March 27, 2012
Whenever my students tell me they’re scared to try, I laugh inside. They tell me they’re afraid of looking stupid. They don’t want to feel bad if things go south. If something happens and they don’t succeed, they’re afraid of what others will say.
Really? Let me tell you how the adults play…
In 2005, I asked one of the most highly acclaimed experts on speculative fiction in the country to be one of the men in charge of grading my thesis, an anthology that is now the upcoming Charcoal Streets. He and two other men who were experts in their fields had very good things to say, but some not so nice ones, too. This was one of two theses I had to write in the span of one year.
Two years later, I moved to Indiana for all of a week before getting a call from a United States congressman who wished for me to write speeches for him. After packing up, moving to DC, and following a series of events I cannot discuss due to some legal documents best left unmentioned, I had to leave, thousands of dollars in debt, in what I can only describe as a humiliating experience that left me battered and emotionally and financially wrecked.
I had one strand of hope, though. A motivational speaker, one of the best in the country, hired me to edit his novel. After some work, I suggested he get a ghostwriter and get sections rewritten since, as a writer, I could not give the final product my okay since my job was just to check for minor errors. He hired me on the spot and I rewrote a good third of his novel. It’s now one of his top sellers.
After contracting me to ghostwrite a new novel, from start to finish, he ended the contract because he wanted to go in a different direction. There went a good $35,000 dollars and six months of work.
A year later, I got work with a man who wanted me to write for him. He and I collaborated on a documentary I wrote and narrated after he and his crew went on what can only be described as guerilla filmmaking. In a span of a few hours, I wrote the script, we later recorded it, and we put it out for the world to see. I was in for a job writing for documentaries that exposed the things people didn’t want to see… and that ended in a meltdown that I chronicled here…
Combine that with the three family members I lost last year, the stress of teaching, only being able to find part-time work, and you’d think I would have given up by now.
Randomology Games is up and running. The first gaming book, Elves with Shotguns, is in the final phase of writing and art design, and I’m planning future books while working on the anthology Charcoal Streets, due out in the fall come hell or high water.
Why? Why do it? Every other major financial and professional break has gone bust and left me broke, depressed, and at the edge of my rope. Every one of these jobs ended due to petty egos and greed. I’ve been used by people and left with nothing but enough gas to get home, sometimes not even that.
Why should I hope for more out of this next venture?
Mamma didn’t raise no fool? No. Mamma didn’t raise a quitter. I’m going to keep going as long as I can type. I’m going to make something of myself, I’m going to have my name in print, and I’m going to look after the people close to me and the only way someone’s going to stop me is by killing me. I’m not going to stop. I’ll type with broken fingers in a burning house, but you can’t stop me. No one can. I’ll fail, I’ll get drunk, punch the wall and break my hand, but I won’t stop.
That’s why I laugh when students tell me they’re afraid to make a mistake. They should see how the big dogs play. We make mistakes all the time.
If you can’t take it, don’t even play. I’ve failed dozens of times. I only have to get it right once.