I was hanging out on youtube following links as I do as I’m sitting in my living room and writing in my comfortable chair despite the fact that we bought a three bedroom house so I could have an office, and suddenly in my ear came out the most truest reason as to why you should write.
The guy is talking about a band member from a rock band that had been admired if not paid very well and is bitter that he was just a band’s band. From 4:59 to well past 7 or 8 minutes, I was shocked at how much I feel this way.
I’ve been writing my entire life but just full time for the past three years. And even then, I’m just starting to crack a name in a tiny subgenre, but I’m sitting here working on the mainstream novel that’s going to be “it”.
I am lucky enough to be married to someone who wanted to be a librarian since she was in her late teens. We first met almost fifteen years ago and I’d been bumming around on yearly teaching contracts up north in Canada. I like teaching, I know I’m good at it, but I’ve never felt the love or call to do it nearly as much as she’s ever wanted to be a librarian. But while thinking that, I forgot that I’d only ever wanted to be a writer since I was 11. My mother didn’t teach me much, but she taught me never to draw to an inside straight and that overnight success was going to take 20 years. And for both of those lessons, I thank her. For all of her lessons, actually. I can’t say they’re invaluable, though, as they obviously had a price.
In 2006, My wife and I were up for two jobs. She was in the last round of interviews in a small city 2 hours from Calgary and I was up for a travelling software educator gig, up against someone who had 25 years to my 4.
She got the job, I didn’t. Off we moved. I’d had a travelling educator job before and it had nearly driven me to exhaustion to the point where I didn’t write a single word the entire time I travelled, but when I got the call saying they’d made a mistake and would I like the job, we’d already moved. The town that took 4 months to make a decision needed my wife to start in less than 2 weeks. But we were both off short term contracts. When you’re young, you can pick up and move. So we did.
What followed were six years of the bleakest years of my life, and it was like a greek tragedy that kept getting worse in three definite acts. I couldn’t think of the 2009-2012 years without seeing winter and cold and dark. If there were summers, I didn’t participate in them. The worst thing was, none of it was neuro-chemical. If your childhood was one side of the ravine and your adulthood on the other, any attachment I had to anything I was prior to 1998 no longest existed in a series of spectacular bridge explosions. Jobwise, I hadn’t realized how much pride I took in having jobs that were full of adventure and challenge. The challenge was the most important thing, because I have a mind like a gun turret overlooking a city. And the gunman has the attention span of a gnat and the gun swivels 360 degrees. If I’m not pointed *at* something, I’m pointed back at myself, and my gunman’s trigger-happy. My health, well, that went to shit, too. But I’m withstanding trouble that would have had me on the floor and sobbing today with a shrug, so I am better. It does get better.
So in 2012, the choice came to going back to work, which probably would have destroyed what was left of my soul and as much as I hate purple language, that isn’t purple language. I told Elisabeth one Saturday as we were pulling into the garage that I had to start drinking more. I was not coping well enough without alcohol, which at the time, I wasn’t joking. It was how my brain works. When most people come to a decision, they might think of and discard, two or three alternate solutions before choosing the best course, I will have come up with four times that number of options. I’d look at an equation that was 2a+3c=16 and tell you the answer just by filling in numbers up to about 12. When I found out in high school that, in a math test you could “check your work” I honestly thought that was cheating. If it’s not your first and best guess, than what good is it?
And that brain came up with “drink more. You’ll be happier” as the *best* solution. I should point out, I didn’t actually have a drinking problem to start with. So my *solution* was to develop one. So. Yeah. *kicks rock*.
I hope what I’m doing is the thing I ought to be doing. Drunks, Fools and King feels like the story that has been trying to get out for the past decade. Writing with the goal in mind but sighting it from tree to tree while tracking your position and then rewriting your map as though you intended to go that way or take whatever shortcuts appear once you can see the whole map in the rewriting process really works. And it’s been fun. Writing has been fun for about three years now, but there was a long time when that was the last thing it was.
Which comes back to the video in an odd segue way I didn’t plan. You can write your absolute best, have each piece of work be to the power of better than your last work, and still never make more than a slight headway into your dream. You should be fully aware of your “chances” of “success” however you define those two terms, and you should do it anyway. It’s brilliant. I’ve met writers who are trying to be published and I’ve met writers who love to write. Even after they’ve “made” it, again, however you define that term, the second ground is by far the more fun group to hang around with.
So, uh, yeah. Watch the video. Be awed. Then go back to writing.