Friday, July 27, 2018


About a year ago the water heater busted and before we were aware, leaked a fair amount of water into our garage. When we discovered the water, we set to removing all the cardboard boxes from the wet area. Because the boxes were already destroyed, we did quickie “keep or toss” with their contents, hoping to avoid any mold or mildew. One of these boxes had come from my parents’ garage up North, all the way down to Southern California, only to land in my garage without much thought. 

This particular box was filled with binders and notebooks from my high school years. In one of these notebooks, I had written a list of things I intended to accomplish before thirty. I turned thirty-four yesterday and have only (kind of) accomplished one. I was certain I’d have a novel published by thirty. I didn’t make it. The novel I co-wrote with Andrez Bergen (Black Sails, Disco Inferno) didn’t come out until I was thirty-two, and even then, co-writing versus writing seems an important distinction. I also planned to “own property for profit” which implies I thought that first novel was going to be a best seller. And/or that I didn’t know anything about real estate when I made my list of goals. 

I didn’t know much about writing as a career, either. I wrote constantly, compulsivley, sometimes to the detriment of other school work. The box also contained two novels I’d written before I graduated high school, hundreds of lists, poems, lyrics, a play, and half assed journal entries. Writing was my entire life. But I had no idea how to write a short story. I’d never attempted one. I had no idea what length a novel was expected to be (the third one I wrote was as long as the first two together). I didn’t understand anything about the business and managed to go years - frustrating, painful years - without learning it. To complicate it all more (and eventually save my ass) the internet happened in the midst of all of this.

The joke is that now I know what a query letter is, I know how to submit short stories and what to look for in a contract, I know that one novel isn’t going to turn me into a real estate tycoon - but the time and energy to write like a compulsive teenager overflowing with a desire to create is hard won. Real life hasn’t come as easy as school work did, and the kid requires a lot more attention than the dog I had growing up. 

I’m not saying I’m disappointed - all the other shit I did before thirty (and it was a lot) gave me so much more to believe in, and in turn, write about. I actually did a lot of insane shit between writing that list and turning thirty. I joined the Marine Corps during war time, moved across country, got married, got divorced, and got married again. I had a kid, bought a house, travelled, made a life in the desert, and then left it behind again. Since thirty, I’ve learned how to write nonfiction, published short stories, did a script for a comic book, and saw my name on the cover of a novel I was proud of. I learned how to edit nonfiction and mentored writers, and a ton of other stuff. Stuff in the writing world teenage me didn’t even know existed. 

And I’m working on that novel that will have my name on the cover - alone. If I start feeling like I disappointed teenage me too much, I’ll just remind myself that, according to all available evidence, teenage me wrote some really shitty novels, because teenage me didn’t understand a whole hell of a lot about how the world works.

No comments: