I’ve been working on a never-ending side project called The Day Life Breaks for … well … too long. Eight years plus exactly. Why? A difficult answer. One should define said goals before the deluge of problems hits the fan. After some self-reflection, I have decided this is a dangerous book, one I can, and should, revisit only in spurts. As an aspiring part-time, hack-level wordsmith, actually that’s a poor term but will run with the rank generalization, I scribe using constraints; otherwise, you find yourself with 200,000 words and a lack of a true North. Not necessarily bad; yet, inefficient in a sense. These days, I employ numerous approaches. Mind maps. Outlines, at least in the early stages. Word counts for scenes. Chapter headers for direction. For this book, I tried to distill a tale down to a unifying, simple theme. When undertaking application development, tech companies leverage a similar philosophy. If code isn’t poetry, throw it out. Does the business impact a billion users or generate the same amount of revenue in kind? If not, pause and think bigger.
So, why did this take so long? The hard themes dare one to venture deep.
A universal question
For Elliot Downs, the lead in this morality tale, I wanted him to pause his life’s pursuit, pay attention to the gas station attendant and the local waitress at the late-night grease pit, confront high school demons, and reacquaint himself with friends from college in the quest to answer an essential life question. Mystics. Witch doctors. Scientists. Tech gods. First-line managers. Stay-at-home wives or husbands. Factory-floor workers. Painters. Photographers. Check-out clerks. We all struggle with how to wage the daily battles; everyone fights demons. Presidents. Congress folk. Singers. Songwriters. Salespeople. Activists. Who am I missing? My apologies, no need to send the angry email for the slight.
But, with the universe spinning around us, we don’t often take the time to think. Who we are? What do we stand for? How do we spend our time?
In this tale, fighting the daily battles has taken a toll. Elliot is now out of cash and has payroll to make. He believes his wife is about ready to pack her bags and leave.
Yes, the world is collapsing around him
He’s forced to re-evaluate his reason for being–a gift for some. While backed into a corner, he is offered a deal by a local Rock n’ Roll god, who owns a fabled local ice cream stand in a dimly lit corner of town, to turn his life around. Is the man a devil? Supernatural? Or a con man? Hard to say, but he is willing to make a deal. In exchange for all the cash Elliot has left, he can learn the equation to solve life’s problems, known in dark circles as The Day Life Breaks.
An unfinished editing project
Determined to leave you wanting, I won’t spoil the book. Unlike some of my opuses, this is a relatively short read and can be cranked out in a weekend. But the editing process proved challenging, a chore. Why? Typically, I write a book and have it reach a steady state in four years. I know, an eternity. And through my process, the tale undergoes, on average, no fewer than a dozen complete drafts. That doesn’t mean small changes. A draft is a full run-through of the book, making alterations to plot, grammar, friend, and peer feedback, etc., After what I call a lap, I print the entire manuscript, jot down the date and initial, and read through what I wrote end to end. For fans of Foreigner, I want to read the pages like it’s the first time. This is painful. It has to be; otherwise, I’m cheating the reader. For posterity, I wrote a post on why someone should never write a novel, feel free to heed my advice. I beg you! After Knights of Legend, I tossed a stack of drafts taller than your local 7-11’s handy measurement tool inside the door jam into the trash can. I marvel at each journey.
With my last review of Elliot’s tale, I checked the dates on a stack of drafts and noticed a troubling fact pattern. Within three months of completion, I made a career change within a standard deviation of seven days.
What does one make of this odd correlation?
Is this a Nostradamus prediction? Odd numerology? Just Random? Or insanity? But in each case, I worked at amazing companies with incredible people. Was it the book? What mystical voodoo is embedded inside these tattered pages? Alas, I can’t answer. Our subconscious is a powerful tool for the good and bad. Despite this being a work of fiction, I’ve decided the latest draft is my final. Never reaching the magical twelfth draft, I call the search for life’s equation unfinished, dangerous, and thrilling all the same.
And I want to hold a steady gig.
Down the rabbit hole
Now, before one says I’m eccentric, crazy, or just off the wall (all happily true), please note, I’ve rewritten open-source applications for fun and ran odd experiments for eons. My kid and I almost set the house on fire with a massive electromagnet project gone wrong. We doubled down, go big or go home. I tinker, by nature, to a fault. Outside the initial concept, The Day Life Breaks had an interesting side project around its creation. How do you find real, tangible feedback? If you rely on your friends to read your draft, they will all say, “This is the greatest book I’ve ever read!” Praises often come from all sides. That doesn’t make your work good. And for aspiring scribes, letting your fellows in life read an early-stage novel is not a favor.
But if you can find someone to give you incredible feedback, hold on to them no matter what happens. To try and resolve this problem, and obtain some editing advice, I set up a crude crowdsource program with a new type of technology … wait for it … an internet form. This remains revolutionary. By answering a few questions on why one might be a serious editor and choosing from a list of unrelated books, I sent you a manuscript. In exchange, I bought a coffee, or sent a gift card, and we talked through the draft. I set this little program up in 2014 after the first pen drop. Each response was time-stamped.
Through the years, I’ve had many folks dare to apply. Despite a recent backlash on taking time for coffee, all conversations proved valuable. After realizing my own personal data point, I checked the time stamp on their form submissions, cross-referenced that with calendar entries for talking through my manuscript, and then analyzed their LinkedIn profile, assuming the person in question had a current online CSV.
What did the data tell me? Without going through too many creepy details, roughly 70% of all people who have touched this book changed roles or jobs within three months. Grant, the data collection method is faulty, but the statistical correlation outpaces the results of most formulaic self-help books.
A dangerous tale
If, after reading this, you take the plunge and read the current Kindle book (print to follow–sign up to my newsletter if you want to be informed on a future release date), I open with a Ben Franklin quote. “Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.” And a dedication, “For those who want the world … a warning … “ In between the two extremes, a balance lies for those who are fighting for the good life. Or, just trying to make it in this world.
And remember, like I’ve mentioned before, buyer beware.
Dreams are dangerous. And, oh, so important.
A Math disclaimer
Please note, once again, the math uses a relatively small sample size–the data only takes you so far. And I refused to let anyone read who applied. If someone answered one of two questions incorrectly (For example, Great Expectations is the wrong answer, and most spammers picked this), I eliminated them from contention. And the space-time continuum is also a limiting factor, I couldn’t have conversations with hundreds of folks. One can drink only so much coffee. But still … this book …