Thoughts at the Base of the Mountain

After forty years of preparation, I’m finally walking towards my primary ambition in life.

I’ve known since my teens that writing is the only job I’ve ever wanted to do. That last sentence intentionally included the word job, because my ambition has never been simply to write. Any clown can create a WordPress account and start posting within a day, and for the past several years I’ve done little more than clown around at writing on this blog. I harbor no regrets, and I’m glad for the wonderful people I’ve met during this time — but all that effort has never been fully satisfying. I want to work at writing, make a profession of this craft, make a living at this gig.

Why work, when I’ve been having a pretty good time so far? Lemme tell you a story…

A few years ago, a former coworker developed a software application. Knowing that I was an adept technical writer, he hired me to write the app’s user manual. Within a few hours after installing and using his application, I realized it probably didn’t have much of a future — I think he sold six licenses before abandoning the project — but I had already signed a contract to write the manual, so there was no going back. One Saturday afternoon in June (the month is important), I swallowed a bowl of mac and cheese for lunch around 1, then fired up my friend’s app and a word processor. I began exploring the app’s features, and making notes on my observations. After a while, I had an outline for the manual; material for the introduction came to me suddenly, and I banged out a page and half of text with a couple screen shots. I continued exploring the apps, and after finding a series of bugs I opened a second document to record those issues. I then created the first draft of the setup instructions, reminding myself to add items to the FAQ… when I realized my back was stiff, and I was hungry. For the first time since I started working that afternoon, I then looked up at the clock.

Eight. Thirty. Six.

With the length of the summer day, I had completely lost track of time. I had been writing, without a break, for over seven hours. I was tired, hungry, and sore from my work that afternoon… but at that moment, after finally coming up for air, I didn’t mind. Because I was having fun. And I realized that exhaustive exhilaration I was feeling had been my aspiration for nearly four decades. To commit heart, body, mind, soul into my writing, and at the end produce a work that not only pleases me intellectually and aesthetically, but also sustains my material needs. To make this sucker pay. It was a spiritually invigorating experience, a brief but shining moment when I felt complete and satisfied.

That marvelous feeling didn’t linger, as my attention turned immediately to dinner, and then in the coming days to completing a user manual that few would read and none appreciate, as well as the productive drudgery of my “real” job. I found new ways to keep myself from pursuing that destiny (and in subsequent posts, I plan to explore each of the barriers I’ve erected to keep me in place). But there was no forgetting that Saturday afternoon in June, and that memory has led me to this moment, staring up from the base of a very tall mountain.

This journey that begins today isn’t going to be easy; people far more talented and bold than I have failed in this profession. I have no idea how long it will take me to reach the summit, little concept of the difficulties I’ll encounter along the way, few clues as to the pain and frustration that lie ahead.

Yet I’ve never been this certain about any other decision. The ambition that awoke in my teen years, and was realized briefly on that incredible Saturday afternoon in June — to work the only job I’ve ever desired, to make a living as a writer — the climb begins today.

This blog has evolved several times over the years, and this post marks another transition. There will be fewer extended series of fiction, and much more content similar to today’s, as I chronicle my career as a professional writer. Words such as I and me will appear far more frequently; whether that’s possible without degenerating into self-indulgence remains to be seen, and is one of several challenges I plan to conquer. As always, I appreciate your support for this blog, and hope you remain curious enough to follow my new adventure.

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