The writer’s life

The portrait of slackerdom I’ve sketched of my “non-traditional employment” (as our interest group likes to call it) does have its truths. Consider the month of August: my major accomplishments were defeating Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. It is this susceptibility to long bouts of funk that worried me. Could I really be a writer? Could I actually write daily, in quantity? (A scary question for someone who struggled six months to complete one of those write-your-own-caption cartoons.) Could I finish a whole novel? Would it be halfway decent? But most of all: would I like the work? September was the month to test myself in earnest.

I began the month by creating a schedule for writing so-many-words, five days a week, and kept it. My paid work was virtually non-existent, so five or six days a week I could play the role of professional writer: twiddling my thumbs, crumpling up pieces of paper and tossing them into wastebaskets dramatically, tapping on my typewriter in an idle way, chain smoking, grimacing meaningfully at the blank page, corrupting the youth with subversive ideas, but mostly just putting in something like six hours a day of writing.

There were days of creative bliss and days of miserable fruitlessness, but the balance was shifting in the right direction. The legwork I had done on the story allowed many starting points for my mind when stalled, and the simple repeated act of writing fueled a snowballing of creative energy. My daily effort increased when it was feasible; many workdays started at breakfast and ended a few hours after supper.

Each day was mentally draining and also stressful, apparently, because I suffered an eyelid twitch for more than a week. (It’s hard to imagine what my body was so worried about, but what can you do? He’s the boss.) But that was beside the point, because I was really enjoying myself. No boss, no subordinates, no clients—just me, a cup of coffee, a couch, sometimes a cat, and always the freedom and duty to amuse myself with silly thoughts and moreover to get lost in the world of my imagination.

As I neared the end of September, I had scrawled a jumble of thoughts, scenes, descriptions, and dialog across a hundred some pages, but I had not yet seen what it would add up to. The last full week of the month I devoted to organizing, revising, and polishing the first tenth of the novel, now known by its working title: Dr. Fancy-Fingers and the Secret of the First of the Time Wells. (Since re-titled: The Senator’s Pants.) That Saturday I printed out the resulting five chapters. I couldn’t sit down and actually read it through for most of the day, my brain was so unfocused with excitement. Here I was, holding the first tangible evidence that I’ve been doing something; but when I did read it, it wasn’t just something, it was the genuinely kind-of-good-in-a-halfway-decent-sort-of-way opening of a novel; certainly the most mature (not saying much, admittedly) and well-written thing I’ve yet put to paper.

There it was: I really could be a writer. Writing had become a daily habit; that nervous question “Could I finish a novel?” had been replaced with a vague confidence that I would indeed; though I couldn’t know yet if it is publishable (as an approximation of quality), my work seemed plausibly halfway decent; and yes, I did like the day-to-day work—quite a lot, actually, thanks for asking.

Today I didn’t write because of this stupid blog.

Before my world-domination phase I was just a glum writer-type

Before I wanted to be a millionaire entrepreneur (but after I wanted to be a juggler) I wanted to be a writer. There was a phase where I trained to climb the tallest volcanoes and BASE jump into them, yet the idea of writing remained in the back of my mind, and even during my practical deliver-postal-mail-for-forty-five-years-and-retire-with-a-great-pension period, I couldn’t shake the desire to scribble a few silly thoughts onto paper and call them a story. So, unemployed and bored, I once again returned to my writing aspirations, which partly explains why I haven’t done any writing. On this blog, I mean—so allow me to catch you up.

In May I worked on two short stories with only limited success, one story spawning some seven different versions, all bad; in early June I completed a first draft of an entirely different story about a horse on a trampoline; a week later, invigorated by the trampoline tale, I completed a first draft of The Portraitist, my longest story to date (about 7,500 words); around the same time I tinkered with something about a spaceship crewed by TV-loving robots; late June I began working on a novel. (That’s all true, too.)

The novel is loosely based on my short time as a Senate employee, although by loosely I mean not at all. The son of a late Senator is appointed by the Governor to serve out the remainder of his father’s term and is thus charged with passing the bill that will solidify his father’s legacy. Joining him is a cast of ridiculous characters who make his every move pretty funny—at least in my head it’s funny. Progress was initially quite slow, as I morphed the story from butterfly to caterpillar to donut, but now that I’m set on a firm course with a detailed plan, things are just as slow. The good news is I’m about 17% of the way to 100,000 words (or an average novel size), and my plan has me finished with the first draft March 1.

The first anniversary of my job-quitting is nigh, and although it looks to the average person that I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing in three-hundred-and-some days, you now know for real that their presumption was accurate.