I’ve spent hours and hours sitting on a cheap rotating chair, that I bought with surplus student loan money years ago. The seat is hard now. I use a blanket and an exhausted children’s novelty pillow to cushion it.
Those were the good days though, when I am somehow finagled my way into spawning large sums of interest vomiting money, which I used to drag out a long meandering adventure through secondary education.
I barely graduated high school, with a G.P.A that was bottoming out. I took a year off and moved to Iowa City, not to attend the university there, but just because I was eighteen years old and had to get out of the house. That was all long before I dedicated myself to sitting in the chair.
The sitting came before the chair of course. I had dedicated myself to the sitting in childhood. I have put my time in sitting, earning my love handles. You don’t just get your own chair for nothing. It’s more than just sitting on your butt.
I love to read a variety of things. I inherited the love of reading from my Mother. She tends more towards the lowbrow woman stuff, so a lot of my exploratory reading early on, outside of homework assignment or stuff my for age like R.L. Stien or Tom Sawyer, would be with books like V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic, or dramatic real life stories like a Child Called It, or Go Ask Alice, or sensational memoirs Running With Scissors.
I also remember she had the Confessions of St. Augustine, but I’m not sure if that’s true, seems a little high fluent frankly. But she is a Catholic, a mystic really in her on way, so it is possible. She definitely had a Bible around, though I don’t think she has ever read much of that either.
I always had an eye for the macabre, the strange, the fringes of society. Drama. Voyeurism. The Magical. I realized early on you can learn a lot from the comfort of your own home. You can learn a lot about things that are completely foreign and cut off to you. You couldn’t do that without books.
So I spent a year or two after High School flirting with prison and I realized my only hope was to go hiding back into academia, and hopefully find some path to stability.
Now I knew that this was somewhat fruitless in the sense that I have no real desire for anything resembling a normal career life. My worldly aspirations are pretty small. To be honest paradise to me, is a family, safety, and a good book, maybe on a cold windy snow day for mood. But this is absurd and backwards, and probably a little negligent of course, but that is where I’m at.
So I go to a community college no real goals here just wanting the quick cash and the respectability. I get a job banging out pizzas, and make enough to supplement the loan shark money, and just sort of muddle through a couple years, until whoops wouldn’t you know I actually graduated and now could pass “Go” and collect my two hundred dollars.
In this time I met the lovely woman who would end up my wife and the Mother of my two kids. Now this is a long complicated story, and not really the scope of this plot, but to get a clear picture of where I am at, we need some of these details.
So my future wife and I both decide to go to the University of Iowa, where this muddled relationship with college continues. But now I am having more success, even qualifying for Honors classes (which I never completed) and Dean’s list and silly stuff like that. But I am still just basically cruising because I have no clear vision for the future.
I go back and forth between English and Philosophy. I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to work in academia. I just like to read and learn about the world, and think, and maybe get around to writing my own stories or something in the future.
Faster than I know it I have graduated with a Bachelor’s and a couple minors and a ton of student loan debt, and really no future prospects.
Honestly if it wasn’t for my wife I would probably be homeless or something…maybe not homeless; I like the comfort of home too much. I’m soft.
I became a cook somewhere in this block, and was even a manager at a couple places, but ever since my first job at a grocery store, I am notoriously flaky, forgetful, and strange.
So realizing all this I do the only sensible thing sometime close to the end of college and just ignore it and say whatever. I just start writing stories and journaling and reading the whole time voraciously, trying to study the craft. I work odd jobs when I got to. I live by the skin of my teeth. I tread a poverty level water. And I begin to learn the craft of writing.
This is a process that will pick up steam as it goes along, until one day down the road from there I’m five years in, hundreds of thousands of words in, with a dozen short stories, three awful books, a couple journals full of rantings and ravings, histories and anecdotes, a wife, two kids, two dogs, a mortgage, and everything else.
I haven’t been employed in years now.
I am a stay at home Dad. I love being with boys. My wife has proven herself to be a great supporter and amazing person overall. She believes in my dream.
Everyday when she isn’t working I wake up and head down to my basement, where after lots of coffee, and music, and all sorts of other inspiration, I zone out and write a thousand words or so. I’m still just in the paying dues phase, earning my seat.
I’m doing it, not very well, but I am dedicated it and in love with it and am just glad to be playing ball. Then something happens, ego starts to take over, and those calls from the student loans companies can really wear on ya, and I’ve had the budget conversation so many times, and things are stretched so thin, that you can’t help but think well damn man, can’t you make one of these stories work, can’t you make any capital from the skills that you have?
So I started letting my wife read the stories, and then one day I joined scribophile.com and started posting there. I really like that website and for the first time I had other human beings reading some of my stories and giving me their reactions.
I love and hate this at the same time. It made my heart pulse and my skin crawl knowing other people are trying my work. Then you get to experience other people chop up your stories, and point out all the mistakes, and you’re left emotionally confused (just like with wife and children) wanting sort of to hear the criticism, but also wanting to protect the ego and the fragile dream. It’s was a whole new world.
Finally after some really great and true criticism I had to run back to the lab and reorient myself. I was beaten and bruised, ego damp and flaccid, but there was something else. I realized by god, somehow I was getting there. They liked my basic ideas, even if my form had some issues.
There is a lack of polish to my writing. I am nota rigid thinker, nor worker. A lot of my submissions were sloppy. The last thing I submitted someone made the comment that I really ought to give this thing a thorough edit before I put it out there, and that was so true and so crushing. Goddammit, my mind raged, why couldn’t it just work the way I imagined it.
I was doing my stories a real disservice by putting them out before I had really done the work. I kept writing and geared myself up for a more intense editing phase. I have currently been in this phase for about six months now. And that brings us to this blog.
As an amateur (not paid) writer I have discovered that writing is a very unique profession. Though I have read a lot of great books on writing, like Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, writing is still a process that you have to go though yourself to be any good at.
No one cares about your imaginative ramblings right away. It’s crazy to think about the thousands and thousands of stories that are forgotten and never finished that never see another human being in their life. I recently saw a series of photos on slush piles and it was demoralizing to say the least. I was even ashamed of my own meager slush pile, which isn’t even a slush pile yet, but instead a awkward tower in my computer desk. Point is, there is nothing that gaurantees my writings won’t meet the same fate.
So in an effort to combat my own obscurity, I am rededicating myself to my editing. I am going back to scribophile.com, and this time I refuse to run away like a little boy. I will take my lickings!
I am creating this blog for future explorers of the word and the craft. My own director’s commentary in a way. That way though I will likely fail, my process may at least serve as a warning to other journeyman.
I am one more edit away on my book “Sumer” before going back to scribophile.com and submitting it for public workshopping, and plan to use this page in tandem with it, to capture my experience.
I also plan to use this blog to share my other musings and writings as they develop. I really do have a wide range of interests so who knows what else might pop up here from time to time. We’ll see.
I’d love to hear from anyone else who is somewhere in the writing process.