I gave my first interview yesterday to a very cool young journalist named Norelle, who keeps a blog highlighting Seattle writers and reviewing books. The blog’s called Seattle Wrote and I encourage you to check it out, particularly if you’re a new writer—or just one who needs a bit of inspiration. As we talked, one particular thought kept striking me in the face like a fat salmon in the hands of one of the stooges: I’m incredibly lucky. Following this came the realization that my writing is about relating to people.
My friends are no doubt laughing at this point. I relate to people about as well as sharks relate to Tonka trucks.
I got into writing to impress a girl. I wrote a really awful novel in three months because I didn’t have the guts to actually ask her out. I didn’t get a date, much less a smooch, but I did meet Jack Cady. Jack informed me that I’d plumbed new depths of awful with this novel, but he did like my female characters, and thought I wrote snappy dialogue.
He then warned me not to get an English degree, but instead encouraged me to get experience in the world. So I became a hermit IT dude and grew very pale. I fell in love, got my heart broken, and fled to the desert to become an archaeologist…as one often does. I informed the admissions committee that I didn’t want to be an archaeologist, I wanted to be a writer, but they took me anyway. My grad school years taught me tons, and ended up with me working in Iraq on the mass graves team, where I coped with my stress by writing a 300,000 word “novel.”
It wasn’t any good, but I’d gotten a lot better at writing and knew I could actually do it.
When I left Iraq, I went back into IT and tried to refine that 300K monstrosity into something saleable. It didn’t work, but it kept the fires going. When I got laid off, I wrote another novel—Antigone’s Fall. And shortly after that, I got my first professional job as a writer for the Seattle Courant. It only lasted a month, but then Marti and Dave hired me to help get Aion out the door and my writing career actually took off.
For all the progress I’ve made, for all the things I’ve learned, I can look back and see the faces of people who helped me get here. It’s a long, long line of relatives and friends—even enemies. Countless veterans contributed their time and expertise to my education. Editors took the time to build me up, not blast my idiocy and inability to not write in passive voice. My awesome employers gave me work and opportunities to push myself.
As I tried to distill answers to Norelle’s questions, I realized how much relationships factor into my writing. Whenever I get feedback on a story, or an email from a fan, that’s a connection to cherish. Whenever someone gives me advice or encouragement, I’m incurring a debt that I can’t ever fully repay to them…but I can return the favor to someone else in the future.
The experience reminded me to be a little more humble—and a lot more grateful.