Before heading into this post I recommend reading part one of “Love, Passion and Creativity”, if you haven’t already done so, as I’ve laid the foundation in that post for what’s to follow.
Time is a curious thing. I’ve written about it before but I want to mention it here again in the context of this post. Time acts reverse proportional to our age, meaning to children days can feel extremely long but the older we get the shorter those same days feel until we hit a point where we frequently seem to say “time flies”. It’s simply a matter of perception and the fact that over the years we accumulate experiences (been there, done that) thus it may lose our sense of excitement and discovery. I experienced this myself and even with my own blog. Alternate:Words started out in 2002 as simply a website to promote my writing. A year prior I’ve had moved to the US and while my English was still improving I was feeling a sense of new and excitement and I felt inspired to write for magazines — again.
Rewind a several years to 1995. My childhood dream of writing had still been very much alive. In fact I’ve picked up my science fiction story again and started over by writing a new outline and some technical references. Throughout the years prior I’ve had talked about my ideas to my friends and one of my best friends had even created several concept drawings. I again looked into publishing, from traditional to self publishing. The only problem was that “reality” was firmly established in my life now. I needed to make a living. Of course there were various options, especially in the IT industry. I worked as a system and network administrator for BMW in the early PC days, then switched to the more creative side by working for graphic design firms creating logos, flyers and even websites. As interesting as these projects were I felt I was getting further and further away from my writing dream.
Eventually I decided to pitch some articles to various magazines concerning interactive entertainment (or simply video games), music software and graphic design software. Once I put my mind to something I am extremely driven and determined and it only took a few weeks before I had my first assignments. Over the following two years I built an extensive network of press contacts, liaisons and magazine editors that enabled me to not only delve deeper into the world of interactive storytelling but also foster my own writing.
While there are numerous novels published in Germany each year by German authors the market is of course rather limited. At that point I had a key conversation with a game designer who was also writing novels based on the games his company developed (something unheard of back then and commonplace now). His conclusion was that if you don’t have an English pen name and don’t write in English you won’t get far. He sounded quite frustrated at that point and eventually turned his back on the whole industry as well as writing. Considering the vast quantity of translated US/UK literature in German bookstores his observation made sense. However, at that time my English was rather rudimentary. I didn’t particularly liked taking English in high school even though I had a very enthusiastic teacher. I simply had no interest and it showed. In fact I was encouraged to skip French and solely focus on English, something only suggested to students who are severely “lacking”.
What sounded like a roadblock actually encouraged me to push forward. I started to seek out native English speakers and was determined to learn the language. And what better place then the emerging Internet, right? Well, truth be told I couldn’t really care less at first. Quite the opposite, I felt uncomfortable about the web, almost threatened. Which was odd considering the movie Tron had left a major impression on me during childhood. I bought my first computer because of it (when I was twelve years old), learned programming, became fascinated with video games and even created some computer animations in later years. Maybe subconsciously I feared that the web would negatively impact publishing and therefore threaten my dreams.
That resistance certainly didn’t last long (after all I was just in my mid twenties). Curiosity won and I bough my first modem, horribly slow and prone to drop-outs, which came bundled with AOL. Aside from the ridiculous cost involved (phone charges by the minute plus ISP charges by the minute plus base fee) a whole new world literally opened up (one that eventually lead to finding my lovely wife years later). Henceforth I emailed my articles to my publishers (instead of mailing them on floppy disks) and eventually established my very own web magazine in 1997 called PCInformer. Back then every new article had to be added to the HTML code of the main page and then uploaded to the server. I quickly longed for some type of content management system which was still years off, at least for non-commercial users. But, being my own publisher aside from having established columns in magazines and newspapers I felt I had reached an important milestone on my journey as a writer. There is a deep satisfaction that comes from reaching goals against odds.
Unfortunately the odds turned against me as a major magazine dying swept through Germany in 1997 and within a four week time span I lost all my contracts. Due to a lack of options (since I was writing in German) I tried desperately to find new writing opportunities, including producing articles for emerging web portals. But the content needed fell outside my expertise and the pay was marginal. Ultimately financial obligations forced me to reconsider. It was a major blow to my dream, and my confidence. The last thing I was concerned with now was writing a novel. So I went back to the IT world, my creativity squarely tucked away in a dark corners of my mind.
Have you experienced any major setbacks, maybe to the degree where you felt you had to abandon your dreams forever?