vocation runs deep

Busy few weeks. Has it been a month? I’m checking—yes, it’s been a month. Ugh. In the interim, we finished our move (to sunny Montclair, “The Park Slope of New Jersey”) and I completed a staggering amount of client work. (This is no exaggeration. I have been, truly, staggered. No, I don’t want your pity. Unless it’s very, very sincere.)

Believe it or not, despite the brusque, business-like tone I adopt in these essays, I actually enjoy writing the Maven Game to you. Unfortunately, as Dr. Ian Malcom might put it, life found a way. Today, however, things are different: I have an office. I have a desk in that office. I have a chair in front of that desk. I even have a clickety-clackety new mechanical keyboard that “breathes.”  In fact, it’s breathing right now, as I stroke it. (That came out wrong.)

(No, it didn’t.)

Room. Desk. Chair. Keyboard. By their powers combined, I am Home Office Man. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve had a proper setup like this since I left Amazon Publishing back in 2013. Prior to that, we had a room I used for work for a hot second, but then my son was born and that was that. You might take your desk for granted, or you might be hunched up on your bed or at your kitchen table as you read this. All I know is, it feels weird to be so not-uncomfortable while I’m working. Almost too not-uncomfortable…

A while back, I dug up a stack of unlabeled floppy disks from the late 80s and early 90s and decided to have them converted. After letting the enormous folder of mysterious files overwhelm me for a few months, I instituted a practice of going through ten or twenty each day. They’ve been homework, mostly, there’ve been some pearls. I even dug up an old Maven Game from the early years, sparing me the effort of writing a new one myself this week. The following is twelve-year-old me in an essay for 7th grade “Home Career Skills,” a class I have no memory of taking:

Being a writer is a very challenging job. It takes a lot of dedication, and a lot of practice. Its good to have a college education, high school is an imperative. If you plan to write fiction, a degree or two could increase your chances of getting a good publisher. Starting yearly incomes vary greatly. It all depends on what kind of mind you are working with. If you put out an average of about two or three books a year, you could make about $35,000 starting salary. After some years, it could go up to $45,000, or more.

To be a writer, it takes patience, and know-how. Publishers are very finicky and with so many competitors already, its hard to get started. Three Needs of A Writer: 1) Education, 2) Imagination, 3) Practice.

As a writer, you must make many choices on everything you write. Will you write a magazine article, a novelette, a short story, a set of volumes, there are hundreds of ways to get the idea across. Magazine articles are easiest, and, of course, pay the least (usually). Then it goes to short stories, novelettes, novels, volumes, etc… Then, will it be fiction, or non-fiction. If non-fiction, a biography, or who knows what? If fiction, just plain fiction, science fiction, fantasy, etc… Once you’ve made a decision on what to write, think up characters. Have you developed a style? Once you’ve got it in your head, maybe jot it down, make an outline. Don’t start out with too big a job. You could get discouraged easily.

Well, you’re all ready. Set aside about an hour at first, and sit down at the old typewriter, or maybe a PC. Maybe you’d prefer a pen or pencil and some lined paper, if you’d like to do a children’s book with your own pictures. If it’s a short story, which magazine to send the completed manuscript to? Science Fiction & Fantasy, Merlyn’s Pen (if your still a kid), who knows? Maybe a collection of short stories in book format. If it is a book, which publisher will you attend. Have you inquired about them? Seen their track record? Well, get started early, because experience is the key.

Apparently, the Maven Game is almost three decades old. Where’s my medal?

(It took everything I had not to copy-edit this. I hope you appreciate the vulnerability on display.)

Personally, I think this newsletter has aged like fine wine. If you want to be a writer, get yourself some Education, develop an Imagination, and start Practicing. I’m not sure I’ve improved on that advice in all the time since.

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