This is the second of a series of blog posts about writing and self-publishing that Jay has written for the Sudden Insight Publishing blog. Enjoy!
It may sound a little cheesy, but I don’t care: I think that everyone has something they were born to do. When I was a kid, I looked at cars and said, “That’s freedom. I want one of those.” I had more than one friend that looked at cars and said, “That’s interesting. How does it work?” That baffled my young mind. I didn’t understand then that the mechanics of something could be more interesting to some people than its actual function. It took me even longer to understand that that’s why the world is full of so much cool stuff.
I used to draw a lot. I thought I wanted to draw comic books or graphic novels, until I pictured myself sitting at a desk and doing it for eight or ten or twelve hours a day. I enjoyed drawing, and I still do from time to time; but I knew before I ever got started that it was a hobby level of enjoyment. If I had turned it into a profession, I would hate drawing now.
When I was sixteen, I learned a little guitar. I started singing and writing songs, and I wanted to be a rock star . . . as long as it came easy. Once again, I looked ahead and saw a dream of tomorrow that looked like a nightmare to me: playing the same songs over and over, spending endless hours on a tour bus, and all the local groupies lay the same.
By the time adulthood came around, the only thing I knew for sure about what I wanted to do with my life was that there were a bunch of things I didn’t want to do.
I was not unaware of the clues around me. The things I had tried to draw were often scenes or characters from my favorite fantasy novels. The only thing I felt like doing when band practice was over was reading books. While other band members read guitar magazines or practiced scales or guzzled whisky (it’s on most drummer’s resumes, I assume it’s a requirement), I gobbled up stories about life in some future or past or alternate world.
It wasn’t just the stories that fascinated me; it was the authors, the process that they employed to get these stories from their minds into my hands. I couldn’t read a book without getting some feel for the author and either liking or disliking them for it. Either way, it seemed a daunting task to write a book and somehow manage to get the story straight. Who but a writer would think like that?
Clues were there when I was younger, too. I always considered English an easy grade, and watching others struggle with it was mystifying. I would write an assignment that everyone was given two weeks to work on while riding the bus to school on due day. Other kids were clearly more disciplined and studious and even smarter than me, but they often couldn’t get the grade I could get by dashing something off last minute. Teachers hounded me all through school, telling me I wasn’t living up to my potential. I agreed inasmuch as I understood, though I understood better at the time that none of those people were living up to their potential either. I was much more occupied with being annoyed with public school teachers using me as some distorted mirror they could view themselves through than I was open to the possibility that they might have something worthwhile to teach me.
When I became an adult, the need for cash flow sent me in some delightful and despicable (and despicably delightful) directions. A little while on any treadmill saw me bored and listless, and I saw why: most of the ways in which folks make money working for other people is because what they’re getting paid to do isn’t very fun. (This is where the reluctant leader that I have always become in my day jobs pipes up and says, “That’s why they call it work! Now do some!”)
My inner supervisor is not writing this blog, though even he would agree that working for someone else is a great way to finance making your own dreams come true. If all you’re working for is the chance to sit on the couch and watch television for the better part of most days, you probably won’t work as hard as the person trying to start their own business or fervently pursue a hobby in their off time. That’s not theory, but rather my experience.
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two years old. No, that’s not quite right. Here’s a better way to say it: I finally stopped fighting all the inner and outer voices telling me that I needed to write to be happy when I was about twenty-one. One of the voices in my head had been telling me all along that I didn’t have anything worth writing about. Then a pleasantly overwhelming cascade of love flowed through me for several months, unbidden, and the direction of my life changed forever as that demonic chant was replaced by an angel singing, “You should write about that . . .”
(To read more about my experience, read my first book “Stumbling Backasswards Into the Light”; to read more about the beautifully blessed role of demons and angels in our lives, read my second book “Walking Between Worlds; Book I: Demons & Angels”. I have to at least mention them; I am still working a day job.)
I started writing, journals at first and then my book (see above). I saw something in my first book that would change the way I worked and the way I wrote forever. Namely, the development of a process for learning and practicing a thing is essential to getting good at it; for me, at least. There are levels of skill and knowledge in every facet of every thing that only reveal themselves when I can set aside everything else and lose myself in that thing. In writing my first book, I learned that I needed to work. Furthermore, I needed to work at a job that was as complicated and intricate as writing in its own way, so that I might learn about how the world works and how different perspectives deal with it to better both myself and my writing. I also needed to learn as much about the way other aspects of life worked, so I worked on my own cars when I could and travelled a lot and listened to people talk about the things that fascinated them and bothered them and bored them.
Now I’m writing pretty aggressively. The last few years have been about building and refining a process to self-publish, and with the help of an invaluable teammate we are doing just that. The second book in the “Walking Between Worlds” series is coming along faster than anticipated as this process is further refined, and a part of me that has felt like a caged animal for years is finally running free in the world. I write because it’s what I was born to do. I write because it makes me happy. I write because it’s who I am.