On Plan B, Kickstarter, and a Writing Life

photo (5)Today is my birthday. I awoke at 6 am, and made my way across the hall and into my den. The stress of raising money for a project through Kickstarter has ruined any chance I have of sleeping, or relaxing, or enjoying.

So I retreat to my sanctuary where I’m surrounded. Books, files, and notes are scattered about the room, juxtaposed by bits of media technology crammed into nooks and crannies.

Twenty years ago, this is how I envisioned my life. I always imagined that I would be surrounded by words and stories. At first, I thought that life would remain only on the page, but through time I’ve come to realize that I care less about the medium of delivery and more about the stories I’m telling.

This is the result of a decision I made 20 years ago. There would be no Plan B in my life. I would pursue my dream of writing, and spend no time cultivating “What if?” scenarios.

For much of my early career, this panicked energy sustained me as I searched and clawed for jobs. But that energy has transformed. In the last few months, I’ve realized that I have been running on cruise control and my life has reached a crossroads of sorts.

Professionally, I’ve reached the point as a writer where I feel more accomplished in my craft than ever. Almost without exception, I spend each day either writing, reading, or thinking about stories. And I have done so without thought. This is just my daily routine now.

However, my life as a teacher has kept me from creating anything new. I find myself buried in an endless sea of essays, projects, and assignments that never quite get cleared off my desk. I spend hours each week answering student questions, cajoling them to write and create, and pushing them to work on just one more draft before the deadline.

These two elements — my writing craft and my teaching duties — have smashed against each other. I have allowed myself the idea that writing might be some side pursuit, one that I cultivate when I have time between projects.

And that has been a terrible mistake.

I know of only one way to correct a mistake of passion, and that is to gather all my chips, push them to the middle, and answer the question that is in the forefront of my mind these days:

Am I still a writer or if I’m now I guy who once wrote?

I’ve had projects and ideas percolating for so long I barely remember when I first had them. I don’t lack for ideas, but I do lack for finishing books and writing projects.

So I’ve dubbed Year 41 at The Year of the Writer. This is the year, I have told my friends, where I lay the best of what I have out there and see what it returns.

After years of researching and foot dragging, I’ve decided to put the project that matters the most to me — So Far Appalachia — in the hands of the crowd, to see it generates enough interest to convince an audience to fund what I do.

If not, then it’s time for me reconsider the lens through which I view my life; if so, then it’s time to once again push forward without a Plan B and write like my life depended upon it.

However it ends, the next 30 days will certainly be the most nerve-wracking I’ve had in some time. (I know this to be true because I awoke at 6 am in a sheer state of panic.)

And it will be the best 30 days as well because every minute will count.