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.



  1. Good for you, Peter!

    And keeping within your line of thinking– here's to hoping you have to pay even more next year.

    (Of course, you might anyway, if the tax rates keep going up, but that's another matter.)

    Seriously, though, good on you!

  2. Of course you do know what else you have created… readers like me that are (impatiently) awaiting the next installment to the Maxwell Saga!

    Keep up the great work. I am sure that you have inspired many and will continue to do so in the future.

  3. And we're all happy that you've chosen to write for us: "Adapt and Overcome" is one of the three best books I've read this year!

  4. A true inspiration. It's too bad so many allow their disabilities to rule their lives, instead of as a spur to success, but your example shows the way.

  5. Peter,
    Thank you for inspiring me. I have been sitting here wondering how we will live through the rest of the year, after emptying our savings to pay both federal and state taxes this year.

  6. I have a sense of satisfaction when I cut my own tax checks. Don't get me wrong, I detest the waste of our tax dollars and I have no respect for those who choose to help themselves to the money of others for their own desires. Still, when I write out my 1040-ES payments I know I am a contributing member of society and am doing reasonably well.

    It's a mixed bag. It doesn't mean I *like* paying that much. It sure doesn't mean I want to pay more. But it does mean I understand that feeling that we have an ownership role in things instead of viewing the government as Santa Claus.

    I guess that makes us the elves to those who DO think of the government as Santa. Only kids don't usually begrudge Santa's elves a night off or a cup of cocoa when they've been hard at work all day.

  7. Outstanding!

    There's nothing better than standing on your own two feet. Salute to you and Wing for finding a way to do it!

  8. Congratulatios Peter!
    Like you, I much prefer makers to takers, and I'm delighted to see you in the makers column again! Sticking to it and not just coasting along is very admirable. Thanks!

    A similar story:
    Glenda in Vancouver was born with the debilitating birth problems we call cerebral palsy. This has left her with an unintelligible speaking voice and so little muscular control that she can type reliably with only her left thumb. Yet, she has become a technical specialist on providing accessibility techniques for web sites and has learned to use technology as a speaking substitute … to the extent that she has become a public speaking personality in the web development community. Although I don't know that she has come so far as to making more tax contributions than disability consumption, she is struggling hard to not be on the dole.

    Both of you must be greatly admired for your determination!


    (Now, you can write to me offline about why you should ditch the CAPTCHA. [prove you're not a robot])

  9. Congratulations! Glad to hear your books are selling well! (Even if I'm a bit jealous at your sales numbers…)

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