The only thing I've ever really wanted to be is an author.
That doesn't mean it's the only thing I've ever tried to achieve, or that it's the only dream I've ever had. But my whole life, whenever I closed my eyes and tried to visualize what I really wanted to do, it always came back to writing books.
I'm twenty-eight years old, and have written short stories, plays, radio plays, poems, scripts, and now three novels. But I've never tried to publish anything.
Until something is published, it's a work in progress, which means that it doesn't matter if it sucks as long as it's getting better with each revision. But once it's out there, it's final, and you don't get to go back and change all the things you did then that you wouldn't do now. It's so hard to reach a point where you're comfortable walking away, when you can look at what you've written and say, "Boom. DONE."
Then the world gets ahold of it, and no matter how thick your skin is, it still stings when something you've worked to create gets savaged, or worse, ignored and left to die in the street. It's a horrible thought, to know that I've poured myself into something, and then to realize that no one cares, that no thinks what I created was worth my time or theirs.
But the failure in and of itself wouldn't be devastating. The real issue for me is that if I publish, and I fail, then I lose the dream of being a professional author that I've held onto for almost twenty years. And that's a devastating idea, especially when I consider the road I took to get to where I am today.
I'm a practically-minded guy. At college, I could have studied writing. Instead, I studied economics and wrote in my free time. After graduation, I could have gotten a low-effort job and poured myself into writing. Instead, I dove into a career that led me first to politics, then to business school, and now into the software industry. I kept writing. But I never even tried to make a career out of it. It was always too risky, too impractical, and if I failed and become just another overeducated underachiever, no amount of "Well, at least I tried!" would have made up for the fact that I'd set myself back by years.
Still, I can't help but wonder what might have been. I can't help but question those practical, reasonable choices I made. But I can't go back and change all those things I did then that I wouldn't do now.
So I kept my writing a hobby and pursued another career path. And while things are going well, I still have that dream in the back of my mind, that dream that says if I write that one great thing and push it out into the world, and enough people like it, and enough people buy it, then I'll be able to justify writing another, and another, and another, that I'll be able to make enough money to live the life I want to lead and provide for my family by doing the thing I want to do. And that's an inspiring dream, because it pumps a bit of extra hope into my life that I think everyone should have. You have to have these things to keep you moving forward, even if they do seem fantastic.
I've dreamt of being an author my entire life, but I've never really tried to be one for fear of learning that I never will be one. And I know that's irrational. That's the power of fear. Fear is a trap you'll never be able to think your way out of, because there's no thinking to it. You know the way out. You can see the door. The challenge is walking through it, because you never really know what's on the other side.
I am terrified that if I seriously attempt publication, and if I'm met with rejection by a world that doesn't need one more book, that my dream will die. And it is such an intrinsic part of me that I don't know who I'll be when it's gone.
But I've been working on my third novel for the last year. I've just completed the second draft. It's my third novel, but it feels like my first real one, the first one that I really had a hold of from beginning to end. It's pulpy and derivative, sure, but so are most of my favorite books, and I'm not ashamed of that. And it's got characters that I find compelling, and a scenario that I find interesting, and a world inside of it that's just slightly bigger than the book itself, and that gives me a little bit of confidence. It's the first novel I've written that's made me feel that way, and the first one I think I can be proud of not just for existing, but for being worth writing, and worth reading.
So I am writing this post, my first real post in many months and the first on this new blog, as a public promise to myself. No matter how scared I am, I'm going to publish this book in 2015. Whether or not anyone reads it, whether or not anyone likes it, I'm going to push it out into the world just so I can know that it's possible for me to publish a book and not die. And I realize that with that promise comes the risk of failure and of rejection. I'm not going to bank on a publisher taking a chance on me. I'm going to do this myself. I don't have to be a best seller, but I'd at least like to sell a few copies, to make a little money, and to know that at least a few people have enjoyed what I've been doing. And if that doesn't happen, that's going to hurt.
There is a lot of work left to do, and I am scared to death of the possibility of being hurt when this is all done. But at this point, I'll take the hurt. The hurt is better than the fear, and I've been bound by my fears for almost two decades, since I first decided that this was what I wanted to do but gave myself reasons not to. It's time to stop living on fear's terms and start living on my own.