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The Plan (10 of 90)

I started writing today’s post, a rather in-depth treatise about my five-year plan. The first explicit plan I’ve had in my life.

When I realized something: I’m not ready to share that will you.

It’s nothing personal, I promise. Although I’ve always found that particular phrase, when applied to a relationship, trite. After all, if it’s not personal then that certainly defines the kind of relationship that you have. And who wants to have a not-personal type relationship?

In this case, though, it really isn’t anything personal. I’m simply not ready to say it aloud yet. I’m not ready to announce it, incomplete and imperfect, for everyone to see. I’m not ready to accept my own fate, to solidify my plans with words on a page.

I’ve already started discussing The Plan with a few friends. I’ve let the words slip out of their Brain Cell, touching the light of the world briefly.

I’m testing it out, like a controlled public relations leak. Let’s float the test balloon and see the reaction.

***

Students oftentimes ask me for advice on writing. Specifically, they ask me how do you make a career out of writing. What, they want to know, did I do.

I am of little help in these particular matters. Not because I don’t want to help them. I feel a great responsibility to speak with them for as long as they need (assuming they are taking pro-active actions to become a writer) because I was helped along the way.

I am of little help because I didn’t follow one rule along the way. I never took the easy route from the first time I applied for a job. I was a bull in the china shop, smashing into everything and everybody in my way.

I succeeded early in my career because of what I wrote about. Not how I wrote. I wrote about bike clubs, and prostitutes, and graffiti artists and techno-hippies. These were the people who permeated my life, who existed on the peripherals of my environment.

So I have to fight telling the kids: forget everything you know, pack up your car and find the scariest place you can think of. Then learn to love it.

That’s how you become a writer.

***

  • Twice in my life I’ve had less money in the bank than you could withdraw and no job prospects on the horizon.
  • I’ve arrived in two different states with no friends and no place to live, just a car (and in one case without a car), a computer and some hefty bags filled with clothes.
  • I’ve been in more fistfights in my adulthood than I have years on the planet. (At one point I could take you on a walking tour of San Francisco that included a dozen stops from places I’d been banned.)
  • I’ve slept in more rest areas across the U.S. than I can remember because it saves money.
  • More than five times, I’ve simply never returned to a job because I couldn’t get time off to travel.

I don’t bring these things up as a point of pride. Some of these (and the countless others I will never post here) are nothing to be proud of. But they tell a story.

One of desperation. One of fear. I was terrified that my life wouldn’t ever get started. That I would be stuck wherever I was. That I wouldn’t write. That I wouldn’t be a writer.

Nothing else mattered to me. Nothing. So I never made any connections that couldn’t be severed immediately. Because I needed this thing to happen in my life. Regardless.

How do you explain that to kids who ask you how to become a writer?

And how do you eventually create a life that isn’t filled with desperation and fear, yet seeks something fulfilling?

***

I am almost there, though. I am almost ready to tell you the plan. I am ready to embrace this new scary. This responsible scary. The kind that doesn’t leave a scorched earth and burned bridges behind.

One that I have kept tucked away for so long because I was afraid to even think it was possible. Because if it was and I didn’t reach it, what would I do next?

I can’t live like that. I don’t want to live like that.

So I won’t.

And that’s all part of The Plan.

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