Anyway, now that I got that out of the way, the point of this entry is to celebrate two years of being a full-time writer.
October 19th 2012 was my last day at my former job. Yesterday afternoon at 17:00 I thought back to exactly two years ago, when I said goodbye to that particular phase of my life and got ready to embrace an experience I wouldn’t have thought probable. The stars had aligned on that day, and I couldn’t entirely comprehend that my most ambitious dream had just come true.
Becoming a full-time writer is not a very common scenario, even less so when you reverse-engineer the process. Most people start by writing in what’s left of their free time, dreaming of a day when they would make it a full-time occupation. I decided to approach it as a full-time occupation from the start.
The reason I've done things this way is simple. Like the great Mike Ehrmantraut, I don’t believe in half-measures. Writing only in my free time would have meant treating this as a hobby, hoping to one day turn it into more than that. But a hobby is what you do with what’s left of your energy, and I wanted to pursue writing with all of my energy, with all of my focus and dedication.
I realize, of course, that I am very fortunate to be able to do things this way. Sadly, writers far more talented than myself often don’t get the opportunity to express that talent at its greatest potential. I think that’s a shame. For comparison, the time of a brilliant software engineer would be wasted if he were forced by the circumstances to write novellas for a living. Every hour in which a gifted writer has to invest his or her energy in an activity that does not make full use of their talent, is an hour they could have spent creating quality literature. Add up enough hours and entire novels get erased from existence.
I know for a fact that I would never have been able to write Mindguard if I had attempted to just work on it after coming home tired from an eight hour shift. I tried to shape it into a complex story. Its creative process was more than just sitting down and typing, it rather resembled a 113.000-word game of literary Sudoku, and it took a lot of time and effort.
Now I have it, it exists and I love it like a child. Many readers love it too and some will passionately hate it. But if it has brought joy and fun into a single person’s life for a few hours, then I think it would definitely have been a great loss had it never been written.
That being said, there isn't a day that goes by in which I’m not overcome with gratitude for being able to experience these wonderful two years.
I started writing again three years ago, after a six year break. More importantly, I started dreaming again. My first, timid steps back into the world of literature were the posts on my jazz blog, The Music and Myth. Then, two years ago, my dream came true.
The first time an online magazine published one of my articles I celebrated as if I had gotten published in National Geographic. I managed to write a piece for Cracked, my favorite humor website, and watch it get almost half a million views. By Cracked standards, those numbers are very low and my article bombed (it was about pro wrestling though, so there’s that). By my standards, however, something that I had written had been viewed by an enormous number of people. I wrote my first novel, a hybrid humor/crime noir story. I realized it sucks and promptly shelved it.
Through The Music and Myth I managed to write about and interact with some of my favorite jazz musicians, visit amazing places, discover an eye-opening number of incredibly talented artists and form new and cherished friendships.
In the meantime I crafted my second novel, the science fiction story I had been dreaming to write since the day I picked up Garden of Rama, at thirteen years of age. I decided that my path is sci-fi.
I finished Mindguard and was about to start querying agents, an often completely fruitless process. I had no backup plan whatsoever. Creatively, I was in a slump, with no story ideas to follow this novel.
I stumbled upon Hugh Howey’s Wool, and then read an article about his success as a self-published author. That completely changed the course of things for me. I went on to publish Mindguard exclusively on Amazon on September 2nd, two days before my wife’s birthday. The book is dedicated to her, for her amazing loyalty and support and for helping make these last two years the happiest of my life.
People started reading my novel and giving me feedback. On September 25th, it was chosen Book of the Week by SciFi365.net. All of this fueled my creative process. In just one month I came up with twelve story ideas, enough to keep me writing for the next few years. One of them is the sequel to Mindguard, which is now in its “plotting” phase and half finished.
A while ago I sent out the following tweet(s):
When I was a kid I built a small fort out of chairs and a blanket and pretended it was my own house. Now I walk around my own two-bedroom apartment pretending it’s a spaceship.
For the last two years I got to live in my beloved spaceship, with my Netherland dwarf bunny as a First Officer, and explore a vast universe that has given a new meaning to my life. Realizing that this voyage is only just beginning gives me hope and courage.
I’m writing this post to clear my head and put the last two years into perspective. I’m not expecting many to read it, but for those who do, like any piece of literature great of small, I hope it offers a tiny bit of encouragement, as many similar blog posts (from debuting and established authors alike) have offered me.
Happy birthday my beloved spaceship!