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A Simple Decision to Try and Follow a Lifelong Dream

Posted June 4, 2015

I think most people start off with some sort of dream in life as a child. Eventually, as we get older, the dreams we had become something that more resemble the memory of a dream we used to have. I’ve had one thing I want to do in life for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s time to commit to it. Otherwise, there will never be a second chance.

Eventually, your life dreams evolve from wanting to grow up to be a Darth Vader or a T-Rex to something a little more, if not realistic at least attainable. For me, there’s always been one constant thing: I want to write a novel. Science fiction, fantasy, something in-between.

I am not necessarily sure I’d want to be a full time author, but I want to put a story out there, publish it, have something in the world. When I was in college, all my electives were in English and creative writing, which ended up being my minor. I wrote plays, closed form poetry, short stories, etc etc. I’ve written lots of things on my own, once did a 90,000 word novella that was absolute garbage. And I’ve written countless articles, papers, essays, all those types of things. My kids middle names are tributes to Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. But never done the one thing I actually want.

I think one of the most famous cases of modern writing and self publishing is the story of The Martian. The idea that someone just took their idea and hammered it out into a book is really inspiring to me. I know that it happens every day, but it’s just the idea that someone who feels like me, a regular person with a day job working in technology, wrote a science fiction novel he published on his blog and eventually compiled into an ebook. That’s exactly the same path I’d have to take.

Granted, Andy Weir is now famous and his book is going to be an A-list movie. That’s not what attracts me. I have no goal of making money or being hugely successful as an author. I just want to create that thing – that new universe I create and as I write it, it snaps into existence somewhere in the multiverse as a real thing, and I’m the vessel that translates it to the page. When people speak of the fantasy of winning a lottery or somehow becoming very wealthy and they talk about what they’d do, my first thought is always “I’d finally have the freedom to write these novels!”

Some Day I’ll Die, Though

So what have I done so far? This book I want to write, a Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Star War style space opera. It’s been in my head for 15 years now. Most nights, I go over characters and plot ideas in my head. Thousands of nights possibly. Sometimes, I’ve started a Word file, and eventually Google doc, with some notes, but then did nothing more. It just sits there, as something I want to do but never actually do.

I’m older now, I have young kids, a corporate job at a large tech company. A routine; here’s my weekdays: Wake up early because kids. Be with kids for a minute. Go to gym. Go work. Get home. Be with kids til bedtime. Sit in exhaustion til my own bedtime.

Then weekends: Wake up early because kids. Be with kids for a minute. Go to gym. Be with kids til bedtime. Sit in exhaustion til my own bedtime.

Someday, though, I’ll die. Just like all of us. Maybe even tomorrow. Or maybe 50 years from now. Or maybe before I even hit “publish” on this blog post. But if I picture myself as the old man in an adjustable deathbed somewhere, if I were to think back and say “I wish I’d tried accomplishing that one thing that was a constant… writing a novel. I wish I could go back and do it.” that thought chills me.

I’m not religious, there are no second chances. If I don’t write that book and experience that process of creation and then putting something out in the world, I never will, and I’ll die wondering why I chose not to do something that was so easy. Mind bogglingly easy. How hard is it to take a year or two and craft 200-250,000 words?

I know it sounds like a lot, but like I said above, I did 90,000 words in just a few months back when I was probably 19, and regularly write 2-4000 word blog posts. At that rate, a book would be around 100 blog posts. Then I just pay someone to edit it, get a nice ebook cover illustrated, and submit it to publishers or just put it on a website to self publish it and dump a ton of money into marketing. I’m an adult now, I can afford that. What a thrill it would be.

That’s all it would take, and then I could die knowing I did the thing I wanted to do since I was 10 years old, cranking out short stories with my mom’s electric typewriter. But, if I keep doing what I am doing, I’ll just not do it for no good god damn reason at all. Sheer, unadulterated, inexcusable laziness. I have a whole plot and world in mind! I’m an experienced and formally educated writer with a degree even! I actually enjoy it and find writing really easy! What the hell?!

Get Busy Dying, or Get Kraken

So, two days ago I started a wiki on to act as the repository of all my epic space-opera’s datum. Character bios, plot points, random scene ideas, specifications of ships and technology, and I’m going to spend a few weeks pumping all my thoughts over the last 15 years into it, and then start on the big dawg itself – the outline of the narrative and the actual prose itself.

As I started in populating that wiki with all the notes and ideas, it was the hugest burst of energy. It was like having a new motorcycle I just wanted to ride everywhere. I look forward to getting home and working on it after bedtime, when instead I’d be watching something on Netflix or Hulu, or just clicking through websites. I am sure the frittering away of time will always be an uphill battle, given that I’m neither young and childless, nor older in an empty-nest. I’ll just get those 1 or 2 hours a day, maybe more sometimes, maybe less. Who knows how it will actually work. There’s only one way to find out.

Hopefully I’ll be back on here in a few months with some sort of preview or update. Just like all dreams in life, the odds that it will always be rolling a boulder up a hill are high and there will be the high highs, and low lows. As long as the epitaph on my headstone reads “He did actually start that novel”, I’ll be happy. Or if things go well, maybe it will say “Here lies the author – Scan this QR code to get a free preview of his ebook!”

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I love all things experience design. I work as a Principal Service Experience Designer at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.
  • Danny Allen

    I really enjoyed this Erik, I hope you are still moving forward with your book!

  • I am, I took a few weeks and did a major blitz on filling out a wiki with all sorts of background and worldbuilding, and then did a pretty good outline of the first 40 chapters or so. I had to take a break to spend tim on a large workshop I am going to be teaching this week, but then I am free to re-dedicate the time. But the amount of information I was able to capture so far has been huge.

  • Hannah Reeves

    Hey! This has me pumped! I hope you crank some more out.
    Your writing style is super engaging and fun to read. I was searching for the basics of bootstrap 3, found your article and illustrations, then continued reading your work for the mere enjoyment of how you write.
    Do it!