops you a hint like this he’s getting ready to ship your family off to a mission somewheres. ::smiles::


  10. My opinions, free and worth every penny.

    I am with the swede. When it comes to it Saintliness is about courage and courage is really about what you do despite fear. Not for lack of it.
    That’s usually referred to as Stupid.
    And you are NOT stupid. Neither is your obviously intelligent (and tasteful) wife.

    As for God, If he leads you in that direction then he will take care of you. He may test the bejeebers out of you but he will take care of you. If he hasn’t led you in that direction then he will pretty much act the same anyway. He’s kinda stubborn that way.
    You just do what you feel is right, Howard. And God bless all of you.

  11. While I appreciate your devotion to your faith, I find it somewhat irresponsible to tote children through what you admit may very well be poverty and desperation. Of course, I know how much love you feel for your children – I just can’t see the logic behind this.

    Good luck to you, though, and I hope God doesn’t have too much humility in store for you and your family. Or maybe I should wish that he does – I guess we just live in different worlds.

    1. The only “poverty” my kids have known thus far is “we forgot to buy chimichangas at the store.”

      Now they’re getting familiar with “We do NOT live off of chimichangas, Hot Pockets, or Corn Dogs. Eat What Mom Cooked.”

      We will never get to the “sorry, no food for you today” point. Trust me on this — I’ll let my kids endure a little hardship, but before there’s any actual SUFFERING I’ll be back in a day-job someplace.


      1. That’s good. No offense, but religious people can get sort of weird sometimes. I was just hoping you weren’t singularly devoted to following this joblessness.

        1. It isn’t joblessness. It is an experiment in self-employment. We have sufficient assets to support the experiment for a time without causing undue stress to the children. Mostly what they’ll see is that Daddy is home more, we have more home cooked food, and we can’t buy new toys as often as they’d like.

          Oh, and no offense taken. I’m glad we’re able to clear things up so that you don’t have to fear for our children.

          1. IF it ever gets close to that point

            IF it ever gets close to that point and you dont want to resort to paypal, just ask us to buy shirts for christmas. Every year I ask for a few Webcomic shirts, ill be sure to include Schlock on my list, good luck with your decision, Schlock should be in newspapers, its a whole lot better then most of the drivel they got in there now.

  12. As someone who did this some years ago, I can sympathize. It’s actually not as hard as it sounds. Good luck! And enjoy that liberation feel. Also, prepare for the rush of writing “cartoonist” under the occupation line on forms. 😀


  13. Good luck – if you do want to make a living of Schlock Mercenary I can’t think of a person better-equipped to do it. Megatokyo, S*P, and others I wonder about when they are doing it ‘full time’ and can’t even provide a comic regularly! Schlock on the other hand I’ve been happy to see it there every morning for my dose of funny, despite the other demands on your time.

  14. Keep the Faith

    As someone has gone from contract work to being self-employed to a full time+ job, I know that the self-employed part was by far the scariest time of our lives. I also know that my wife and I have come out of it stronger and with a greater appreciation of what is really important in life.

    It always seems that God puts us exactly where we need to be to make us stronger. Whilst being a little scared for you and your family, I have faith that the Lord will look after you, and I for one fully support your decision.

    Good luck, and may the Lord be with you!

  15. Faith

    I voluntarily left Hewlett Packard a year ago, though my circumstances were slightly different. My wife is a successful career-minded woman and makes considerably more than I possibly could. I have spent the past year as a stay-at-home-dad and it has been worth every ounce of financial sacrifice.

    As for divine inspiration, 9 months ago I turned down my dream job in another city because I felt God wanted me to stay where I was. I didn’t question the insight and figured he knew a bit better about what my future may hold. We found out 2 days later we were expecting. A week ago I got a call from the hiring manager at the same company. He offered me the position again, and gave me 6 months to get there. Yesterday my daughter was born and after my wife’s maternity leave all loose ends here will be tied up and we’ll be moving as I accepted the job this time around.

    Sometimes the Lord can’t explain why he wants you to do things, but maybe that’s because it would be too hard to wrap our mortal minds around some of the things he can know and see.

  16. Self-Employment

    Firstly, allow me to add my own best wishes for you and your family to those of every other Schlock reader, whether they post it here or not.

    Secondly, I would also like to add my own personal respect and admiration to you for having, quite literally, the courage of your convictions. My own relationship with God is complex at best, but were he to set fire to my wife’s prized rose bushes and order me in a voice like thunder to resign from my paying job and go freelance, I don’t think I would do it.

    Thirdly, may I offer further respect to Sandra for supporting you in this. As a wife and a mother, you (Sandra) must have had concerns which I can only speculate about, since I am neither. My best wishes go to you, too.

    And finally, I’m off to the Schlock store to spend some money. Not because of this, I hasten to add, but because I’ve finally (the reasons are long and complex, and I won’t go into them here) got my own credit card, which makes things much easier all round.

    Once again, good luck. Our thoughts are with you.

  17. Yeah, self-employed.

    I recently became self-employed as well, though it was hardly mutual. In fact I disagree with their decision whole-heartedly.

    Good luck on you voyage, and even if you do remain self-sufficient don’t be afraid to ask all us schlockers for help. We’d be more than happy to. And it won’t make you any les self reliant.

    I just with I had the courage to take a flying leap and do what I know God’s been telling me to do. (Though I maintain that the risk at this point outweighs the potential.)

    Good luck.

  18. G-d Rocks

    And so do you (if not in quite the same way) :). Best wishes on your leap into self-employment, Mr. Tayler. Woohoo! Exciting stuff. 🙂

  19. Funny, dat. I just picked up a GroupWise tech manual on Monday, saw your name as Technical Editor, and thought “Oh yeah, he works for Novell, doesn’t he?”

    Stop making me wrong. I get all cross when people make me wrong.


  20. Faith moves mountains…

    …and you’re moving in the right direction. I felt the same way when I enrolled in Grad School earlier this year… for a writing degree. I felt that it was where I needed to be, so I’ve taken a similar leap of faith. Haven’t left the office yet — that’s for when the book deals roll in.

    Hey, if it works out for both of us, maybe we’ll end up with neighboring booths at Comicon or GenCon a few years from now.

    Schlock On, baby!

    — Ty

    P.S. So when are we gonna see GURPS Schlock? 😉

  21. It kinda shames me to say this, but I’ve been a fan of your work for years, but I’ve never traded words with you at all.

    All I can say is that you’ve gotten better and better since you started, and this will be one hell of a learning experience, either way.

    As for hearing the words of God… well, I don’t think my opinions of what you heard matters; I’m not of the faith, after all. Hope it leads you well.

Comments are closed.