So I wrote this, not to brag — because there’s nothing to brag about. But to perhaps inspire or encourage someone to keep hustling, keep writing, keep doing. This is my timeline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
1980. Born. This is where I’m supposed to say something generic about how I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon in my hand. And in fact, I hand-translated Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in crayon before I was walking.
1986. Saw the Teddy Ruxpin commercial, the one-hundred dollar story-telling bear that could replace the love of my parents. Begged. Suffered. Dropped hints like nuclear bombs. Did not get it. This is foreshadowing.
1992. I saw an ad for a screenwriting contest in a magazine. I daydreamed of becoming the next Steven Spielberg and sent away for information. My parents were encouraging and helped me brainstorm. I wrote a screenplay about Jan, my mother’s elementary school friend who had a nervous way of veering into people as she walked to the bus stop. I just fell in love with this detail of a girl named Jan who couldn’t walk straight. I’m STILL in love with that detail. I’m convinced falling in love with specific, strange details is what separates creative people from the rest.
1993. I won the contest. My entire family was jetted to Los Angeles, where “Jan” premiered starring Anna Chlumsky in the title role. Also in this fantasy, I get a Teddy Ruxpin, and we hold hands/paws, skipping through the countryside, while he whispers sweet nothings in my ear from his servo-motor mouth. Reality is, it’s that year in middle school where kids pretend to hock loogies on me.
1999-2005. The poetry era. I bought one of those enclyclopedia-sized guides to the “Writer’s Market,” and mailed my typed-up poems to magazines across the country. One of them actually accepted one. I was published! I bought a stack of the magazines at Barnes & Noble, where the cashier asked me if I was in it. Holy shit this is what it feels like to be famous. I eagerly said yes, and he said, “well that’s worth a writer’s discount” and gave me 10% off.
That cashier is a hero. That small token of acknowledgement is the sort of thing that innoculates writers from rejection forever. Acknowledging artists could stave off the black plague, polio, measles, and whatever this spot on my neck might be.
2006. I attended grad school and studied writing. It was a toss-up between poetry and fiction. I had never written fiction, but fuck it, let’s do this. I learn nothing. I learn everything. And I never write poetry or fiction ever again. I emerge from the irritating circlejerk of writing workshops a creative nonfiction writer.
2007. I meet my wife in a bar on karaoke night. Nothing to do with writing, but Thank God it happened.
2008-2013. I start a blog, prepared to take the blogging world by storm. Churning out consistently great writing will get me noticed, get me popular, and get me paid. It doesn’t happen, but what does happen is even better.
I believe in the theory that you must practice something 10,000 hours in order to master it. In eleven years, I’ve written around 500 pieces averaging 1500 words each, which is the equivalent of fifteen novels. I spend about eight hours on every piece I write, so that clocks me in around 5000 hours. Given my early dabbles and grad school work, I could be approaching master level.
My point is this: I’m proud of this blog. Fuck the voices in my head that call it a glorfied diary. Fuck people who think good writing is an exclusive club of artists, that doesn’t also include everyone’s leaking garbage bags full of Ninja Turtles, Vampires, Unicorns, or whatever stupid shit you enjoy writing about. Guess what? You’re included. If you write, you’re a writer. If you write bad, we don’t care. It’s not a club. Fuck clubs.
Fact is, I honed my craft on this thing. Fact is, my mom loved reading this blog, and this is the only writing of mine that she ever saw. I documented getting married and the birth of my kids on this thing. I also reviewed Lunchables, Ninja Turtles, and took pictures of the Shoney’s Bear in compromsing positions. This is where I grew up as a writer, and this is where I live.
2013. My mother died tramatically and suddenly at the age of 56. It broke me. We were close. I had learned my wife was pregnant only two days before her death. I’d like to say that the birth of my son healed me, gluing everything back together. And I would have said that at the time, as I struggled to make sense of the bomb ripple effect.
I stumbled and stuttered through writing in this period. Losing a parent, becoming a parent altered my understanding of the world. What was the point of reviewing fake weed melatonin brownies? What was the point of collecting broken and sad one-armed Power Rangers?
I still wrote, but I didn’t know why. I lost my identity to new parenthood, which is normal, part of the transmogrification. I thought I would find fresh material in this exciting new chapter of life, but the truth was, it wasn’t exciting at all. It was mundane. Changing diapers, trying to keep a child from screaming in a restaurant, trying to buckle a bucking bronco into a carseat — is the most important work I’ve ever done. It gives me a deeper purpose and meaning to life. But it ain’t interesting.
2017. My daughter was born. I honestly believed I was done with writing. Not in an angry way, just in a logistical, simple and plain way. I did not mourn it or hate it. People asked me if I was still writing, and I felt this something-nothing feeling that I sometimes feel for unrequited loves and exes. Something and nothing. It goes in a box. In an attic. Somewhere else. I wonder what they’re all doing now.
2018. My sister buys my son a Teddy Ruxpin for Christmas, partially as a way to tease me, but mostly because she hopes my son will enjoy the new pimped-out incarnation of Teddy Ruxpin with his LED eyes and Bluetooth stories. It unlodges something in me. I ran to the attic to get the box. I needed to write about this for some reason. I felt high. How to write again came back to me. I knew exactly how to do it. So I wrote an entire novel. A collection of essays. A Book. Whatever you want to call it. It’s fucking brilliant.
2019. Hustling. Shopping my book. I’ve got about fifty form letter rejections in my email. I imagine I will rack up fifty more. I change diapers and daydream of a hacked Teddy Ruxpin one day reading an Audible of my book to me. I’m also writing new pieces and trying to get published in something “Literary.” Look out, Literary World, The Surfing Pizza is coming for your ass.