On Twenty Years of Scribbling

Today’s the 4th of February. It’s not an exciting day, really, unless maybe it’s your birthday or a holiday where you live. It’s after the Super Bowl and before Valentine’s Day. It is a day to largely be forgotten.

But for me, the 4th of February is a big deal. You see, I have A Thing when it comes to important dates. In my life there have often been bad dates to remember, but there have also been good ones.

The 4th of February could have been either for me. I suppose in some ways its true nature remains to be seen. But thus far it has been good. Here’s why.

On the 4th of February in 1995, I had reached a sort of critical mass. I’d been full to bursting with a story idea that had taken form, slowly, over the fall semester of 1994. I was in the 8th grade, then, and I immersed myself in fictional worlds as a sort of escape from the ineffable realities of being a shy, dumpy, nerdy kid.

I relied on fiction to bolster my resolve when I didn’t have much left to give, or when outside pressure to perform academically loomed like a wave that threatened to drag me out into the night-dark sea. This was the time, it should be noted, when I first began to dance with my depression, though I didn’t realize it until years later.

Fiction was an escape from all that. And it stood to reason that after a time pickled in books, games, comics, and movies, my brain would start to piece together its own stories. All through the fall of ’94, this is what it did. By the start of ’95, I was, it seemed, under a compulsion to write it down.

And so it was that at about 4:30 in the afternoon, on the 4th of February, 1995, I sat down, opened up a file, and started writing. The story that would result is what I call, these days, The Lost Novel. It’s the manuscript that was devoured by my first data loss–a blood sacrifice to the gods of backup in exchange for the hard knowledge that All Storage Media Will Fail.

I’ve said my share previously on my regret that it was lost, and on what I learned from the loss. And I’ve also remarked on how unspeakably horrid what surviving fragments of it I possess really are. Truly, nobody is any less enlightened or entertained for the absence of The Lost Novel.

But there was a good in it, too, and not one to be overlooked. While it’s true that my first real stab at writing was made with the literary equivalent of a plastic spoon and performed with the finesse of a butcher with a chainsaw, it was a beginning.

Twenty years ago, this crazy idea that I could write my own stories had its start. Twenty years. There are few things that have held my interest for that long, and fewer still at which I have had any modicum of success.

I’d hoped to be able to mark this occasion by saying, “So go buy my book, which is not shitty, and which is finished. Here is the link.” But that time is not precisely upon us just yet. Refining and polishing on Oath of Blood is finally getting into full swing after a couple of weeks of severe computer-hell problems (I had to reinstall Windows again on the desktop this weekend, and my DVD drive failed utterly…and the hard drive is making terrible groaning sounds off and on now).

A replacement computer will be on its way soon, and there may be a burp as I transfer my files to that item once it arrives, but overall, I’m plugging dutifully away at Oath, doing my level best to ensure you’ll have a good time when you read it. And of course, I’m backing my shit up with a fanatical zeal that would make Torquemada jealous.

To be fair, I suppose I can’t think of a better way to mark the twentieth anniversary of my first fitful scribbles than to pass the time making more of them—and actively applying the hard lessons they taught me. So—here’s to the last twenty years, and the terrible idea that started them. And here’s to the next twenty, which will actually be full of books for you to read.