Road to becoming a prof. writer
May 10, 2002
Writing is improved by drinking. What a lovely career for me.
Unfortunately, I find that I still tend to think of myself as an ex-software engineer rather than a writer. I'd love to be able to truly sever ties, drop of society and force myself into a new life. I haven't figured out how to do that, so it looks like I'll have have to make a more gradual transition into becoming a writer.
Here is some notes on making that transition. It's mostly in the form of letters to the Sapient Alumni Network and L. Peat O'Neil (travel writer).
One thing that may help me make the mental transition is to print up business cards. Alas, in my habit of taking nothing more than half seriously, I'm sticking for now with the title of "Unemployed World Traveling Writer". Does any unemployed artist want to help me design them?
To: Sapient Alumni Network
I've read the "spotlight on..." section of the Sapient Alumni Network. It's nice, but hardly representative. Two obvious success stories. I find that most of the Sapient alumni that I know are still unemployed, slightly depressed and in general sitting on their couches playing video games and eating junk food. I understand why you can't feature them, but how about something different. Rather than a success or failure, it's a life transition story:
On Aug 15, Adam flew off towards Indonesia. Laid off by Sapient, he did some simple arithmetic. Traveling through Asia on $10/day his severance checks would last 6 years. Add in emergencies, indulgences, airfare, a few more expensive countries and 2 years of traveling is still a very conservative estimate. In the 9 months since heading on the road Adam has dived off the beaches of Sumatra, traveled by longtail up the Mekong in Cambodia and hiked the Himalayas up to 19,000 feet. In the next year, his travels should take him through India, Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey. After wrapping up his travels he plans to settle for a while somewhere in Asia, teach English part-time and spend the other part-time turning two years of travel notes into a book.
- Sent -
I do like this other description better, but it probably would be counterproductive to send it.
Adam has dropped out of society, is still unemployed and was last seen wandering out into the mountains and growing a beard. His future ambitions include writing a book in a drunken stupor and convincing someone to publish it.
I'm just not sure which photo would be better. The young Adam, first week at Sapient, with a white shirt, big smile and loud tie or the new Adam at 18,000 feet with wild unwashed hair, 2 weeks growth of facial hair and an unfocused distant stare.
The Sapient Alumni Network is also encouraging you to upload your resume. My old resume is out of date and completely inappropriate for my new lifestyle. Here's the first draft of my new resume.
current address: unknown
reliable email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Born in the 70's yet a child of the hippy generation.
More of a liberal indoctrination than an education:
Knew who Huey Newton was from a young age but had Ann Rice and Ayn Rand confused until I was 30.
Tiny Tots Cooperative Preschool Not every preschool has a swearing corner.
Oakland Public Schools They integrated the schools, yet kept the classes segregated.
Laney Jr. College "Beat on the White Male Sociology" taught by Huey Newton's brother and "Black Feminist Writing" taught by a black feminist.
UC Santa Cruz (ugrad) Failed out and got re-admitted without ever missing a day of classes.
UC Santa Cruz (grad) First person ever to go AWOL from the computer science graduate department.
Moving up the corporate ladder:
1989 Egghead Software Stock boy
1991 Lawrence Berkeley Lab Errand boy
1995 - 1996 Thuridion Software consultant
1997 - 2001 Sapient Senior software consultant and project manager
Currently living without a parachute as an unemployed world traveling writer. Not so much looking for a publisher as hoping one will find me.
35 countries and counting
* As the only somewhat serious note on this resume, if you are a publisher or know of one, what you find on geekeasy.com should be considered a very rough 1st draft. For the most part it comes from notes scribbled on cocktail napkins then hastily typed in in some dingy cybercafe while ringits, rupees or reals tick away.
- Resume uploaded -
Six months ago I wrote that I threw L. Peat O'Neil's book on travel writing into the smoking crater of Mount Bromo. I never explained why I sacrificed it. Last month L. Peat O'Neil was surfing the web, came across that journal entry and sent me a note asking how the writing was going.
To: L. Peat O'Neil
Hello, thanks for the note. The writing is going well, the traveling is going even better. I just returned to Kathmandu after a month of hiking through the Himalayas.
Six months ago I wrote that I sacrificed your book to Mount Bromo. I never explained why. I read the book from cover to cover, I enjoyed most of it and even did some of the exercises. However, chapter 8 and I had some differences and I realized the book was not for me. Chapter 8 is entitled "Marketing Requires Preparation and Focus". I don't prepare. I don't focus. In general, I don't take life seriously and I think that is why people are amused by my writing. You can't fake being a flake. By taking marketing seriously and putting effort into it I would have to become a different person and that would change my style of writing (for the worse?).
I think that if I did a survey of my writing idols I'd be much more likely to find them passed out in a bar then spending a Sunday afternoon putting together cover letters and writing samples.
You may think me silly or absurd. (Although, I like both those labels.) I know that without preparation or focus I will have to count on good luck, more good luck, charm and maybe even some networking to find myself in the life of being a professional writer. Ian Winn gives me some hope and inspiration. He was on a beach in India and happened to meet a media tycoon who was amused by his poetry. A bit of time and some writing later and his first novel is published.
Travel light and drink heavily, :-)
P.S. Take a look at Ian Winn's novel. It's really quite a fun and fascinating book. The poetry gets better as you go through the book. The writing is entertaining throughout.
- Sent -
Revamped "Rules for Living"
If it is fun, funny or cool do it.
Take nothing more than half seriously.
Don't date Jenns, Jennys or Jennifers.