The Reinvention Chronicles #1: Put Up or Shut Up

Rude Awakening

Guy_LombardoI woke up one day when I was 42 and realized I was 44.

I can’t explain it, but I swear to you it’s true: I had lost track of my age and truly thought I was 42 until, compelled by some small voice in my head telling me to “just double check that, buddy,” I scratched the math onto a napkin once, twice and a third time. Each time this, minus that, borrow a one, came out the same: 44. Thus began a high-speed existential crisis: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance, all in one day. Truth be told, I’m still working on the acceptance piece. I have reconciled myself to the fact I can’t do anything about the age I am now and I recognize that to be here, still aging, is better than the alternative.

But I haven’t reached all my goals yet and it’s later than I thought.

When I got out of graduate school in 1995, I thought I would become an author. I’d have a novel published by the time I was 30. But, instead, I acted on an opportunity to start a business with two friends and told myself that if the business succeeded I could become an author later and do it without having to rely on my writing to support my family. It was a good opportunity, it was a good move, it was a good experience. We succeeded. But when I became 44 that day when I was 42, I realized I’d forgotten to work on the other piece of the plan. To be clear: I hadn’t forgotten the plan, I had forgotten to WORK on the plan.

Until now. I’ve published a short story on Amazon. You can download it for FREE through Monday, September 29th. Free, that’s the right price for an unproven author, right?winnebago_cover

We sold our business last year. For other reasons, not related to any of this. But when people ask me if I had any reservations about selling the business and walking away from a success, I can honestly say No.

I find life gets stale if I don’t reinvent myself from time to time.

It was time to work on another goal. The original goal.

The Meter Keeps Running

I was 44. Now I’m 45.

  1. Dammit!
  2. No. It’s simply impossible.
  3. There’s no point in trying now; it’s too late.
  4. Look, God or whoever: let me succeed as an author and I’ll be a better person, I promise.
  5. I’m 45. So be it.

I still have my identity as a successful entrepreneur  with nearly 20 years of experience, and some days I think I should leverage that into comfort and security. Get fat and happy. But I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t pursue the original goal, the desire that is at the core of who I am. I’m working on my new identity. This is my new adventure.

Some of you may be saying you’ve heard this from me before. It’s true I’ve written about being a writer before. But that was about writing. This is about authoring. Publishing. I can write. I have written. Now I will publish. That’s the adventure.

Acting on the vision. Doing one thing every day to move forward. That’s the adventure.

Spoiler Alert

Here’s how the adventure ends: I succeed.

Here’s what makes it an adventure: I don’t yet know how I succeed. But I’m not going to wait to act until I know. I’m going to make it up as I go along.

Stay tuned…

In the meantime, did I mention you could download my Kindle Short for Free?

Thanks to Kelsye Nelson for inspiring this post with her post: “How Do You Become a Writer?”.  

 

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Books and Blasphemy

For a few years I kept all my books in the garage. They were on a bookshelf, not stuffed into boxes. But, yes, they were in the garage.

My mother gave me grief about it. I was raised in a household that respected books. We weren’t allowed ever to throw books no matter how angry we were. Once my cat killed my goldfish and I threw the cat across the room. Nobody said anything about it. But throw a book and I’d end up getting a real earful and I’d have to apologize for my error in judgement.

Our home was dominated by an eight foot wide, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that held hundreds of volumes. A walk through our house was a slalom course around piles of books, all of them in various stages of being read by someone.

Books, literacy, these were our religion. We did not blaspheme against books.

Once at Waldenbooks in the mall the cashier was one of my father’s students. When the cashier saw his professor standing in front of him, he wanted to win favor. He told my father that if the book he was buying was damaged the store would have to give it to him at a discount. It wasn’t damaged, my father pointed out. The cashier, his student, took the book from him and ripped the front cover off. “Fifty percent discount,” he said.

My father walked out. Blasphemy.

Which is why I’ve never forgotten this and can’t figure it out, even 38 years after it happened: My brother, my mother and I went to Seattle that summer. My father stayed at home. I don’t know if he wanted to go but couldn’t. I don’t know what conversations may have occurred between my father and my mother before we left. I don’t know what other adult sources of stress or disappointment might have been happening in their lives at that time. All I know is that we three left for Seattle, and he stayed. And when we got back three weeks later, one night I looked at the giant bookshelf and some of the books looked different. When I pulled them down I saw that they had BB’s stuck in their spines. We had gone, he had stayed. At some moment, for some reason, he had sat on the couch and shot his own books full of BB holes with my BB gun, or my brother’s. We didn’t keep any BB guns next to the couch. He’d have to have gone to get a gun from our bedroom, then take it downstairs, sit down on the couch and take aim at the books. What did those books do to warrant being shot full of BB’s?

I don’t know.

At 2300 I Say Thank You

poempoleI heard a story on the radio one time about a writer who so desperately wanted his poems to be read that he would print them without his name on them and then walk around town stapling them to telephone poles.

He didn’t write to get rich, he didn’t even write to get known. He just wrote because he needed to express ideas in the medium of words and he needed to know that what he had expressed was making its way into the lives, the minds, the hearts of other human beings.

For me, this blog has been my telephone pole since I started it two and a half years ago. When I started writing here, no one was reading it. I kept writing, kept posting. And then one day someone clicked “Follow” and I had one follower. One person in the world who found something I had written and decided it was entertaining enough that she wanted to keep an eye on what I was doing. As someone who had written for years in anonymity and didn’t even admit to friends or family that I was writing, the power and significance of that moment was immense.

I never properly thanked her. She’s Nichole Eck and she’s a writer too, a novelist-to-be. Go look at her blog. She hasn’t updated it in a while, but you can find her on Twitter too. Nichole, thank you.

In August of 2013 WordPress picked this post (“I Really Don’t Want to Punch You In the Face”) as a Fresh Pressed selection and suddenly I had 10, then 20, then 50, then 100 followers in just a couple of days. I was terrified, as I expressed in this post (“Oh, shit, I Succeeded. Now What?”).

In the year since that breakthrough, you have continued to click that Follow button. A few each day. Slow and steady. The numbers kept rising and for a long time I refused to believe you were real. You had to be robots; spambots. I was sure of it. But, I think some of you really are people. Maybe most of you. And you’re really reading my writing. As of this week, there are 2,318 of you in my followers list.

The most recent are Peanut Butter Jelly Wife (have a look at her blog; I like the story of how she came up with the name for it), and LifeCoachWriter (her most recent post is titled “Accept Your Flaws”; timely and good advice for me). Thank you, PBJwife and LifeCoachWriter.

thankyoucardI don’t know what you all have seen along the way that has led you to click Follow. I don’t know if, after you’ve clicked Follow, you ever return. I don’t know if, after you’ve clicked Follow, you suffer Follower’s Remorse and only remain in the list because you can’t figure out how to un-follow. All I know is that in that one moment, you read something I had written and thought it was worthwhile in some way, and by clicking Follow, you gave me a pat on the back, encouragement, validation, assurance that what I’ve been writing is making its way into the world, into other minds, into other lives. And that’s all I ever wanted. By clicking Follow, each one of you gave me a gift.

So, really, thank you. All of you.