Words on the Page (11 of 90)

My life changed forever on May 11, 2008.

It wasn’t the first time my life had changed. It certainly wasn’t the last. And while it turned out to be for the better, the immediate change didn’t feel particularly good.

As I used to hear someone say: You think when you quit drinking that you’re life is supposed to get better; my life got worse. Fast.

It doesn’t seem like a very good incentive for change, but when you dig into the idea behind that statement it becomes the most powerful piece of advice I’ve received in my sobriety. Because life isn’t easy. It’s a series of steps, small paces that move us through space-time, methodically and slowly.

The journeys we take, the important ones, require commitment  and perseverance. The simple act of quitting something bad, while good in the long run, oftentimes comes with a whole series of immediate consequences that are bad.

It’s good to remind myself of this from time to time.


On Monday, weather permitting, I’m going to the Staples (or Office Depot, I can’t rightly remember which one is next to my house). I’ll purchase a wall calendar to hang in my living room (next to one of my desks), a small carrying notebook, and a whiteboard.

I am going to use these 3 items to track my writing. I have more projects going than I should. But I have them and that means they need to get done.

I am a writer. I am supposed to write every day. I am supposed to make headway on my projects, complete my projects and move on to new stories.

But I don’t do that. I find myself trapped in the morass, slogging through one foot at a time, getting tired, sitting down, forgetting, and re-starting. I could delve into the psychology of this (and I have in private therapy), but when you finally boil away all the excuses it gets down to one simple idea: fear.

I am not afraid of failure (although it is certainly not something I seek). I am afraid of not being good. I am afraid of finishing and finding out that I am not as good as I’ve been told. Or as I believe.

I’ve lived too long in a safe zone, telling myself that I am a writer without ever really stepping forth into that world.


Throughout the next seven months, through the end of August when school starts up, I’ve decided that I will work on one project each day. I will write 1,000 words (at least) on each project. Or I will edit 1,000 words (as there are some projects I am simply editing).

That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 days, which translates into 200,000 words written this year. If I stick to my guns and write, each day, my projects will get finished. I will have taken my first steps into this writing world.

I can say honestly the idea is terrifying for many reasons, not the least of which is the commitment. The idea of carving out an hour or two each day to simply write my words on my projects is daunting. The pre-work that goes into writing is absurd as well.

But this is what needs to be done. Commitment and perseverance.


This is what I will complete:

  1. The Cult of Me: How Social Technologies Have Changed the Story, a semi-academic work describing the nature of storytelling in a networked world.
  2. Dungeons & Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Gaming from Geek to Chic (Edition 2), the second edition of the book John and I wrote in 2003.
  3. Making Digital: Creating in a Computer Age, a semi-academic book I am editing for Carnegie Mellon
  4. So Far Appalachia: An Un-American Tale, a memoir about my family, Appalachia and the American Dream.
  5. The Wiki Classroom: A Living Learning Digital Environment, a textbook chapter on deploying social technologies in the collegiate level

This is daunting. As I look at the titles, I realize how much work I have in front of me. This will require a dedication that I’ve never been able to muster on my own.

I fancy myself a tinkerer, a starter. I am someone who gathers people together, sets out a mission and pushes them on their way. I am a builder.

I am not a finisher. I need others around me for that.

Or I did. This year, my Year of Friends and my Year of Heath, will also be my Year of Change. The year that I unshackled myself from the fears and worries that live in my head, that push me away from the finish line. That push me to continually move, always moving, never giving those fears a stationary target.

May 11, 2008 changed my life.

But 2010 is the year my life is changed.

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  • benluttrull February 8, 2010   Reply →

    You got this.

  • Brad_King February 8, 2010   Reply →

    As my old boss used to say: Ready or not, here we fucking come. I found that to be quite appropriate in so many areas of life.

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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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