By James Batchelor on November 20th, 2012
All my life I wanted to write novels. I can still remember my earliest experiences of sitting down with my brother, Jared, when I was about eight and excitedly dashing off page after page of anything that came into our heads, which masterpieces we would then inflict upon my poor sister. She would patiently read them and tell us how great they were. And what could we do since she enjoyed them so much, but write a bunch more?
Though I have lost track of those stories over the years, I have never lost my love for the thrill that comes from getting lost in creating. There is nothing quite like it and I knew even then that is how I wanted to spend my life. So, it wasn’t just the dream of writing that captivated me, but the dream of being able to spend my days in a world of my choosing, with characters of my creation. It was implanted in me at an early age and I always knew I would be an author one day. I did not, however, quite understand how that would come to pass.
The best way I know how to explain the vision I had always held for how this would work is like this: In the 90’s a television commercial aired that depicted a small internet start-up, comprised of four or five people that were pushing their site live for the first time. The group was gathered around a computer monitor waiting anxiously for the first order to come in. When it did, they all gave a cheer. The next few orders came in immediately after and they cheered even louder. Moments later, the order counter on the site began to roll into the thousands and hundreds of thousands. The cheering died and the voice-over came on the television screen and said, “facing a virtual reality?…”
While this commercial was obviously an ad to peddle some service, the idea has always remained with me. In the back of my mind I always believed that someday, when my first book rolled out, it would essentially be like that. Just the act of getting the book out, I thought, would propel me to success and the life of a writer that I had dreamt of since childhood. What I did not understand at that time is that the release of my first book was not the end of the road, it was merely the gate by which I would enter the road that could take me where I want to be.
Let me explain. I once heard a story about the members of the Uruguayan rugby team that famously survived a plane crash in the Andes Mountain. They were freezing, hungry, exhausted, and hurt but despite this they struggled to the top of a mountain. They were in no condition to make this climb, but they persevered because they knew that from the top they would spot civilization and all it represented to them at that moment: warmth, comfort, and safety. At last they reached the summit and peeked over the top and their hearts sank in despair. As far as the eye could see in every direction was nothing but more mountains. This about sums up the experience of this first book for me.
I will discuss more of the details of publishing and marketing the book in future posts, but here I want to address the period leading up to the release of The Knights Dawning. Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, postulates the theory that as we get closer to doing “Our work” (“Our Work” is the work we were put on this earth to do, whatever that may be), everything in the world will align to stop us. That proved to be very much the case for me. As I moved closer to publishing The Knights Dawning, my life threatened to supernova in a way that I had not known possible up to that point. Things began to go horribly wrong in virtually every facet of my life. Things went wrong that I had not known could go wrong.
I will spare you the litany of pitfalls, disasters, and problems that befell me and my family during that period, but suffice it to say that overcoming this was analogous to those stranded survivors climbing that mountain. Through it all, I just kept thinking “I have to push through this. I have to make it to the top. If I give up here, I will never know how close I was to success and the life I have always dreamt I would have.”
The good news is that I did make it to the top of that mountain. The bad news is that what I saw was not the vista I had long dreamt of. It was something better and far more intimidating than anything I had ever imagined. It was another long trail rising steeply before me that must be climbed. I will talk more about the nature of this climb in future posts, but this much is certain: The first book, while an important milestone on the road, was not the end of my journey at all. It was only entering in at the gate, preparing me to begin the climb.