Without a Plan

Much like a dream, the idea for this series of posts was so clear at the time. That time was yesterday, November 27th, at about 6:00PM EST whilst I was in the shower. Also like a dream, the clarity of the idea has faded somewhat in the intervening 19 hours.

However, I’m still here to write it because I feel compelled to. I’m at a point in my life where things are really quite different from what’s gone before in some ways, whilst remaining resolutely, defiantly the same in others. Perhaps I hope that this series of posts will provide me with some stream-of-consciousness-introspection, a kind of ‘Write Your Own Therapy’ exercise. Maybe I’m just a closet narcissist who wants to write more about himself.

Uncertainty is probably the most appropriate feeling as I go into this. As the title says, this is Without a Plan, subtitle TBD. I’ve lived much of my life without what I would consider any concrete plan. I’ve taken opportunities as they arise, certainly missed out on my share too, bounced around the United Kingdom and, latterly, the United States, and questioned myself more times than I care to admit. I’ve experienced truly wonderful moments, and plumbed the depths of depression.

“So what?” you might think, “That describes everybody.”

Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t. One thing I’ve come to realize is that many of us are all broken in our own ways, but that some people really just do Have Their Shit Together in ways that I wish I could, but probably never will.

Anyway, let’s get into it, shall we?

I’m a 35 year old IT Manager, working for a software company in the North East of the United States of America.

Before all of that, I wanted to be a writer.

As a child, I loved books, music, and Lego. More than anything I think, I loved creating worlds that I could be a part of in some way.

Books were an endless source of awe and wonder; little handheld portals to worlds that would eat up hours of my life. Oceans of literature that would sweep me out into their exciting embrace, waves of adventure and intrigue that would pluck my malleable child mind out of what it knew to be true, and whisk it off to a wonderland that I could fully believe was real.

I guess that would be the first thing in my life that I was ever passionate about and, much like today, I devoted myself to it wholly. I would devour books, the library a magical place. If you’d told me about the modern internet then, my head would have exploded.

In school, I adored Creative Writing. As I progressed through school, English was one of my favourite lessons (purposely spelling favourite that way here, even though my American spellcheck is furious with me), though I definitely favoured (did it again) fictional work over the drier fact-based stuff we also occasionally had to pen.

I forget how old I was when I started really writing things for myself outside of school, but I have vivid memories of sitting at our dining table in the second house we lived in (the first one really, as I don’t remember the house I lived in until I was three) with a big old typewriter in front of me, bashing away at prose. I think I must have been around seven or eight, as we moved when I was ten.

I don’t remember what I wrote on the typewriter, but I credit it with my keyboard skills of my early career. I tend to type less now overall, so my speed has fallen, though I’m still pretty handy! It was really in 1995 (I think … maybe 96) that things got really serious and the typewriter officially became a relic of the past. We got our first computer.

Ironically, whilst the computer led me to end up writing not just one honest-to-goodness book, but two, it also set in motion a chain reaction that would see me making money from fixing computers and not as a published author. That, however, was many years into the future.

As a child, I was a big Sonic the Hedgehog fan. I loved the Sega MegaDrive with all of my heart, and that blue hedgehog along with it. One year, for a fancy dress competition at school, my mum made me a Sonic costume. I’m not exaggerating or being biased here when I tell you that it was outrageously awesome. Unfortunately, the entire competition was being judged by the dinner ladies at school, who had no idea who Sonic was. I did not win, an upset that ranks up there with Lewis Hamilton missing out on winning the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship in his maiden year, and England getting knocked out of the World Cup.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Sonic was so important to me, I wrote about him. Virgin Publishing had published a number of Sonic-themed books; two (if I remember rightly) Choose Your Adventure books stand out.
They were great, but I decided that what the world really needed was a full on story that you could lose yourself in.

I wrote two.

I even went as far as ‘designing’ the covers, and buying a stack of A5 paper so that I could print both stories in actual book form.
Feeling confident, I wrote to Virgin Publishing to tell them that I had a couple of choice Sonic stories locked and loaded, and would they be interested in taking a look at one of them?

I’m 99% confident that that’s not the way the process of getting a book published goes. However, I was about 11 years old, the internet was barely a thing, and I had no idea.

I’m pretty sure you can guess I did not get published, but I did get a letter back! It was probably the first official rejection of my life.
I don’t recall how I took it – probably not that well, if later life is anything to go by – but I was at least grateful to receive a response.
I still have those books, and the rejection letter on Virgin Publishing letterheaded paper, at my parents’ house back in Wales. Even though it went literally nowhere, I am proud that at such an age I made such a move.

I also can’t say if that rejection was a catalyst to writing less, but it coincided with Secondary School (High School for you American folk) and life becoming much busier and more complicated in unfathomable ways and so I did write less outside of school, although I did still love it when I did.

Whilst I can’t say for sure what stopped me writing so much, I do know that what really took over my interests and life (in some ways) was that computer.
Initially setup sans Internet (hello Microsoft Encarta, you kept my sister and I amazed and occupied for many an hour), our Packard Bell with a 120Mhz Pentium processor and 8MB of RAM was the beginning of a journey, one that would shape me in ways I couldn’t expect, and would give me a career which led to travelling the world.

But that’s for the next post. It’s now December 23rd, which gives you an idea of how long this has sat in my Drafts folder, and it’s time for a post.

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