Tomorrow, I am announcing the pre-order and publication of my first new book in four years. It's called Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think: Collected Writings, 2003 - 2013 and will be available in paperback and digital editions October 1, 2013.
I guess this is the announcement announcing the upcoming announcement of the new book. Meta.
Today, I'm sharing with you the introduction to the book. In fact, I only just now decided it's the introduction. I wrote it as a blog post. Without intending to, I captured the entire reason this new book even exists. It's relevant, so I'm going to make it the introduction.
Thankfully in this day and age, with the advent of digital production and print on demand, I can do that. I can write the introduction to a book literally 3 weeks before its launch and still get it edited and included in time to make ship date.
So, here you go. The introduction to my new book, and pretty much the summary of my entire life right now. I hope you enjoy and support it.
I'm scared shitless.
The act of releasing a new book is indeed scary, but that's not why I'm scared. I've released books before. Two, in fact. Both of them named the same thing (Mentally Incontinent), even though they were completely different books. I thought it was clever when Seal did it with his records in the 90's, so I figured I'd try it. It wasn't clever, it was just obnoxious. Oh well. Live and learn.
I'm scared because this book is the first book I've ever released while not working at some other job, or running a small company, or otherwise deriving income from another source somehow. This is my first book as a Full Time Writer™and it's Freaking. Me. OUT.
What if it doesn't sell? What if no one cares? What if, what if, what if... These questions, I've asked myself before. Each time I released the other two books, I had my fair share of ulcers and doubt. But this time, it's not so much "What if it doesn't sell?"
It's "What if I can't make it as a writer?"
Much, much scarier question. Because it's all I've ever wanted to be. And the truth is, it's all I'm really good at. And if I can't...
I mean, I've spent the last, oh, 18 years of my life climbing various ladders, corporate and not. And with every rung, I kept asking myself two things:
1) What will this raise in pay or status get me in terms of more freedom to write, and
2) How much can I write while I should be doing the thing I was hired to do?
It sounds immature. After all, "Buckle up your big boy pants and get your ass to work" is some of the best advice any father could give to any son, because in certain situations, it's the ONLY way you'll get anywhere. And sometimes, you've got to take a crap job somewhere and do whatever you can to rub two nickels together to make a dime.
That's not a problem for me. I can work just about anywhere and do just about anything when it comes down to it. And I will, should I have to. But right now, as I sit here in September of 2013, I've found myself in a position I've not only never been in, but I never actually conceived I'd ever be.
In the past 12 months, I've experienced more cataclysmic change than any one person I've ever met experiences in a lifetime. I've:
- Divorced my wife of 10 years and 364 days, whom I dated for over 14 years,
- Lost my house
- Lost my company, a boutique animation and video game studio that was my only source of income,
- Lost three of my pets,
- Sold nearly everything I own (literally) to pay out debts and keep from going hungry,
- Had my identity stolen,
- Lost four people I know or am connected to to suicide
And yet, I still have my health. I can still walk with both legs with no impediment. I can still see. I can still hear. I can still speak. I have a vast network of some of the most amazing friends anyone could EVER ask for. And most importantly, I can still write.
I have nothing. And yet, I have EVERYTHING.
So I'm starting over.
I'm at the bottom. The very, very bottom. And I stare up at the ladder I once climbed and I know, I could climb that very same ladder very similarly to the way I climbed it before. I could call my friends in the tech sector and score a job. I could work my way into any number of web or social media or video projects. I could be right back on top of the same mountains I've climbed before.
And in short order, I'd be back here, at the bottom. Because that's what got me here in the first place.
I've been chasing either dollars or prestige since I was 18 years old, when the dot com bubble started rising. I quit college after six months because it was possible back then to make an insane salary building websites. I didn't necessarily love the work, but man, the paycheck was fantastic, and I was pretty good at it.
But like anything you do just for the money, it got old. So I started diversifying. I got into design. I got into Information Architecture. I got into Social Media. I got into video production. I got into animation production. I got into all sorts of things that seemed very interesting, but only because they kept the pay scale where I felt it needed to be to keep the lifestyle I'd built floating merrily along.
And oh, what a shitty fucking lifestyle it was. I start a project with all sorts of grandeur and glee, and within months, I'm bored. So to compensate for the drudgery of the grind all week, I order presents for myself on Amazon or go shoe shopping or take trips or otherwise try my best to buy happiness with the money I earned being unhappy. I had a big TV that I used to play video games that I'd distract myself with to forget how miserable I was going to be when I went to work the next day.
And somewhere along the way, I started writing. And boy did I write.
My first book project, the first Mentally Incontinent, saw nearly 80 stories written to fill out 12 chapters of a book. My readers voted on their favorites, which went into the book, while the others just sat in the archives. Then, I did it all again, only there were another 120 stories for the 2nd book. And all the while, I wrote articles and posts on my blog. I freelanced for magazines. I wrote for CNN and Huffington Post (and before them, AOL News) and newspapers.
I was writing constantly. For the past 10 years, it's been the only thing I can say has consistently made me happy.
So here I am, at the bottom, starting up at the ladders before me. I didn't ask to be here. It wasn't planned. It's like every single strut holding up the platforms that built my life rotted out at once, and down I tumbled.
But now that I'm down here, I look around and realize... It wasn't the struts. It wasn't the platforms. It was the foundation that was faulty. I've built an entire life on the wrong premise that somehow, I'd make enough money being what I thought I should be, that one day I'd be able to be what I want to be.
It doesn't work that way. Period, end of story. The more money you make doing anything you're not happy doing, the more you'll spend trying to make yourself happy. It's a zero sum game.
So it's time to try something new. And by that, I mean fundamentally different. I'm changing not just what I'm doing, but who I am. And for that reason, I'm embarking on a new career. I want to be a full-time writer.
This book is the first book of my new writing career. It's being released in October of 2013, and covers the best material from my blog since I started writing it in 2003. I have another I'm working on currently that I plan to release in December of 2013 called The Book I Wish Someone Had Written When I Was Your Age, and another that I've started planning for March of 2014 that I've actually been working on for nearly three years.
After that, I want to release a new book every three months. Some of them will be shorter, some longer, but all of them will be on time. Because this is my new life, and this is all I want to do with it. And there's nothing else keeping me from doing the one thing I want to do:
And that scares me shitless. We all dream of doing the thing we wish we could do, because in our dreams, the wish is safe. There's no way to prove that you can't, or that you're not good enough, or that no one will care. It's nestled safely in your brain and your heart, kept away from the harsh realities of actually trying it out.
But there are worse fates than figuring out the one thing you always wished you could do, isn't what you are meant to do... Like doing everything you thought you should do, and never once trying to make it at the one thing you wished you could do.
Hell isn't being a failure. Hell is dying with the knowledge you never tried.