It’s been over two years Two years since I punted a job as COO and founder of a public company. Two years since I gave up my downtown office for a shared table at my local coffee shop. The autumn sun shines in obliquely on my favorite weathered farm table, which I managed to snag before that guy with the New Money System III DVDs and his densely scribbled notebooks. To my left sits a mug. It’s shaped like a miniature nuclear cooling tower. The outside displays a Chicago flag. The inside holds strong coffee from El Salvador.
I’m thinking about my path here. At first, it was just a mild discomfort: an uncomfortable pea underneath the Aeron chair’s webbing supporting my fattening ass as I wrote software. I blame the lie that’s not quite a lie that I’d been told by Mr. Rogers: That I can be anything.
I wanted to be a fire truck. Not the driver. The actual truck. It turns out this is not possible. I’d been sold a lie.
The discomfort became a something more. I melodramatically imagined the path to hell lined on either side by cubicle walls exactly 38.5 inches high. It wasn’t even a very long corridor, maybe thirty years at most. But I’d be a shambling zombie well before then.
I grasped for a way to branch out on my own. The cubicle walls pressed closer. I got hungry and wanted a pizza. But it was a pain in the ass to call around to find one that was open in the Loop late at night. So I wrote some code and organized some info. A coworker, Matt, suggested I call the website GrubHub. So, that worked out.
Don’t get me wrong; everybody should have an IPO, once. It’s pretty cool. But nobody would do it twice.
It happens by imperceptible degrees. Better gives way to bigger. Creation cowers before the god of Maintenance. Leading yields the floor to managing. And there’s that damn pea again. There’s that nagging feeling that I need to create something.
So I make my goodbyes, bruising some long held relationships in the process. I rode my bike for a little while, and then I get down to the business of writing. I learn about setting a scene, and point-of-view. I write, and rewrite. I scrap it all. I write again. And rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. And finally, I have something that I can call a first draft.
And it is total shit.
“No!” everyone says. “Every author thinks that.”
But, as it turns out, they are right. Not everyone. The authors. It was shit. But it is slightly easier to turn a shitty page of prose into gold than it is to make gold out of a blank page. Impossible, still, yes. But less impossible.
Another year passed between that first draft and the third. It’s been a year of screaming at an absent editor, as I read her infuriatingly insightful and correct comments. It’s been a year of feedback from early readers.
And now, it’s out. My manuscript is out in the hands of agents that have requested it. I have the vague hope that my networking and career history and social media platform and all that bullshit amounts to something more than the slush pile.
But I’m not that worried about it. I’ve created something. Something I’m proud of. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world.