I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was in my early teens. I’ve always been a reader and a fan of stories, always had a pretty good imagination, but it was playing and sometimes running various pen-and-paper role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Marvel Super Heroes where I really caught the bug of crafting and overseeing fictional worlds.
I started out strong, focusing mostly on comics, and knew I was on to something when the form rejection letters eventually turned into phone calls from editors. I was first published in 1993: exactly twenty years ago. I was twenty-one years old.
The last material I had published was in, I believe, 1996, or thereabouts — there were a few things I did for small press anthologies, so it might have been a little later, maybe 1997 or 1998.
After that, I co-wrote and sold a couple of work-for-hire pieces to WildStorm Productions, then still an independent branch of Image Comics, that were unpublished, since the series they were slated to appear in was cancelled.
So it’s been seventeen years since I had my name last printed on a dead tree, a considerably long time. If everything comes together this year as planned, I’ll break that gap by self-publishing some of my older work, featuring my creator-owned character, DoorMan, in collected trade paperback edition.
Why did it take me so long to get more work out there?
Well, the abbreviated version of a much longer tale was that I suffered a few setbacks, both professionally and personally (things that I will go into detail with in future posts in this series as good cautionary tales and examples of how *not* to deal with failure) and I more or less gave up writing in a serious let’s-do-this-as-more-than-a-hobby manner.
I did spend a couple years working for a trio of now-defunct online outlets writing videogame reviews and playing at being a gaming journalist, which was a paid gig for most of my tenure there, but beyond that part-time work, I only dabbled at fiction.
The funny thing was, though . . . to me, from my perspective, I still referred to myself as a ‘writer’. That was what I wanted, a career getting paid to write fiction.
For years, I started I don’t know how many novels, short stories, or comics, but would never finish any of them. I would sit down and develop characters, write treatments and outlines, do research (at times on the extensive side), but would never actually formally begin work on them, just abandon them in that half-formed pile of notes.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you when the last time I formally submitted work to a publisher or outlet was, but I’m going to guess it’s been over a decade, probably closer to fifteen years.
It took me until 2011 until I would actually complete a story the whole way through to the end, a horror novella. It’s the start of 2013 and I still haven’t gone back to do a second draft of it.
If that sounds ridiculous, particularly in the context that I have had things published, so it’s not like I didn’t have some sort of idea of what I should be doing . . . well, agreed, friend. It is.
(Even more so to me as I’m sitting here looking at the last twenty years of my life boiled down to a brief overview.)
I have no idea of how I was justifying this endless start-scrap cycle, or what I thought I was going to accomplish with it. It was just a compulsive habit. Maybe I felt if I just kept busy, that at some point, the collected Greek muses would stage some kind of exasperated, eye-rolling divine intervention and just hand me an entire completed, proofread manuscript on a silver platter . . . preferably with a publishing contract waiting to be signed as a garnish.
Over the last couple years I began to get a little closer to breaking the cycle. Last June, I got in contact with DoorMan’s co-creator and my frequent comics collaborator, James E. Lyle, for the first time in years, and we decided that it was time to dust our creation off and get him back into the world, almost twenty years after he first appeared in DoorMan #1, published by Cult Press in 1993.
After some discussion, James and I decided that we’d put up our hundred-fifty-plus pages of DoorMan material as a webcomic, and then offer up a self-published print edition of the work — a pretty common modern business model for comics. Hopefully we could use the webcomic and collected print edition as a way to build momentum and support to create new DoorMan material, ideally on a regular, ongoing basis.
After looking into ways to get the webcomic up and running, I decided to use WordPress as the platform, and I thought it might be a good idea to just start a personal blog to familiarize myself with the system.
On September 30th, 2012, I put up the first post here on Public Domain (originally called ‘Thought Balloons’). I had no real idea what I was going to write about, or if anyone would bother to read it. I didn’t know if could — or would — add a ‘blogger’ feather to my cap at a suitably jaunty angle to go along with the ‘comic book writer’ and ‘videogame critic’ ones that had already been tucked firmly into the hatband.
Almost fifty posts, four months, seventy-five followers and two thousand views later, Public Domain is a regular gig, one that I’m fiercely proud of, in all it’s off-kilter, four color, cobbled-together-from-spare-parts-Frankenstein-glory.
(If it sounds like I’m bragging, consider that over the past seven years or so, I could count the number of people who actually saw my efforts on my digits and still have one or two left over, so 2K is a big humblebrag in that particular context.)
One of the things I’ve discovered over these past four months was that I enjoy the feedback. I relish the ability to sit down and create something and get it out into the world with no middleman to hang me up. Even if only a relative handful of people saw it, that’s a moot point. It went from an intangible glimmer of an idea to something that had actual finished form.
Rinse, repeat . . . just hopefully on a consistently and steadily escalating scale. If I can do blog posts of up to a couple thousand words every few days, there’s no reason I couldn’t write a couple thousand words of a novel, or short story, or a comic script until it was finished.
I had suspected this was a key element for me — not working in a vacuum — but truth be told, I didn’t feel comfortable with the prospect of this particular root dangling from the stick. To me, it smacked of being egotistical and narcissistic, like I was some child who wasn’t just content with the personal satisfaction of the act of creation: I had to have said creation tacked up to the fridge door with fruit-shaped plastic magnets, too.
But then I really thought about it.
This is what I wanted, after all, pretty much right from the start as a teenager. A career as a writer. Not to do it as a hobby, something that gets relegated to, and hidden away, in a spare room or the garage, engaged in only on the weekends or whatever spare time I can manage to dole out.
I should be happy with getting up on a stage and showing off my work. That didn’t mean I have to be some kind of vapid attention whore constantly pulling some stunt just to have as many eyes on me as possible. Everyone likes some sort of validation for their efforts. The occasional pat on the head or cookie doled out.
And I’ve been at this long enough to know that sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how much effort you put in, the world does get stingy with the show of affection and snickerdoodles.
I decided I could engage in internal conflict over what this meant about me, or I could embrace it, like a mad scientist toiling away in a lab who finally does manage to stumble on the formula that resurrects long-dormant tissue and makes it vibrant and productive again — even if he’s not entirely sure what the chemical process was, or if it was just some random burbling in a beaker while he was passed out, face down at his desk from exhaustion.
I might not have planned it this way, but it works. It got results that all the well-crafted motivational self-help tomes I’ve digested and tried diligently to put into practice didn’t . . . and it’s a lot more fun to not just toil away in seclusion.
Of course, just because I’ve turned the proverbial corner doesn’t mean I’m out of the equally proverbial woods yet.
To be concluded . . .
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain, and checking our our new creative-oriented feature, The reWrite Chronicles. The opening finale (is that an oxymoron?) comes tomorrow, Sunday, January 27th. Hope to see you there! Er, well . . . you know what I mean. Hope you come by.