Monday, January 21, 2013
Just Did It: The Origin Story for Good Intentions, Poor Man's Fight, and Everything Else
It's a corporate slogan, and it's frustratingly simplistic, and often it even seems patronizing as hell, but it's also absolutely right. You have to "Just Do It."
I have two books out now because I Just Did It. I've been nervous and self-sabotaging about starting a blog, too, and even as I type this I tell myself that this is NOT the way to lead off a blog, but fuck it. I need to Just Do This, too.
I've wanted to be a writer since I was in my teens. Before that, I wanted to be a comic book artist, but somewhere on the tail end of elementary school I realized that wasn't where my talents lay. Many teachers would say that I was a writer even back then, because that's what you tell kids when you want them to write more... but I didn't feel like it then. I wrote a lot in high school, but I didn't feel like I was a writer. I felt like it was a hobby.
Some time while I was in the Coast Guard almost two decades ago, I came up with the very basic premise for Poor Man's Fight, but I never really started writing it. I tried my hand at short stories about its main character, set some time five or ten years after the story I wanted to write... hand-written on notebook paper, because I didn't have a computer, naturally. When I transferred from station to station, I didn't think twice about tossing those stories.
Writing remained just another hobby. I wrote stuff about the roleplaying games I played over the years, some of it short and some of it long. I also, tentatively and nervously and secretly, poked at writing some erotica that I never shared and frequently deleted from my computer and never, ever told my girlfriend about. (Girlfriends, plural, over the years, actually.) It was good practice, but it didn't make me feel like a writer. People enjoyed the gaming stories, but they were for an inherently limited audience. A couple of years ago, I wrote what amounted to two novels for the games I played. At that point, I realized it was time to get to work on my writing, For Reals, Yo.
In the summer of 2010, I finally started writing Poor Man's Fight. I got hung up on a small issue in chapter four. I was also, naturally, worried about how my writing would be received by strangers. Friends always loved my stuff, but I knew that audience, and they knew me and were naturally predisposed to be supportive, right? I needed to write for strangers. I needed to test myself.
I had, at that point, the first two chapters of what became Good Intentions. I was also an infrequent reader at Literotica.com. Longtime listener, first-time caller, as they say. I polished it up, got so excited about posting something that I slapped a terrible, terrible title on it ("Angels, Demons and Alex?" Seriously? That was the best I could think of?)... and actually got pleasant, encouraging feedback from strangers.
No, really. Strangers on the goddamn Internet liked something I wrote and wanted more. Yes, the Internet, that place where everyone goes to tell everyone else in the world how much "everyone" (because everyone assumes they speak for everyone) just wants you to shut up.
So I wrote more. Alex and Lorelei and Rachel developed stronger personalities, and then they teamed up and ate my brain for the next three months. I will talk--in a different post--about how that story grew. It's nothing like my original concept. But again, that's for another post. Point is, they ate my brain, and somehow I wrote that story in just over three months.
And then, I figured, yeah. I can write. I didn't say to myself, "I'm a writer!" but I had a readership of four digits or more, right? So I polished it up, I put it together as a novel, and I self-published it. And then it paid the rent for a month. I wasn't about to quit my day job, but it paid the rent.
And that's when a real, honest-to-God professional author friend said to me, "You are now tall enough to ride this ride."
I spent the next year writing and finishing Poor Man's Fight. I wrote other stuff for Literotica, too, for lots of practical reasons and because I simply enjoy it. I finished Poor Man's Fight in the spring of 2012, sat on it for a few months, sent it to a single publisher during an open call... and decided that yes, I really do like self-publishing, and I wanted to put it book out.
So, yeah. Two books out. The sequel to Good Intentions is more than half done. I haven't quit my day job... but at this point, I can't not call myself a writer.
But mostly? You have to Just Do It. You have to stop making excuses. You have to be OKAY with either starting with an outline or maybe not doing an outline at all, or however it works for you. I highly recommend starting with the lamest, most conventional and cliche opening you can think of and just going from there, because it's easier to continue a paragraph or a page or a chapter than it is to stare at a blank page. If you really want to show your writing to other people, you'll inevitably go back and fix it later.
You can start with fanfic. You can start with smut. You can start with a blog that's all about your life and what you had for dinner. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You're genuinely better off starting in your comfort zone and moving out from there; leaping into unfriendly territory right from the start isn't a way to do yourself any favors. If you really want to write, you will grow from there, because you will want to challenge yourself.
And then you can fret for a while about whether or not to start a blog that's about writing and what you write... because you'll learn that ultimately, you need to Just Do It.
Also, screw you guys at Nike for making me feel cheesy for typing that with capital letters.