Writing Recap, A Tale of First World Problems

Ten long years ago, and then add a handful more as the memory blurs and fades, I finished a short baseball parable titled Knights of Legend. Why does one write? Hard to answer what drives someone to run their fingers across a keyboard, I only decided and kept going. Upon sitting outside on a rickety patio chair in need of fresh paint, I belted out the first chapter using an aging Windows laptop (Gateway lore comes to mind) while flies and mosquitoes bit at my legs and forearms. The bugs always find me. I typed fast, in a groove, and refused to leave said chair as ball diamond lights flickered on the outskirts of a dark cornfield. Save for my dim computer screen, these towers served as the only source of light. The tassel’s shadows waved in the wind and dark, beckoning the imagination to travel between the catacomb stalks.

I often wonder how your life and surroundings influence where you are and go. Steve Jobs liked to call this connecting the dots. And like most, I believe a certain amount of personal experiences find their way on the written page. As a boy with too much time on his hands, I loved to throw a scuffed baseball with fraying stitches against the garage, play pickle with a bright yellow plastic bat, and listen to Jack Buck announce Cards versus Cubs over the airwaves. Not surprisingly, a mythical Media is a town dotted on a map between the ether region of Western Illinois and Missouri. If you’ve read Knights, I can assure you that Media is pronounced with a Mid-West draw. Please refuse to use Media as in the broken system that in place today where the lines of reporting and influence have blurred. And more Meh — dia. Hey, you write what you know. Accents last forever.

Don’t fight the subconscious mind; experience bleeds over the page. Embrace the feature. One of these days, I’ll go back to the kids playing baseball under the lights. And maybe, I’ll indeed find out what I was trying to say. There is an unfinished draft in wait.

A Tale of Life

Recently, I completed what I hope to be the last iteration of Elliot Down’s modern-day fairy tale aptly named The Day Life Breaks. This might be the 4th draft. As part of my regular writing practice, I try to roadmap projects and balance work. Depending on the way and groove and how inspiration arrives, I may work on one project, file that in a drawer, and come back to another rough-cut or half-completed opus–sadly, I have a few of these. One never knows where a blog post, short story, or full-length novel will end. Some ideas lead to nowhere, but the constant iteration matters. After mapping out a concept plot for this tale eight years ago, I never changed the title and kept focused on a single plot mechanic that grew as the characters evolved.

If you’re reading this post and stuck with me this far, please realize that we all now live in what is known as the Earth 2.0 timeline, versus the original Earth 1.0, where a reality TV Star won the 2016 Presidential election, and I walked around wearing a mask for 18 months (And still do). Yes, I often contemplate how multiverse theory works. What is my Earth 1.0 version doing now? Is he on a plane, traveling to a conference? Sitting on a beach? This hopeful self longs to listen to live music on the riverfront in downtown Nashville. Alas, I wish for a world where harsh rhetoric is cast aside. And maybe, Team Nice and Friendly can seize the day. I’m an idealist blended with a certain amount of realistic execution. Along the long road, life catches up to us. Still, I wonder if my original title holds up in this brave new Post Covid-19 world?

As fictional books take time, often years with my odd and lengthy iterative technique, I try to ensure any tale I start holds the potential for everlasting greatness. But for the avoidance of doubt, I realize this is a tale of Earth 1.0 problems. The character, Elliot Downs, wrestles with the daily grind. He struggles to roll out of bed in the morning. Burns his tongue on sugared mochas. Battles his co-workers. Loves his job. And hates it in the same breath. He is fighting to start a business but is not struggling to find a job with a once Novel Virus making the rounds. Apologize for this and old culture references; nonetheless, you’ll find more than a few important to this character.

Similar to Knights, the setting of my upcoming work is somewhere in flyover country. I grew up in the Heartland, or what I like to call the Center of the Universe, and can describe riverboat casinos, bluffs, gas stations, and underfunded zoos in vivid detail. I also worked and called home a city with a lone ice cream stand with a creepy clown for a sign. Incidentally, the place came up on the market years back. How much is a local icon worth? Priceless to the owner translates to over two million. From an outsider’s perspective, a pile of dough for a termite-filled building with aging ice cream machines. The delta is what the market will support. These dynamics are why new IPOs are priced at multiple upon multiples above earnings.

All of these bizarre places make cameos in this work. And in this earth (maybe 3.0 if we are counting), the alternative to Stanford is a fictional Hildebrand University. Imagining what could have been, I merged modern-day Silicon Valley innovation with an alternative Mid-West. What if prohibition never happened and whiskey city became a thriving technology center? There are reasons why some cities flourish and others tread along. Events. A larger-than-life figure. Luck. Politics. Little pushes ripple.

What else is in this book? I tried to fit in one heck of a sales pitch mixed with old technology, including dial-up modems and chat rooms. Early Nokia handsets, built with the antenna inside the phone, proved revolutionary and make an appearance. Yes, cell phones existed before the iPhone. Some say these old handsets are better in some ways, I like to think so.

But ultimately, this is a parable of life.

How do you choose to spend your time?

During the writing process, I took learnings from my previous two novels, but I also ran an expansive recruitment contest for feedback. How did the book fair? I can’t reveal the entire plot. What I can say is that those who read this book went through a transformation afterward. Career changes. Spent more time with family. Proposed. Moved cross-country. All life changes can be scary.

And so I present to you an epic tale where a lesser rock god presents you with the equation known, in dark circles, as The Day Life Breaks. Do you take the step? Make the choice?

So, despite this being a book about first-world problems, I decided to keep the title. When you read the final page, I hope, and statistically guarantee, you’ll step back and snap out of the monotony of life, say I love you to someone close, and cherish each tick of the clock. Or, you may think the main character petty because we all have our problems. Either way, that’s a win. I think.

Buyer beware. Dreams are dangerous.

Always writing,