Gutless Beginnings and the Giving of Gifts

Well. Here I am, sitting at my desk at 1 in the afternoon on a bright, cold December Thursday, wondering just what the hell I should write as my first real blog post. That’s pretty weird for me in and of itself, as a few weeks ago this would have been the tail end of my lunch break and I’d probably have been spending it munching on vegetables and a bowl of rice in my cubicle, but now it’s even harder to fathom because since I’ve gone to all the trouble of building this website, people expect me to have something to say. To be honest, I’d sort of forgotten about that part.

Regionally speaking, I can’t go outside to talk about how ridiculously cold it is or how my snow dogs have turned invisible (Neil Gaiman has that covered), nor can I talk about my awesome charity or work with the conservation district while showing off my magnificent beard (Patrick Rothfuss and my good friend Jay have me beat there–especially with the beards). That, and it’s very likely that I’m writing to an audience of about twenty people, not hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands. And that’s okay. Maybe that makes it easier to be a little gutless and write about nothing while I’m getting my feet wet. After all, I’m starting an entirely new life for myself and changing the definition of who I am, and that’s been taking guts enough; more, in fact, than I thought I had.

I recently quit my steady, well-paying job of nine years in order to pursue my dream of writing. I hear you, and yes, I know that it isn’t necessary or even advisable for a writer that isn’t doing technical writing or working for a magazine or firm to quit his day job. Fiction and poetry writing is the kind of thing most people do as a sideline, squeezing it into their already busy schedules and using it as a chance to find a little sanity in their day to day struggles.

Unfortunately for me, that never worked so well. I discovered early on that dividing myself between too many things simply caused me to create things in a divided kind of way, and when you spend more than 75% of your time doing things that don’t matter to you, believe me, you’ll have a lot less than 75% of your energy reserves intact for the work that matters. So though it was a difficult decision to make, when the opportunity came for me to leave my job and pursue my writing, I decided to go whole hog.

I don’t expect that this endeavor is going to make me a lot of money. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s going to cost me money and keep me well into the red for a good while, and if I ever do manage to get back into the black, it won’t be the kind of green that buys me extended use of the blue pill. (Is it odd that a Matrix reference makes me feel old?) It probably won’t even cover fixing my severed brake lines after one of my friends or relatives tries to kill me after realizing that I’m turning their darkest secrets into fiction. But for the first time in my life, I think I’m fine with that.

So instead of making money, my impetus behind this change is to fully embrace something that I’d always felt eluded me, something I wanted to be part of that I never had been because I didn’t give it what it needed to be given. I imagine most writers would tell me it’s good to have no expectation of money and that I should get very used to being poor. I’d laugh, but it’s hard when you’re hungry.

Ultimately, I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned over the course of the last several weeks, over all the mornings when I’ve gotten up a little too late, had a few too many cigarettes, and had nothing but coffee for breakfast and lunch, is that being a writer is more than just participation by the act of creation. Like most things, it’s about putting yourself in the position to be what you’re striving to be. It’s about doing something because it means something to you.

For some people, doing the work that matters is okay as a sideline because they’re a little more energetic than I am or have fewer interests to divide themselves between, but I’d always known the formula was a little different for me. Turns out all I had to do was completely give up safety and stability so I could finally start to learn about everything I’d always wanted to know.

And with that out of the way, I want to talk take just a brief second to talk about a couple of charities. If you haven’t already checked out Patrick Rothfuss and his blog from the link above, please do so now to find out about some cool things he’s involved in (and a chance to win some amazing books, including the featured slipcased limited edition of Neil Gaiman’s Snow Glass Apples, which I covet with more than a little bit of my writer’s heart).

Also, if you’re a person at all interested in gaming, PC games, or indie games in general, check out the Humble Indie Bundle, a very cool project where some great indie developers have made their games available for a pay-what-you-want charity contribution. You can choose how much goes to the developers, to the Humble Bundle group itself, and to the two charities they’re supporting, the EFF and Child\’s Play. Both are worthy charities with visions that I support. I can also confirm that the included Revenge of the Titans, one of the 5 games in the bundle, is far too much fun for my productivity. If you have any plans to get anything done, avoid downloading it (but don’t let that stop you from making a donation).

So that’s about all from me. For now, it’s another cup of coffee and making horrible things happen to people that only exist on paper.

[This post originally appeared at theflyingmonkeyapparatus.com.]

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