Let Me Introduce Myself
To give you a better idea who I am and why I’m writing this manifesto, let me share a few things about myself.
I became an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction as an eleven-year-old boy when my next-door neighbor, who was a children’s librarian, took pity on my single-parent mom. Bored out of my gourd one summer with no one to play with but good ‘ol mom, I drove my mother crazy until Mrs. Crabtree brought home a stack of books she knew would hook a young boy and give my mom some relief. It worked. I’ve been hooked ever since, and it was my introduction to visionary fiction disguised as fantasy and science fiction.
Over time I began to think, as I’m sure many of you reading this manifesto have done, “boy wouldn’t it be great to be able to one day, someday write my own stories that would entertain and enlighten others?” Of course, no matter how many times I looked on the calendar I could never find ‘someday,’ until Fate stepped in.
Before becoming a writer and life coach, I was a veterinarian with my own small-animal practice in High Point, North Carolina. In 1984, I began hearing about a new computer called the Macintosh. Being an Apple computer enthusiast, I decided one Saturday to visit the local Apple store and check out this new toy. Twenty minutes later, thanks to a nice (and very attractive) sales lady (no her name wasn’t Fate), I strolled out with my own Macintosh, a printer, and a new credit card with the entire purchase on the account.
My Macintosh was one of the first 1,000 machines off the assembly line, and only two programs were available for it —MacPaint and MacWrite. It didn’t take long for me to realize it’s next to impossible to draw anything useful with a mouse. Fun, yes. Useful, no. By Monday morning, with a good case of buyer’s remorse setting in, I became frantic to find some way to justify this irrational and spontaneous buying spree.
Finally, I decided the Macintosh was a sign. After all, I had been telling myself for years that one day I would try my hand at writing, right? After glancing at the calendar and my charge card bill, I realized that day had arrived.
I set about writing my first article, a short piece about the reasons for spaying your cat, which I promptly sent off to Purrrrr! (I remember to this day that the title of the magazine is spelled with five R’s), a newsletter for cat lovers published in Maine. A month or so later, I received my first check in the mail for $50. I was thrilled and delighted. Next, I wrote a long short story, “Dog’s Best Friend,” a science fiction story loosely taken from my experiences with the then new Parvovirus. I dashed it off to a small science fiction magazine for young adults, which promptly sent me back an acceptance.
Wow! I was batting two for two. My impression was that this writing thing was going to be a breeze. I started envisioning a life of leisure, sitting on the deck of my mountain hideaway, typing a couple hours each day on my next best seller.
“Dog’s Best Friend” gave me my first exposure to the difference between “paid on acceptance” and “paid on publication.” The magazine had accepted my short story as “paid on publication,” which meant that, although they had accepted my story, I would not get paid until they printed it. After waiting eighteen months with no check, despite numerous letters reminding them of their promise, I grew impatient. By this time I had become a regular contributor to Purrrrr! They published all the articles I sent to them and paid me right away. So, I figured, I would just take “Dog’s Best Friend” back and get it published somewhere else, probably for more money than I had been offered. That’s what I did.
That was more than twenty years ago, and “Dog’s Best Friend” has yet to find its way into print. During the same time span, I also learned that the business of writing isn’t always quite as easy as those early beginner’s luck experiences suggested.
At the same time, I’ve discovered a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the process of become a Visionary Writer of nonfiction and fiction.
Next Time: The Role of Purpose & Passion in My Own Life