Monday, March 24, 2014

Days 21 - 22

We'll call it a weekend, methinks. Jenn and I were out of town Saturday and Sunday, so it was difficult to do anything toward my goal beyond the always vague "gaining life experience."

We went to Devon for the weekend firstly to celebrate the birthday of Jenn's uncle and secondly to celebrate my birthday. For my uncle-in-law's birthday celebrations were held in a not-that-fancy pub in Exeter. I spent most of my time talking to an extended family member who likes motorcycles. Through that conversation I've found myself even more convinced that I want a Harley-Davidson Low Rider, but that's discussion best saved for my motorcycle blog.

That evening, Jenn and I drove north to Exmoor National Park and the tiny hillside village of Lynton. For dinner, we walked down the hill to the village of Lynmouth and ate at a pub on the water's edge. The village is nestled in a small cut of a valley that empties into the Bristol Channel. Walking back up the hill we were able to see across to Cardiff.

On Sunday morning, after a big breakfast at our B&B, we went for a short walk to a rather blustery Dunkery Beacon. On a good day a person can see four national parks from that point: Exmoor (of course), Dartmoor, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. This is assuming you have binoculars. 

In the afternoon, we went to Dunster, which is an awesome little village on the edge of Exmoor. I was delighted by it if not simply because it is an ideal place to take my parents next time they come to visit.

I didn't think to take my camera this weekend, but here are a few pictures I took with my phone:

View from Dunster Castle.

View from Dunster Castle.

Jenn crossing a bridge on the grounds of Dunster Castle.

Wandering the grounds of Dunster Castle.

Atop Dunkery Beacon.

Jenn, wrapped up warm atop Dunkery Beacon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 20

I got another rejection today. That is comforting in the sense that it means people are at least receiving my emails. I had started to wonder if perhaps my submissions were going straight to people's spam folders.

As a response to the rejection, I sent submissions to two more agents. I have a deep feeling that I am going about all this the wrong way, but I genuinely don't know how to gain traction, how to go about getting this book published.

I started thinking about this recently when I was mentioning my 183-day initiative to a friend of Jenn's who is a professional painter. Painter of portraits and the like, not houses. When I mentioned sending submissions to literary agents he seemed surprised, as if he thought it might not be the best way to go about things. Since he is someone who can actually pay his bills with his art, I feel this desire to defer to his wisdom, to assume that he knows more than me despite operating in an entirely different medium. So, I have been endlessly second-guessing myself but always arriving at the same question: "Well, what else would I do?" I don't know.

I have also had the thought that perhaps he just thinks I'm an idiot and not at all very good. I frequently lament internally that I don't really come off as an author or the sort of person who would write anything worth reading, because in dinner parties I so often talk about motorcycles and professional wrestling and other things that no one I seem to know cares anything about. So, perhaps he didn't think it was a bad idea to submit to agents but imagined my writing (which he's never read) wouldn't be good enough to be represented by anyone. Or perhaps he was just surprised that someone so dumb as me should manage to think of an intelligent way of pursuing a goal of becoming a professional author.

I don't know. I have low self-esteem. I tend to feel that everyone thinks I'm an idiot. So maybe (probably) he wasn't thinking any of the above and I'm just a bit crap at reading people.

Days 18-19: Gorillas in the Brist(ol)

I did a fair bit of reading on Day 18. It turns out the punctured tire I had a week ago was an actual punctured tire. I've not had the time to go get a new inner tube, so I took the train to work, thereby allowing plenty of time to read. This is how things used to go with me: I got most of my reading done on the train.

Woe to me that it is cheaper, easier, healthier and less frustrating to cycle to work. I miss having all that time to read. But at least I got a little done on Day 18. And that was the only thing I got done. A particularly mental-energy-draining day at work made me unwilling to do anything else. 

Day 19

I turned 38 years old on 20 March. And one generally doesn't work on one's birthday. Jenn and I went to Bristol for the day because in my view there are no six words more depressing than: "I spent my birthday in Cardiff."

We went to lunch at Grillstock, a barbecue stall in St. Nicholas Market. Barbecue is suddenly the "in" thing these days in Britain. Bristol has a few good spots and even Cardiff has Hang Fire, which is a strange sort of pop-up BBQ experience that takes place at the Landsdowne in Canton. Bristol's St. Nicholas Market is really cool. There is a section of it that consists of two long rows of stalls selling really good food: pies, Middle-Eastern food, Indian, Caribbean, pasta, sausages, Portuguese, pita wraps, and Grillstock. On a weekday at lunchtime the place is packed with people, the smell of delicious foods almost overwhelming.

Jenn and I both had pulled pork sandwiches covered in barbecue sauce. The Texan in me is keen to point out that it lacked a certain authenticity but I think you just have to accept these sort of things when you are 5,000 miles away from a cuisine's regional origin. Barbecue in Britain by nature is going to suit British tastes. And for me, any barbecue is better than none. Besides, this was really good. I mean, really, really good. So good that it again stirred up my desire to move to Bristol.

That became the running theme for the day. Jenn and I started this year talking about moving to the city but soon agreed we should park the idea until summer, after we have returned from visiting the United States. My grandfather's 90th birthday will be in June and we are focusing all resources into being able to pay for the trip (if anyone has £400 they want to give me, t'would be much appreciated). So, we can't even really think about the cost of moving until after that.

But wandering around Bristol, and having its superiority over Cardiff effectively waved in our faces (Unique shops and restaurants! Unique pubs! A really beautiful, posh part of town! Zoo! Clever street art! Fewer chavs! Thoughtful accommodation of bicycles and motorbikes! It's not Wales! It's closer to Jenn's family! It's closer to the few friends I have in this country!) reminded us of why we had decided to move there.

After barbecue we walked up the hill to Bristol Zoo, home to the seagull-throwing gibbon. Any gibbon that throws seagulls is alright by me.

Bristol Zoo is a clever little place because they tend to feed animals when people are actually there. Which means the animals are often moving around a bit, which is what you want to see. No one wants to see a gecko just sunning itself, you want to see a gecko slowly, meticulously tracking a bug with its weird eyes and catching the bug with its tongue.

Jock, the gorilla.
The zoo has a new gorilla space called Gorilla Island, which is the bee's knees because it sort of places you in a large plastic box amongst the gorillas. So, you're there face to face with them and you find that they stare at you as much as you stare at them.

Gorillas are interesting things because they are obviously more cognizant than any other animal you'll see in a zoo. They are clever enough that a zookeeper can verbally ask them to move into one part of the enclosure so she can close off the other part and tidy it up a bit. Just that bit was blowing my mind.

The enclosure has a load of different little sections that can be closed off with big metal gates. No doubt to keep the gorillas from fighting over food, each of them is fed in their own private section of the enclosure. The gigantic male of the group, it seems, prefers to eat in a main part of the enclosure, where the whole family likes to hang out. So, in order to place food out for him the keepers first had to ask all the gorillas to leave that room. Which they did.

Once they were all out of the room, its doors were automatically shut and a keeper was able to walk in and tidy up some of the wood shavings and such before setting out an enormous tray of fruits and vegetables. Then she left the room and the door was opened to allow the male, Jock, to saunter in. The door was closed behind him to allow him to eat in peace.

He went up to the pile of fruits and vegetables and peered at it the way you might when shopping. I'm pretty sure he didn't actually put his finger to his chin in a "Hmm, let's see now, what shall I have?" pose, but that was very much the nature of his body language. Eventually, he tossed two apples, a banana and a pot of yogurt into his massive left hand before shuffling to spot that was right next to the glass.

Yeah, a plastic pot of yogurt with a peel-back lid. This item was blowing the minds of those of us watching. Is that a mistake? Surely you don't give an animal a plastic container –– they'll eat it. Is that what he's going to do? Just eat the pot? Or will he squish the yogurt out like Popeye eating a can of spinach? And the banana. How is he going to eat that banana? He has enormous gorilla hands, how could he possibly have the dexterity to peel a banana? Or even the mental wherewithal to know to peel a banana?

He ate the apples in two bites: one bite perfectly splitting the fruit in half. And yet there was delicacy in his eating, measure and appreciation of the food. He wasn't just shovelling crap in. He had chosen specific items and was enjoying them. With the banana, he peeled it with an almost grace. He ate the banana then ate the peel, holding it up for us to see –– as if to say: "I could have eaten the thing whole but I peeled it to amuse you."

You wonder if zoo gorillas have a sense of performance. Obviously they understand that they are being watched. They get their situation on some level. Freedom is a subjective and high-level concept that the vast majority of humans even struggle to understand, so I don't think the gorillas of Bristol Zoo have any complaints about their situation or are wholly cognisant of it. But you wonder: how relevant to them are the hairless underfed apes that squeal with delight when they peel bananas? And do they make that connection? And do they have any appreciation for that? Does Jock know that peeling the banana rather than just chomping through the thing will make all the sickly apes go nuts?

Maybe he has an element of showmanship, because he saved his best trick for last. He produced the yogurt that had been nestled in his massive palm and... I don't know, did he look at us? Did he offer a sly glance? Maybe. Either way, he deftly peeled back the lid –– knowing to hold the cup upright. We went nuts. He licked the lid. We went nuts again. Then he used his enormous forefinger as a spoon. He ate the cup of yogurt in two or three fingerfuls, then held the cup up and licked the inside. Then he set the cup and lid aside, knowing those things are not food. Compare this to the meerkat I watched later who kept trying to figure out how to eat a rock.

After the yogurt, Jock returned to the food pile and selected three heads of lettuce, a broccoli stalk and two red peppers –– all of which fit into his right hand –– and picked another vantage point from which to eat. And on and on through his whole meal. Jenn and I were transfixed. It is amazing to think of an animal as making choices, as deciding: "I'll have this, then I'll have those..." And you wonder what those choices are based on. Did he go with the stuff he liked most first? Or is lettuce actually his favourite?

Anyway, gorillas. Them things is awesome. As were the meerkats and red pandas and gibbons and other monkeys and penguins and seals and lions and lemurs and so on. The typical thinking is to see zoos as a place for kids but I find them to be far more enjoyable as an adult, now that I am capable of watching and pondering all the little things an animal does.

Oh, another thought on the gorillas: are they English? Jock was born in London Zoo; all but one of the other gorillas were also born in English zoos, most in Bristol (one female was born in France). So does that make them English? Compared to many football fans, they're certainly better representatives for the country...

After the zoo Jenn and I walked to a pub for a few pints before heading to the Relaxation Centre, which is a wee spa tucked into the Clifton neighbourhood. Cue more pining to move to Bristol for stuff like this. For me, the highlight was a sauna right next to an outdoor plunge pool. So you could get intolerably hot then fling yourself into icy cold water. On paper that probably sounds like no fun, but I assure you: it's amazing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 17

The storytelling circle I went to last night turned out to be a disappointment. That's me being diplomatic. I don't want to do a little poop on anyone's special thing, but I ended up glad I turned up late, and felt no guilt about leaving at the halfway point of the evening.

Roundtrip, I rode 120 miles for the sake of the event. Which included navigating the A46 at night –– a curvy road with no street lights. So, you'll be hopping along at 60 mph when all of a sudden: CURVE IN THE ROAD WITH NO IDEA OF HOW SHARP IT IS OR WHERE IT ENDS. 

That sort of thing is hell on a motorcycle because if you hit your brakes in a curve you put yourself at extremely high risk of going flying. On a motorcycle, handling curves involves physical interaction –– placement of weight and lean and throttle and a bunch of other tedious things that are hard to just sort of pull out of your ass. Or, at least, they're hard for me to pull out of my ass. So, when I hit one particular corner too fast my brain froze as I drifted out too much toward the oncoming lane. Those Isle of Man TT dudes probably could probably have hit the same corner at 100 mph, but I'm not them. I just got scared and didn't make adjustments as I should have. Things turned out OK –– I didn't even cross over the line –– but it's annoying to come out of a situation knowing that you handled it very poorly.

Anyhoo, that was on the way to the evening, and perhaps that put too much a weight on things. A sort of: this had better be worth risking my life for. It wasn't. 

It was an event that... Well, first of all, it was an event that resulted in my not getting to bed until 1 a.m. I had to get up for work five hours later and I have passed the age when such things are easily done. As I write this, I am looking at the clock and wanting desperately to go to bed, so I'm not sure how much I want to go into what I didn't like. 

But in short, I have a bachelors and masters degree in Welsh. The masters degree has an emphasis on creative writing. And the very keystone of Welsh literature is the Mabinogion, which is a collection centuries-old tales handed down from the oral storytelling tradition.

So, my point is: I've have read and written about and studied and listened to and even taken part in a great whopping lot of oral storytelling tradition. And last night just wasn't up to par. Not close. Because the goal is not just to recite a list of nonsensical occurrences in a falsely important and breathy voice ("And then the giant turned himself into a fork. So, the knight ate a bowl of porridge and asked the golden harp to come with him to find a pool in which dwelt many spirits"). It is to tell a story. The clue is in the name: storytelling. 

All these folk tales were at one point relevant to people. They made sense to the audience and were of interest to them. The craft of the storyteller, who was after all doing this in exchange for food and lodging, was engaging the audience. This would have meant changing and adapting the tale as needs must, to suit the mood and the atmosphere.

So, with something like Mabinogion, I am certain the stuff that is written is effectively bullet points. It is not the story. The story would have been told in the moment and may have contained all or only some of the story we see written.

Fans of the oral storytelling tradition, though, too often treat it almost as scripture: unchangeable, unadaptable. Last night was an example of that, worsened by a collection of particularly weak storytellers. It was the sort of thing that made you understand why oral storytelling died out.

Although, it didn't really. Not at all. If it had died out, it wouldn't cost so much to go see Henry Rollins. Or Jello Biafra. Or Scott Ian. Or Chris Jericho. Or anyone else who does spoken word tours. Oral storytelling has just changed, that's all.

And what I'm saying about it is rushed because I so desperately want to go to bed.

Meanwhile, today, I did some actual work toward writing a short story. As a matter of fact, I wrote it. The whole thing had come to me as I was cycling from work. I have a complete story now but it is very rough; I'll come back to it on Friday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Days 14-16

See, this is what happens to me. I'll have an idea, a plan to do this or that thing, and get all wrapped up with it in my head, then I'll have a load of bumbling false starts and eventually fizzle out. So, over the past 16 days what have I really done other than come up with a vague idea of how to act upon my too-vague ambitions?

Anyhoo, I'm frustrated. On Saturday (Day 14), Jenn tried to give me a chance to make up for Friday by going to her friend's house for the afternoon, leaving me free to write. But I didn't. Not really. Not productively. I goofed around, staring at the wall, and thereafter really only focused on writing stuff for my motorcycle blog. And, honestly, that's not the point of this whole thing. Yes, you can say, "Well, at least you're writing," but it's writing of the wrong kind. I don't know. I'm not happy with it.

Beyond that, the only thing close to a literary endeavour was watching The Rum Diary, the film of the book by Hunter S. Thompson about a young hack journalist who dreams of being a novelist. It was a film I had really wanted to see when it first came out a few years ago, but now I'm kind of glad I didn't go pay money for it. Hunter S. Thompson was something of a one-trick pony, and once you've read anything by him you've effectively read everything by him.

Thompson was an interesting man in terms of his literary ambitions, because he was surprisingly well-read. Or at least, had been as a young man and carried much of that into later life. For instance, I remember reading something in which he just waxes lyrical about Faulkner. I sense that Thompson always dreamed of producing great things like that and felt frustrated and trapped by his success as a dude who effectively addles himself for the sake of being able to write about it.

Maybe that's why he killed himself: he felt that the greatness within him that might have produced a timeless novel or two was too far lost to the legacy of this wild, psychotic character that had taken over his life. Professional wrestler syndrome: you forget that your name isn't really Hulk Hogan, it's Terry Bollea.

But back to the fact that Thompson had, at one time, been well-read. It occurred to me this morning that this is another area where I'm going wrong: I'm not reading nearly enough. Barbara Kingsolver says on the FAQ page of her website: "I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I'd written. I still do. I limit my exposure to the type of stuff I don't want to write... I'm enough of a biologist to know that whatever comes in will, in some form, come back out."

At present, very little is going in beyond articles about motorcycles or professional wrestling. So, perhaps it's no real surprise that the short story I've been trying to write is really not very good at all. I need to read more. I need to make that a key part of the process.

Sunday (Day 15), meanwhile, was a non day. Jenn and I went for a short ride around on my motorcycle then returned home to focus on a wealth of chores around the house. I washed both our bicycles and changed the oil in my motorbike.

I always love the sense of accomplishment one gets from doing car/motorcycle maintenance. It gives a you a great sense of usefulness. I suppose because the quality (that term used in the Robert Pirsig sense) of the work is less subjective.

I mean, I've written a 90,000-page book that I'm trying to get published. Is it any good? That's up to the opinion of the person reading it. And to that end, maybe all the effort I put into the book was for nought. If you change the oil of a motorcycle, though, the "quality" is less arguable. There are 3.6 litres of fresh oil in a machine and because of that, the machine will run properly and under less threat of internal breakdown. I did that. I made that happen. And the value of my effort is easier to measure.

That said, I could have done better. I purchased a too-small funnel to catch the old oil, and that resulted in my spilling a good 400 ml or so of oil onto the ground.

If you've never changed the oil of a car or motorbike before, the process is pretty simple. At the bottom of the oil pan (known as a "sump" in British lingo) there is a little bolt. You unscrew that, and all the old oil comes pouring out. Generally, you catch it with a special rectangular bottle, and you are then able to dispose of the oil safely, rather than just emptying it into the sewer as most shadetree mechanics used to do. So, I set the bottle underneath the bike, with a funnel to help guide the oil in without spill. But, as I say, the spout of the funnel was too narrow. So when the oil came gushing out it quickly filled up the funnel and spilled out over the sides and onto the ground. So, I ended up throwing water on the pavement and flushing the oil into the sewer. I'm sorry, Mother Earth.

Today, Day 16, the plan is to take my planet-killing dandy horse to the historic city of Bath, to attend the monthly Bath Storytelling Circle. I'm not really sure what to expect, but it's held in my favourite pub so I can at least arrive there safe in the knowledge that I will have a steak pie for dinner.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 13

Day 13 was a fail, dude. It was poor not just in literary terms but was an all-rounder bad day. Not awful, just really not good.

I was particularly sluggish in the morning because I had not gotten back from Bristol the night before until midnight, and I had arrived home chilled to the core. The cold mist had worked its way into my soul. The first things to go in the cold when on a motorbike are your hands and your brain –– both go numb. So, before I could even think to go to bed I had to warm them with a cup of peppermint tea. And that ended up putting me to bed closer to 1 a.m.

Once under the covers I could not get warm. Fortunately, Jenn and I have a heated mattress pad with dual settings, so I was able to warm up my side of the bed. I slept fitfully, though, because the heated pad shuts itself off after an hour and I kept waking up and needing to turn it back on.

So, I didn't really get moving until about 9:30 (whereas normally I would be up at 6). After (groggily) eating breakfast, I put on my gear and packed up my bag to cycle over to the pool for a swim. As soon as I got my bike onto the road, though, I discovered the rear tire was flat.

I find that as I get older, I get worse and worse about thinking on my feet; I get dumber and dumber. And generally I am only able to respond to situations effectively if I have responded to them before. I didn't have an exact "Chris has had a late start and is feeling a bit frustrated as a result bust still wants to get in a swim before he starts writing but now has been waylaid by a flat tire" contingency plan. So, I just grabbed Jenn's bicycle.

But Jenn's bike is smaller than mine and not regularly ridden by a person who is anal about things like oiling chains and gears. It also has bad brakes, the levers for which are in British order rather than American. For some reason, British people have the front brake at their right hand and the rear on their left –– the opposite of the American way.

This should not really confuse me because the front brake is also at the right hand when riding a motorcycle (rear brake is at your right foot). But it did confuse me. And when I'm riding a bicycle I generally like to drag the rear brake when approaching a stop. I found myself instead deploying the front brake and that was causing me to lurch a bit over the handlebars. This was happening naturally from being crouched on the bike, anyway, so often I would arrive at a road junction by sort of throwing myself off the pedals. Then I'd try to get going again and the gears would grind and skip.

All this resulted in my growing ever frustrated and almost cycling into a Land Rover.

Eventually I got to the pool (1.7 miles, according to Google) and realised I had left my wallet at home. I couldn't pay admission. So, I had to get back on the tiny, rickety bicycle of death and trudge up the hill back home, slowly becoming enveloped in rage. 

When I got home, I decided that I would just break down and do the thing I should have done: repair the puncture on my rear tire. So, I took off the wheel, took the tire off the wheel, pulled the tube out of the tire, and... couldn't find the puncture. I filled the tub with water and pressed the tire in to help me find the leak. Nothing. There was no puncture. It turns out that I had simply forgotten to tighten a little bolt that prevents the tire from deflating.

So, I put the tube back in the tire, put the tire back onto the rim, put the whole thing back on the bike, pumped up the tire, made sure I fastened the bolt properly, made sure I had my wallet, and cycled back to the pool. I swam a mile in roughly 40 minutes, which is only 28 minutes longer than Michael Phelps would have done it (based on his 400m times). I swam until I got a ridiculous cramp in my left foot, then swam a bit more.

When I got home, of course, I was starving, so I had to eat lunch. Then I had a shower, then I ran some errands, then I did some laundry, then, finally, I was able to sit down and start writing. By which time it was 6 p.m. I managed to write my Day 12 blog post, then Jenn came home and we had dinner.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 12

Straight after work I rode my motorcycle to Bristol to be able to attend Kill Your Darlings, an event put on by Cube. It was a pretty good event, and somewhat different than what I had expected. It was a sit-down-and-watch-people-perform-on-a-stage thing, rather than, well, I don't know. I don't know what I was expecting.

A few years ago –– the night after I met Jenn, as a matter of fact –– I was part of a Welsh-language literary event in which some people read poems, some read short stories, and I did a sort of one-man, one-act play that involved throwing myself to the floor several times. All of this was done more within a crowd, rather than on a stage, and we were all sort of mingling and interacting. At Cube it was a stage and theatre-style seats.

That's not to say it wasn't good –– it was worth the £6 admission (I was taken off guard by that one; I had somehow missed the fact that it cost money) just for the bloke who did a full sequel rap to Will Smith's "Boom! Shake the Room!" My favourite part was when it suddenly went into a kind of drum and bass thing and the bloke (Tom Clutterbuck) started shouting: "We've wandered too far from the source material!"

Hmm, written out, it's not that funny. I assure you it was.

I think I'd go to another KYD event (next one is 8 April) but, as I say, what it was wasn't what I thought it would be. Plus there's the adventure of getting there.

Approaching the M32, which leads into Bristol city centre, I was suddenly enveloped in a thick, Victorian-style fog, which is easily the most annoying weather condition for a motorcyclist. Because if you ride in fog it takes exactly .05 seconds for your helmet visor to be covered in mist. And then you are completely blind. You can wipe away the mist with your glove, but by the time you return your hand to the handlebars you are blind again.

Riding in the rain is no problem, even heavy rain, because the wind will simply push water away from your view along the curve of the visor. But in the fog you might as well be closing your eyes, and the only thing to do is flip the visor up and see the road unfiltered. This actually works pretty well. Except for the fact that it results in your face getting wet, and above 40 mph you become ridiculously teary-eyed. And if the fog is cold it is a special kind of hell.

On the M32 all the traffic had come to an almost stand-still, so I started filtering (riding between the cars) and it was a strange, dream-like experience, slipping through this black corridor of hazy red and white light. 

I got to the Cabot Circus car park without any problems and discovered that not only did they have motorcycle-exclusive parking but also lockers where you can leave your helmet and gloves. From there it was a half-mile walk to Cube, which included crossing the ominously named Bearpit. I obviously could have parked closer to Cube but had chosen to park at Cabot Circus because it is big and safe and getting there didn't involve having to "think on my feet" whilst riding a motorbike at night through an unfamiliar city.

But doing this created an extra adventure at the end of the evening. When I came out of Cube the fog had thickened so much that one could not see across the road. I mean that literally. And that meant that in walking back to the car park I got utterly lost because I couldn't see any landmarks. I couldn't see from one end of the Bearpit to the other. I ended up having to navigate solely by Google Maps on my phone.

So imagine how happy I was to get on a motorbike in this stuff. Thankfully, I had thought to bring my SatNav, so I clicked it on and set out, visor up and freezing mist ice-stinging my face. It was good to have the SatNav because I couldn't see any of the road signs. I clicked on my hazard lights and kept below 40 mph, trundling into nothingness. I was riding a motorbike to Annwfn, expecting at any moment to encounter Gwyn ap Nudd and his soul-hunting hounds.

Instead, I encountered the Severn Bridge. The weather had cleared by the time I got to the Wales crossing and I was back up to a normal speed but freezing. 

My father bought me some heated grips for Christmas, but I tried to save money and had them installed by an idiot. As such, they only worked for a month. I am back to suffering cold hands any time the temperature drops below 5º C. By the time I got home I couldn't feel my pinky or ring finger in my right hand.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Days 10-11

It's mostly been more motorcycle blogging these past two days. As I say, I can't really decide whether I can claim it as a legitimate path toward being a professional. Sorta. 

It would carry more weight, I feel, if I were actually being paid to write about motorcycle stuff, rather than simply being sent goods like jackets and bags. Is that snobbish? Am I part of the capitalist problem? Shouldn't I be content to cut out the middle man and simply receive the goods that I would buy had I been given money? I feel that I should be, and that my discomfort is borne of a status thing.

Anyhoo, my point is that I almost certainly could be doing better. But it is hard to find the energy after being at work for 10 hours. I make it home just after 7 pm and need to be in bed just three hours later because Jenn and I get up each morning at 5:30. But even as I say that I feel I am making excuses –– I am trying to distract from the fact that I am lazy.

I have been thinking a lot about what I was talking about on Day 9, about being in the right place, and the idea of drawing inspiration from a community of writers. I found a literary event called Kill Your Darlings taking place in Bristol tomorrow night. If I can coordinate myself properly and not chicken out at the last minute I may ride out there and see what it's about.

Though, one of the challenges of riding a motorcycle is that it increases the frustration of being lost tenfold. Because in order to stop and look at a map or instructions you have to pull over, shut off the engine, take off your gloves, dig the map/instructions from your tank bag or jacket, desperately try to memorise everything, start to put the map/instructions away, realise you have instantly forgotten everything, and so on. I've ridden through Bristol a whopping one time before, so I'm not sure about attempting to navigate at night.

We'll see.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 9

I feel I've let myself down today. But at the same time I've been very tired. This morning, getting out of bed was incredibly challenging. I was so tired I woke up with a splitting headache; I then fell asleep again at the breakfast table. It was due to the fact Jenn and I were up until midnight Sunday, perhaps. Or even the long walk we took on Saturday. Combined with the fact we had to get up this morning, as usual, at 5:30 a.m.

I am aware of myself not making sense, not being as clear as I should be. And I suppose that's an excuse for not really doing anything toward my goal other than struggling greatly to rewrite a post for my motorcycle blog about electric motorcycles. I still have not finished it.

Tonight I found myself watching the second part of "Mind The Gap: London v the Rest," which was primarily about the great disparity of wealth and talent between Britain's capital city and everywhere that is not Britain's capital city. This is the sort of strange bitchy complaint that not Londoners have had for decades if not centuries and is, I feel, somewhat at the emotional heart of the Scottish independence argument. But I'm wandering.

Personally, I really like London and very much wish I lived there. But that's not the point. Or, well, maybe it is. The programme's host, Evan Davis, consistently made the argument that talent increases when it is agglomerated, when it exists in more or less the same place. And certainly that's something that gets proven over and over –– greatness rarely comes from nothing. Which, I would argue, is one of the reasons literature struggles in Wales. There is not great enough a talent pool.

It isn't that Welsh people necessarily lack the ability, but that they lack that whatever-it-is that comes from being around a load of other people with ability. And this is what I am in. I am in a dead end. 

I'll admit I'm not entirely sure of how else it could be. I'm not able to envisage a literary scene. What would it be like? How would I fit into it? What would we do? What would we say? And I think that is evidence of how dead-end I am with things, how closed is my imagination and understanding of possibility.

I have been wanting to leave Cardiff for several years now, but that is a difficult argument to make when you can't even imagine the other end –– what's at the other side of that move. All I'm able to say is that here, this, hasn't worked. I suffer a great mental weariness living in Wales that I never experienced before being here. It as if I am perpetually that person I was this morning, falling asleep with toast in my mouth. But I'm unable to say with certainty that things would be different elsewhere. I don't know. I can't see it. I can't picture it. Something within tells me that lack of picture is a sign I need to leave, but how do you sell that? How do you say: I need to go towards something because I can't see it and can't even fully imagine it is there.

I wonder where the hub is, where are the writers in this country and what are they doing? London, yes, but where in London? And are there any in, say, Bristol? A few? Enough? If so, where? And how do I connect with them? Can I be a part of their world? I am so utterly disconnected in this way. So totally ignorant and removed.

Look, here's what I'm talking about. In places like New York City and London you have such great, intense concentrations of talent that it effectively oozes out of the walls and you end up with guys like this playing at subway stations:

You would never find this in Cardiff. Never. Not because no one in South Wales knows how to play trumpet, drums or bari sax. But because the intensity of talent isn't here. There isn't that thing that causes one artist after another after another after another to build upon each other's work. Because there aren't that many artists.

I wish I were somewhere else, part of something bigger and made bigger by it, but I am so terribly removed that I don't even know where that somewhere else is. I'm not even sure I know anyone who would know. And all of it makes me incredibly depressed.

Day 8

I suppose today was productive, though, perhaps not quite as productive as I would have liked. But then, there's the question of whether I would ever actually be happy with a day's output. I never have been. Though I don't think it logically, I think emotionally some part of me expects to be able to produce entire books in a single day. And when I don't do that I feel oh-so-slightly disappointed.

But in fair terms, today was good. First, I managed to send off another submission to an agent. Then I wrote about 600 words toward a short story I'm hoping to enter into the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition. Such is the nature of writing that I will likely delete at least half of that work, but, hey, it's a start. The deadline on the competition is not until mid May and I'm hoping to be able to submit two stories to the competition.

In the evening Jenn and I went to a comedy evening. I'm generally wary of comedy nights because a lot of it can be so awful that it makes you hate humanity just a little bit. But this night was pretty good. One of my favourite lines came from Ted Shiress who has cerebral palsy and said: 

"I find that being disabled is a lot like being American. In that there's a whole lot of us, and we're all different, but just one idiot can spoil it for the rest of us and make all of us look bad. Now, see, you all thought I was going to say something disparaging toward Americans there, but I actually came out with something quite progressive. And so now all of you are disappointed. Because you're all a load of racists."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Days 6-7

To the anonymous poster who asked about daily updates: Firstly, I am surprised anyone is reading. Thank you.

This particular blog has languished so much over the past several years that I had generally come to accept it as a ghost town, with the only eyes upon it being those that have arrived mistakenly in searching something ridiculous on Google. This blog will be 10 years old in May and that results in a whole lot of content. Which somehow shows up in people's searches for, well, whatever it is that I've mentioned in those years.

According to my stats, people are most commonly arriving here in search of information about .50 caliber handguns. As such, I imagine most people arriving here are hugely disappointed; I can't even remember talking about such a thing.

Secondly, yes, you are correct that the idea behind this whole 183-day initiative is that I make note of every single one of those days. Most often that will come in the form of daily updates. Sometimes, as was the case for Friday and Saturday, I'll loop things together because not much happened or I was tired at the end of the day or busy or I ran out of gas, I had a flat tire, I didn't have enough money for cab fare, my tux didn't come back from the cleaners, an old came in from out of town, someone stole my car, there was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts, or whatever the case may be.

Is it fair to have weekends in this initiative? To have days off? I'm not sure, but that's effectively what Friday and Saturday were. I think I've mentioned that I have adjusted my schedule so that I now work very long days four days a week, leaving me Friday to focus solely on writing. This past Friday was the first day under this new schedule. But it was also the first genuinely nice day this year: sunny and 12º C (53.6º F).

Rather than writing all day I rode out to Swindon, which is home to the nearest Indian motorcycles dealership. Indian are a brand that has been around for roughly 120 years but spent most of that time struggling under a series of parent companies that either didn't understand motorcycles or didn't have the resources to build and promote them. A few years ago, however, they were taken over by Minnesota-based Polaris, which put its billion-dollar weight behind the brand and has recently released a series of motorcycles that are consistently proclaimed as beautiful, amazing and superior in their class.

They are American-made motorcycles with roots in my adopted home state of Minnesota and as such I feel morally obligated to love them. The starting price on their basic model is greater than my net annual income, so I have no illusions of owning one anytime soon, but I wanted to see the machines in person.

So, that is what I did on Friday. If blogging about motorcycles counts as a step toward building a professional career, I did, at least, manage a post about seeing the bikes. But, honestly, I think it is probably more acceptable to just say I took a day off.

The same is true about Day 7. I did nothing toward developing a professional career, apart from that intangible thing of self-rejuvenation: getting outside and reminding myself why living is not awful. Jenn and I tackled a 13-mile walk along the Wales Coast Path, stopping for lunch at the Plough & Harrow along the way. Here are some pictures from the day:

Looking east, toward Nash Point lighthouse.

A section of Nash Brook.
I plan to come back and swim here when the weather's nice.

Walking down the lane toward Nash Point, after lunch.

Jenn leads the way back toward Llantwit Major.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 5

Does blogging count? Jenn argues that it does. I'm not sure whether I agree. I don't feel that I agree, but within the same emotion is a feeling that I am perpetually changing the rules to prevent myself from ever gaining a sense of progress. 

The blog in question is my motorcycle blog, and it is one of the most profitable ventures I've ever initiated. It didn't start out that way; I started it just as a means of releasing some of anxious thought that came about as a result of my feeling homesick and trapped in Britain, and channeling those feelings into motorcycle-related things. Motorcycling being synonymous with freedom, and so on. It's all very cliché. 

It's also cliché to say that blog was a labour of love. But it was. And it still very much is –– it's something I really enjoy doing. I really like motorcycles, yo, and I really like talking about them. My motorcycle blog is just me having the conversations that none of my friends or family or acquaintances or co-workers want to have with me.

But, (I feel mostly through good luck) it is also something that has given me things. Most notably, my motorcycle. I was offered a copy writing gig because someone saw my writing about motorcycles and liked my style. He gave me a motorcycle as payment. And more recently, a company has sent me some items of motorcycle gear to review and keep.

If I look at the cash value of everything my motorcycle blog has delivered, I have to admit I'm doing pretty well with that thing. I'm not making actual money, but I'm getting things that I would have spent money on, so, it's sort of the same thing. Right? And isn't that my goal in wanting to become a professional author: to be able to support myself with my writing? So, shouldn't I feel that all the time I spent today working on a blog post was time well-spent and a legitimate step toward my goal?

Jenn would say yes, my heart is not so sure. If it does count, then, well, there you are: that's what I did on Day 5. If it doesn't count, then I did nothing other than daydream about owning an electric motorcycle.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 4

Several years ago, one of my best friends remodelled his kitchen. He was immensely proud of his work and even went to the trouble to email me pictures of the finished product. 

At the time, we were both still in our early 30s and I suppose that I, at least, was in that early-30s mode of trying to hang on to my youthful cool. Whatever the reason, I wrote a snarky blog post about his kitchen and joked that the old trio –– my two best friends and I –– had become old and busted.

A few days later, my friend emailed again to say he had been hurt by the post. I apologised profusely but to this day (with his permission) keep the post "live" as a sort of reminder to myself that writing stuff can often deliver the unintended consequence of offending people you care about. I thought I was being funny and clever; my friend felt I was being snide and jeering.

A quiet truth about being a writer or professional author, or whatever it is that I'm trying to call myself, is this: there will always be someone, somewhere, who will hate the fuck out of whatever you do. That forces a cruel kind of balancing act, because, I feel, a good writer is probably thin-skinned and thereby better able to receive and perceive the opinions of others. Through that, he or she can convey a more dynamic world, convey a better story. But in order to ever finish a story, to be able to say, "OK, this is 'right' and complete," let alone release that story into the world, a writer has to be thick-skinned enough to accept that some people, almost by nature, will think it is awful.

Generally, all you can hope for is that the people you upset aren't people you care about. Paying too much attention to that latter group, though, caring too much about certain people's feelings, can tip the delicate writing balance toward inaction.

And I suppose that on one level that is the reason I've been so quiet over the past year or so. The book that I have written, that I'm now submitting to agents is not exactly loving toward Welsh-language society, and I know that is going to earn me a lot of pissy anonymous blog and Twitter comments. Of course, anonymous comments have all the value of the names attached to them (i.e., none), but deep within me lurks the knowledge-fear that somewhere in Wales or the world there might be a perfectly wonderful human being who might feel really sad about the things I have to say about their country/language/culture. And that makes me kind of sad, too.

It doesn't make me "unfeel" anything, however, nor feel that what I say in the book shouldn't be said. It's just, on occasion, taken some of the steam out of how desperately I want the things said to be heard. I hope that with this 183-day initiative I can push past that internal discomfort, that I can thicken my skin enough to accomplish things.

A way in which the thin-skin/thick-skin imbalance has affected me even more troublingly has been in my difficulty starting my next intended project, a novel I am tentatively calling Nation of Dreamers.

I got the idea for that novel a few years ago when I went on a 3-month road trip across America. But the thing is: the novel is not about that road trip. It is inspired by my experiences but it is not about my experiences. And what I don't want is for people to read it and think: "Ah, this is Chris talking about Chris here. And this alcoholic person that the main character meets is actually Chris' friend, SoAndSo. This is what he really thinks about SoAndSo and is trying to hide it in a work of 'fiction.'"

That's what happened to me with The Way Forward. People assume that Ben is me and that Allison is just a red-headed version of a girl I dated when I lived in Portsmouth and who did, in fact, break up with me in France. I can totally understand why they think that, and for a long time I didn't care much. But as I get older and thinner-skinned I can't help but imagine it's likely that the aforementioned girl has read the book and seen the character of Allison and perhaps felt hurt and thought: "This is what he thinks about me. This is what he wants other people to think about me."

This is what want to avoid in writing my next book. I want to take things that have happened to me, but I want to use them to tell a story that did not happen. How to tell that story, then, has become something of a stumbling block for me.

So, much of what I've been doing on Day 4 has been thinking about how to tell a story. Specifically, I've been thinking about voice.

I am most comfortable writing in first person. I generally like the authority and veracity it lends to a story. We tend not to question the "truth" of events if they are delivered to us first person –– we accept that the events happened, and that they happened exactly as the person tells us they have. (Some authors do a great job of playing with this trust, such as in J.W. Ironmonger's The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder.) And I think it's easier to invest in a story that feels "true."

But, as I say, I'm wary of people interpreting Nation as autobiographical. Writing it in first person, then, is probably a bad idea. When we read a book and the narrator is saying, "I did such and such," and "I had incredible sex with SoAndSo," it doesn't matter how many times that character tells you what his or her name is, we automatically think the person saying all these things is the person who wrote the book.

The obvious alternative is third person. And certainly it's a style that has some advantages, especially when trying to address the main character. Think of the difference between something like, "Marie had dark, brown eyes that made men need to fall in love with her," and "I have dark, brown eyes that make men need to fall in love with me."

The second statement is arrogant and egotistical. When writing in first person the main character has to maintain a tolerable humbleness. And certainly there are things in this book that the characters either wouldn't say about themselves or couldn't say.

But, I don't know, something about writing the whole story in third person doesn't appeal to me. I don't want to produce several hundred pages of, "John said this," and "John did that." I understand that a whole hell of a lot of writers have produced works far beyond my ability using just that voice, but I feel/fear that in my hands it might get a little boring.

I am now toying with the idea of writing in multiple voices: some first person, some third person, and even a bit of second-person oddity for the alcoholic guy. With all of them effectively telling the story of this one person and his adventure across America. 

I like the idea of that, though I'm not entirely sure how it would work out, e.g., whose story would be told in what way. I'll mull it around in my head for a spell while I continue to try focus most of my energy on finding someone who will be able to help me get Tales of a Toffee-Covered Llama published.

To that end, I also today sent another submission to a literary agent. I feel that my work would really appeal to this particular agent, so I'm optimistic that I will hear back and will, at least, get a chance to send my full manuscript for consideration.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 3

Mark this as the first day I didn't really do anything toward my goal. I have changed my schedule at work so that I am working 10-hour days to allow for my having Friday off to write. That's a clever trick, I hope, but it means I am pretty mentally tired at the end of a day and have very little time in which to do anything. 

Basically, I have just three hours between getting home and needing to go to bed. Within that time I had to eat and do laundry, and Jenn and I watched a little television. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses –– after all, making excuses is what results in one never achieving one's goals –– but at the same time I don't feel terribly upset that I didn't really do anything today.

Perhaps I should. Perhaps that is exactly my problem: that I am not hard enough on myself. 

Not constructively hard enough, at least. I am always quick to rip myself apart with abuse, but that doesn't often result in action. Perhaps I try to cover my laziness up with self hate? I don't know. I am too tired at the moment to really analyse it. But suffice to say, I hope to be able to say tomorrow that I have indeed done something.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 2

I am proud to say I've not stumbled straight out of the gates. Normally, if I set some grand ambition for myself, such as blogging every day of my attempt to become a professional author, I'd lose steam within hours of making such a declaration. But I actually did something today.

It helps that I am starting this quest with a fully written manuscript. So, on these days when I have very little time in the evening, I don't have the challenge of trying to fit creativity into a time window clouded by the sound of my washing machine and Jenn listening to the radio and so on. I have adjusted my schedule to allow Friday as a full day for writing.

On this Monday, however, I have sent a request to an agent, asking that I be allowed to send my manuscript. Each agent is different. Some ask for a synopsis, some ask for a pitch, some ask for the first few chapters of the book, or a combination thereof. Perhaps I shouldn't be honest about this, considering that any agent worth his or her salt is going to be clever enough to find my blog, but this book has thus far been rejected or ignored by six literary agencies. 

I don't really take that as too great a negative, though. Books are very subjective things and it takes time and luck to find that someone who will have the ability and desire and love to champion it. So often we delight in seeing the rejection letters that incredibly successful people have received –– for instance, the other day someone posted a copy of a record label's rejection letter to a young Bono –– and we want to think: "Ha! I'll bet that person feels like an idiot now!" 

Maybe they do, but maybe they simply weren't the right person to champion that now-über famous person. And isn't that famous person, in fact, lucky to have received that particular rejection, rather than the acceptance of someone who might not have gotten them so far?

I don't know. That's the way I try to look at it. Fire all the bullets. Do all the things. Send submissions to all the agents and hope that one of them thinks this book is as good as I do.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How to become a professional author in 183 days*

I'm having trouble determining which one I am in the story about driving my father's car through a flood: am I the empty-minded teenager, or the immobile Chevrolet? There's a fine line. Neither is doing anything, neither is going anywhere. But only one of them is capable of initiating action; the other will potentially sit forever, dead of ambition, waiting to be acted upon.

I would like to believe that in my present months-and-months-long malaise I am the teenage boy, that my mental dullness is just a temporary state. It would make sense; he and I are pretty similar after all. We're not the exactly same, of course. The nature of cellular generation means he died away quite some time ago. Mostly. We've got the same teeth. And we've got the same tendency to go into intellectual hibernation when faced with things we don't want to do. We become stupid in the face of adversity. He didn't want to go to summer school; I don't want to deal with homesickness and endless British winter.

Woe to us all that more of life's challenges aren't as easy to overcome as a waterlogged starter. Drive your dad's car into a bit of your favourite creek and the only thing you have to do is sit and wait. The problem fixes itself. Unfortunately, most challenges are more complex. I feel I have sufficiently proven that a writing career is an example of such a challenge. Despite having done nothing creative for more than a year I am faced still with a distinct lack of literary acclaim.

I am partially capable of recognising the flaws of my behaviour –– the connection between my inaction and my unhappiness in terms of where I am in life. But I find it incredibly difficult to respond. I feel stuck in neutral these days; very little is being produced in that tiny space between my ears. And whereas that boy with my name and teeth enjoyed similar inactivity whilst lying in the summer sun, I can't say I'm having as good a time droning through day after day in the endless wet-grey of Wales. 

As I say, mostly I do not think. But in tiny moments of clarity I feel deeply frustrated. I know this is not where I want to be. I do not want to be sitting still. I feel the sudden passage of time and feel overwhelmed and completely defeated by the absence of accomplishment within that space.

Setting goals

Jenn and I have been talking a lot about goals these days. It started as an offshoot of her deciding to do a 98-day Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle challenge. She is trying to win us a trip to Maui. Yeah, I know. Diets with catchy titles. Or, indeed, diets in general. I spent many years living with a professional dietitian and take a generally dim view of such things. That's not to say, though, that I didn't sign on to do the challenge with Jenn. Who doesn't want to go to Maui, after all?

This particular dieting regimen is delightful in its vagueness. It seems to be a modern version of the Think Method so fervently promulgated by Prof. Harold Hill, with the emphasis being mostly on one's state of mind. Sexiness is as much the result of mental fitness as it is physical, or so the thinking goes.

There's a load of CHEESY INSPIRATIONAL ALL-CAPS BALLYHOO to wade through from that point, but what I basically drew out of the experience is this: it's a good idea to write out one's goals, identify the relevance of said goals (i.e., why something is important), as well as when one expects to have accomplished these goals. And thereafter one should perpetually remind oneself of the goals and assess the steps being taken toward achieving them.

Almost instantly I expanded this thinking to apply to my overall self –– not just my physical ambitions but my personal ones. I wrote up a 3,500-word document creatively titled "What I Want" and included in it far more than my desire to somehow transform myself into Ryan Reynolds. I included in it my desires to move back to the United States, to be debt-free, to travel more, to become fluent in Spanish, and on and on.

Though perhaps originally rooted in the peddling of diet snake oil, I found it to be a surprisingly useful exercise. I took all of these overarching ambitions I have and placed them within a 5-year time frame. Whereas previously, they had been things with no beginning or end; they were just things I told myself I wanted to accomplish. And through this exercise I think I've come to terms with the fact that I don't function particularly well with that sort of indefinite time frame.

There is a theory that the amount of time it takes to accomplish a given task will expand to meet the deadline for said task. An induced demand sort of thing. And certainly I've found that to be true in academic and professional tasks. Giving me three months to write an essay meant it took me three months to write, despite the fact that the essay could have been written in a fortnight.

Before doing this little goal-determining exercise I had a wealth of ambitions to which I had attached no deadlines. And –– surprise, surprise –– they are ambitions toward which I have made no real progress. No end dates has resulted in no start dates. And that has left me with an overwhelming feeling that I am a failure. Because the only known in that situation is the knowledge of an ambition not having been realised. I didn't have an idea of when I expected to be fluent in Spanish, only the truth that I am not fluent right now.

Not just a writer

Because I've lost the ability to be succinct you will almost certainly have already figured out where all this is going: my desire to be a professional author.

Note the sudden use of that term: "professional author." I'm pretty sure I've not used that before. Instead, I've preferred the less specific, more romantic title of writer. But perhaps the reason I feel I've failed as a writer is that I haven't really identified for myself what success is. How do I know I am or am not a writer? What does that mean? What, actually, is the goal?

It's difficult to be honest about creative ambition, especially as pertains to its financial side. I feel uncomfortable saying I intend to be a "professional author" because that sounds more a career choice than the ethereal, soul-connectedness, "my best friend is a book" bullshit that writers seem morally obligated to promulgate. Because, yeah, sure, if I can't air guitar I don't want no air at all; I do feel compelled to write, to tell stories. And if no one ever pays me for those stories I will continue to tell them regardless. It's what I do, yo. It's who I am. And within that, some unspoken Code of the Writer makes me terribly unwilling to admit that getting paid to do it is actually a pretty high priority for me.

Also, there is the deep cynicism that runs through me as regards the likelihood of success. With financial success in a creative field there is a greater element of praying to the fates than in, say, engineering. If you are someone who has studied and worked hard to become a chemical engineer, it's a solid bet you will find a lucrative future in the field of chemical engineering. Whereas if you are someone who has studied and worked for years and years to perfect your voice it is far less guaranteed that you'll end up a pop star. No one ever tells an aspiring accountant that he should have a backup plan. Grandmothers don't tell their grandsons to get real and stop chasing the silly dream of being a business administrator.

I can digress from this point into a long discussion of the fact that my cynicism has increased exponentially since moving to Wales, that something about living here has robbed me of my ambition and fight, but I won't. Suffice to say that it is a cynicism that contributes to my unwillingness to use terms like "professional author". There is an element of fate –– things I cannot control –– and I feel silly saying "I will be professional author in five years" when I know full well that I cannot guarantee such an outcome through my effort alone.

But, I've decided it is something I really should be saying. So, using the language of the CHEESY INSPIRATIONAL ALL-CAPS BALLYHOO I am telling myself that I will be a professional author. Because simply telling myself I want to be a writer hasn't produced.

The next step in the process, of course, is determining what I mean by "professional author." I've been paid to write in the past. I've even been paid to write a book. Doesn't that make me a professional? Well, yes and no. It means I have written professionally but not that writing is my profession (clever word play for the win). So, I've decided that what I mean is that in five years, writing books will be deliver no less than 50 percent of my annual income.

Day 1

Now that I've established when I will be a professional author and what, exactly, I mean by that, I need to tackle the issue of how to get from here to there. Which, of course, is a whole hell of a lot more difficult. I don't really have an answer. I don't know the steps; I can't even really imagine them. So much of becoming a professional author lies within unknown unknowns territory for me.

I mean, honestly. How do you do that? How do you become Barbara Kingsolver? How do you become John Jeremiah Sullivan? Well, write some stuff, obviously. And do your damnedest to make it good. But that's only part of the process. There are all these other things I need to do that I haven't fully grasped.

I have decided that I am going to put the full of my effort into figuring out what those things are, and doing them. Over the next six months I am going to make sure I do something every single day toward accomplishing my goal of becoming a professional author –– a solid act that can be pointed to as a real step forward, the same way an exam or course might be pointed to in the steps toward becoming an executive. And I am going to document each of those days on this blog. 

That works out to 183 days, stretching from today, Texas Independence Day, to the U.S. holiday of Labor Day. They are two dates that connect me, in a way. The Texas link is obvious, but Labor Day I associate most with being the final day of the Minnesota State Fair. So in those two dates you have the mix of myself, the mix of the places that fuel my desire to be a professional author. In part so I'll have greater freedom to visit them more frequently. 

Is this whole thing cheesy and stupid? Yup. But, hey, we're all going to die. I suppose it's better to die trying.

Today marks Day 1 of my effort. And the step I have taken is this blog post: laying out my plan, getting it all firm in my head, and putting it on the interwebs to make it harder to back down from. As I say, I don't want to be the car in this story –– the thing without initiative. I want to be the teenage boy, with a head full of dreams and belief and a whole lot of girls to kiss. Let today be the day I turn the key.


* Or possibly quite a bit longer.