Realizations of a Hack

I don’t need to tell you of the epic failure I had in implementing my plan over the weekend, right? Of course not. You knew that before you came over. You knew I wouldn’t make it. Heck, you might have even known before the weekend.

This is becoming an issue I can’t seem to get my head around.

Of all the things I wanted to be when I grew up, there were only two that had any real tangibility, any real solidity, to them for me.

As a little boy, I wanted to become a doctor. And not just any doctor. I wanted to be a cardio-pulmonary specialist. Not surprising for a child with severe asthma, and respiratory issues from birth. I stayed on track with that pursuit for most of my first twelve years of school. From the time I was about four until eighteen, I thought I’d be a doctor.

My father made some disparaging remarks around my sophomore or junior year in high school though. He doubted I’d follow through, and that I only said I wanted to pursue medicine because it was a nice salve, a balm, to parents. When he said it, I had every intention of finishing medical school and embarking on that career.

But his prophecy became self-fulfilling. I don’t know what happened. I got derailed in college by a number of horrible decisions, and before the end of my first semester, I’d dropped out, never to return.

The end of one dream.

Nothing else really sparked me for a long time, so I drifted rudderless through life until one day I finally found something I wanted as much – being an artist. But time, life, training, cost, and a number of other life things all conspired to teach me a harsh life lesson – starving artist isn’t an option for a middle-aged guy with a family of four.

NEXT! Ahem.

Finally, I began writing again. And like the ugly duckling who discovers it’s actually a swan – much nastier and meaner than ducks or geese, by the way – I fell madly and deeply in love with writing again. (Again because I’d written before, and loved it, and never thought seriously about it again.) I was forty then.

I’d dabbled some, toyed with the idea of doing something in the publishing industry. Editor or something, maybe. But nothing concrete came along until I realized I wanted to write. Be the person on the other side of that keyboard, banging out the stories. And so, with a newfound heart bursting with excitement and looking forward to every step along the way, I took off running in 2007 toward trying to figure out how to do this professionally.

Along the way I learned a lot about writing and publishing. And I thought, for some reason, there was no “formal” way to learn to be a good writer. One can practice and experiment, but there is either talent or not. Wrong, Yoda. There is not just do or d0 not. There is learning. So I learned a bit, and kept going.

To be clear, some of what I learned was good. Some was just plain garbage. And a lot of it revolved around myths. But I never lost my love for writing. I just didn’t focus on it – really focus on it – until the middle of last year.

So for eight years I’ve been accumulating craft books, reading writer blogs, and trying to write as my schedule permitted. I got caught up in a lot of stuff along the way, and none of it was writing related. The biggest of them was an obsession with the video game series Mass Effect, and now that the fascination of that is gone, there is Destiny. Yes, another video game.

But writing has remained. Under all the other occupations and preoccupations, there was writing. I’ve never felt the compulsion, the driving, break-out-in-a-sweat, hive-like response from not writing that other writers claim. I don’t get grumpy and snappy if I don’t write for a while. And my writing isn’t paying my bills (or even for a lunch monthly), so there’s no financial performance pressure on me to write. So a lot of time goes by between stories for me.

I used to think that was okay, but really, it’s not. What I want from my writing is to replace my income and become my mainstay for finances. Somehow, during the Gold Rush of 2009 and 2010, I missed the boat, believing that like Field of Dreams, if I built it, they would come. I wrote, I tossed it out, and I waited.

I’m still waiting, because that’s not how the world works. No one is going to suddenly “discover” my “brilliance” and buy me out of the work force into a Hemingway lifestyle of decadence and debauchery. So I wondered, and scratched my head, and I put together more short story collections and I waited some more.

Still. Waiting.

But I really do believe I want this. I just don’t know if I can ever have this, because there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, stopping me from getting to the writing chair every night of my life. Nothing. I just…don’t get there.

And that, friends, is an indication that, maybe, I’m not a writer after all.

Today is a new day, and tonight is a new chance to get into the chair and get fingers on keys. If I want this, it’s not going to come sit in my lap waiting for a tip like an exotic dancer. I have to write. And I have to write a lot to make enough product to avail discoverability. And that’s the key.

I just didn’t write. My plans took a turn for the busy on Saturday, but when the day cleared of tasks, I found other things to do instead. I won’t regret what I did, but I do regret not writing. I believe both are possible. I guess I’ll see.

Today I have to work, and tonight…well, we’ll see. My plan is still the same. I have to crawl back into the story a bit and see where I need to make injections, then make them. And I have no excuse not to write. None.

Let’s see if I come up with one anyway.


3 thoughts on “Realizations of a Hack

  1. I think you’re making it to be no longer fun for you, and you’re not thinking at all about telling stories. It sounds like you’re focused on a business plan instead of writing, and that’s going to suck the creativity right out of you.

    I thought that too, but man, I just can’t pin it down. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s definitely too much critical brain in the process right now. *sigh*

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse, worrying about publishing when there really isn’t anything yet to publish.

    Maybe. Or maybe I messed up getting the cart before the horse; not finishing the process with the last one before moving onto this one. I just don’t know.

    Just write. Tell your stories. The publishing won’t go anywhere and will be there waiting for you when you’re ready.

    Pff. Telling stories is great, but they’re supposed to be read. I don’t write for me. I write for an audience, and as of now, I don’t have one. And never will if I don’t produce!



    1. I remember an old Charlie Brown cartoon. Schroeder telling Charlie about his father going bowling: “He thought he had a three hundred game going. He got so excited, he blew the first frame”. I think that’s a good life lesson for all of us: just focus on bowling the ball down the alley this once. The game will take care of itself.

      You know, I think you two are onto something here. Just throw the ball down the lane this once. I like that.

  2. Also bringing to mind other things. Hope I don’t take over here.

    Not at all. You’re always welcome to offer your insights. You pump out a LOT of words every year consistently. I can learn from a person like that. 🙂

    Have you read The Martian, or seen the film? That has some good life lessons too: time driven and problem solving (if he doesn’t figure it out, he dies). So he solves it. One problem at a time. Kind of like we can solve this life-threatening problem (not making a living at writing), one story at a time.

    Oh, that’s clever, Sean. I like the analogy. (I saw the movie, but have heard the book was much better.)

    Don’t be in a rush. This all takes time. Longer than we want, longer than we’d like. It’s easy to get distracted by those instant stars (like Andy Weir), who, while they’re writing good books (or one book in Weir’s case), are essentially lottery winners. Perseverance and patience. I know at our age it feels like life is passing us by, but writing through it is fine.

    Oh, man. I think you’re onto something big here, Sean. Life does feel like it’s passing me by. I think this is part of it. Something to process and chew on, certainly.

    Drops in a bucket. If you write a couple of hundred words a day… by the end of a year, that’s a novel. That’s about the rate of a whole lot of big names out there (and faster than many others). Small bites might work. Take ten minutes, write a couple of hundred words, get back to Mass Destiny or whatever game (I only play Tomb Raider, don’t know a thing about all the others), or other life distractions (or, actual life, like time with the kids).

    LOL, it certain has felt like MASS DESTINY conspiring against me. In reality, it’s just my laziness and fear working together to stop me from getting my considerable butt in the writing chair. I love the clarity you’re offering here, Sean.

    It’s good to question it. If it’s not your passion, maybe there’s something else. Aikido or stamp collecting or trying every flavor of Ramen Noodles. Writing should be for the fun of the writing, and the publication and covers and so on just an add on.

    I know you’re right here. And I know I need to question it. Repeatedly, and deeply, until I know if it’s my passion or not. I do love Ramen noodles, though…

    Sheesh, did I go on a bit? Don’t mind if you edit me back to sound saner 🙂

    Not at all! Everything you’ve offered here is sound, solid advice. Between you and my wife Vanessa, I may just figure out what’s going on yet. I think there’s a question of fear, midlife fear, and things passing me by, coupled with the time with the kids thing, and the fear of actually following through on a passion. Fear of success? I don’t know. But I should – and will – look at these things carefully.

    And, thank you so much for the insights. I really appreciate it.

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