Follow Your Passion
Inertia’s a bitch.
It can mean doing nothing until something kicks you out of your complacency and starts you rolling.
But inertia can also summon up Newton’s First Law, part of which is: “An object in motion remains in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
You get rolling in a particular direction, and it make sense, so you keep on rolling in that direction, doing the same things, dealing with variants of the same problems, until your direction, your actions, and your life all start to feel inevitable.
Inertia tells you: This is what you’re doing, therefore this is what you ought to be doing. It’s working, therefore why question it?
Until now, since I started teaching writing online back in 2006, I have NEVER taken a vacation that did not include checking both e-mail and customer service at least a few times. So I never had a full stop to derail my inertia. Even if I rolled slower, I still kept moving in the same direction.
My inertia included back-to-back-to-back 70-hour seven-day-a-week work weeks, creating new writing courses, supporting older writing courses, writing newsletters about writing, building a (very cool) writing community, and a LOT more.
Recently, with the self-publishing explosion, I added getting rights back on all my out of print work, and adding in MORE work while I get those ready to reprint.
There was answering a lot of writing e-mail.
There was lots and lots and lots of customer service.
People love my writing courses and get some simply amazing results from them. So putting what I know about writing into in-depth, comprehensive courses felt like the way things ought to be. What I ought to be doing.
If you want to shake off your inertia, to actually see your life as it is, and to be able to question what you want it to be, there’s nothing like jamming a right-angle turn into your forward motion to shake you loose from everything you accepted as having a permanent place in your life. And the past two weeks have been, for me, that right-angle jump-the-tracks come-to-a-screeching-halt turn.
There was the vacation, first of all. I turned the computer off, and left it off, for two straight weeks. I did not look at e-mail, I did not touch customer service, I did not pay affiliates, I did not work on courses.
I. Was. Gone.
There was my time with the Air Force kid. My older son had a grim time in Afghanistan, which is not to say his tours of the Middle East’s other “vacation spots” have been picnics. But Afghanistan was a real nightmare, and even now that he’s home, there are parts of this last deployment he isn’t going to shake off. Not in a few weeks, a few months, a few years. Not ever. A line of ghosts follow me from my ten years in nursing. He has his line of ghosts, too, and though they’ll become less insistent over time, they won’t go away.
As much as we could, we worked around the ghosts. I loved being able to sit and talk with him again, to discuss the screenplays he wrote while he was in the desert, to talk about going indie from the film-maker’s perspective. I loved just being able to see him, and to know that he was okay, he was safe, he was home.
And I loved having nothing but time to spend with Matt and my younger son, too.
There was Steve Jobs’ death, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I suggested that was anything but a massive wake-up call. He created what he loved, not asking what people wanted but envisioning what he wanted, pushing past “that’s not possible” to make what he wanted possible, and then bringing his visions to those of us who have appreciated the hell out of them.
Figure: Having Windows eat my work, crash regularly, update constantly, welcome viruses like long-lost friends, and require constant fucking tinkering with the system, in the form of .ini files and other tweaks, just to get programs I needed to function so I could get writing, printing, and internet work done, was a part of my life, my expectation, my inertia. I backed up constantly when I remembered, and when I got into the flow of my fiction, I lost whole chapters because that’s just the way Windows is.
Until my husband bought me an early OS X Snowball Mac. I got it for Christmas in 2002. In the almost ten years since then, I have ONCE lost words. About three hundred of them, if I remember correctly. MY screw-up. The Mac asked me if I would like to save the file when Word crashed, and I, being VERY new to the system at the time, said “no.”
I haven’t lost a single word since. And since then, I’ve upgraded through iMacs and iBooks and Pros, and currently have an older Pro, the 11″ minimal-configuration Air, and the currently largest possible iMac desktop. Every Mac I ever owned still works. I just needed bigger and faster for the courses, the movies I was creating. And because, let’s face facts: I’m a total tech ho and while I don’t spend money on shoes or clothes or much of anything else, I’m white on rice when it comes to upgrading to a new computer.
So I owe Steve Jobs’ driven passion to create the best possible products—and to hell with the naysayers—for making my life measurably better.
And the wake-up call from his death, combined with the other elements above, allowed me to question my own passion.
Which takes me to Week Two of my vacation, in which, relaxed, happy, and caught up on my sleep, I wrote three and a half chapters of the new Cadence Drake novel, Warpaint.
And became reacquainted with my real passion. Which isn’t teaching. I’m good at teaching, I like it, and I love students’ success stories.
But I love to write fiction.
And when I compared four hours a day five days a week while everyone else was asleep, stretched out on the couch with the Air propped on my lap, embracing my passion by telling a story I want to tell while knowing it’s going to get published the way I want it to be published…
…Versus seventy-hour seven-days-a-week workweeks stretching as far into the future as I could see, struggling to translate how I do what I do into techniques and procedures and processes other people can use to embrace THEIR passion…
…You probably have some idea where I’m heading with this.
But I guarantee you don’t have the whole thing, so stick with me a few more minutes.
Yes. I’m going to quit teaching.
No. I’m not abandoning my students. ALL students who are members of the big courses, including students who join the day I lock each course’s doors to new members, will have permanent access to all your purchased course materials, including, if applicable, the Walkthrough, new self-pub modules, or any other course upgrades, depending on the course in question.
No, I’m not abandoning any of my current courses.
And no, I’m not abandoning the three big promises I’ve made.
I’m finishing the How To Think Sideways Walkthrough. Furthermore, the online version will be the FULL version of the course, minus a few handouts I cannot include, and the Walkthrough. It will include the lessons for Self-Publishing, but it will also include the Commercial Publishing track. So it will be 29 lessons, not 25.
I’m expanding the How To Write A Series Course with what I learn while writing the Cadence Drake series.
And I’m finishing Create A World Clinic.
I’m looking at, best guess, about two more years of working insane hours while I meet these three promises, and at the same time write several Cadence Drake novels, move ALL my courses to Kindle/ Nook/ iTunes/ CreateSpace.
The rest of what I have to do:
Before I can dedicate myself to my passion, writing fiction, I also have to make sure existing big-course students can use the online version of the courses permanently.
And Margaret and I have to put together a way for the students who take my classes via the big publishing platforms (again, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and CreateSpace) have a way to join the Boot Camps writing community.
The Boot Camp Community, with its Self-Pub Resource Providers, its lesson-by-lesson discussions on How To Think Sideways, How To Revise Your Novel, and as soon as we can get the database updated, How To Write A Series, its camaraderie and friendships, will remain and continue to grow.
The Boot Camp Community currently offers free lifetime membership to students of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS for their respective courses (and of course, students of all three courses have lifetime access to the entire community).
For students who take the e-book or print versions of the course, Boot Camp membership will be optional, and will require a small monthly fee or a one-time lifetime membership payment for whichever course the student is taking.
And I’ll become a Boot Camp member writer, rather than an overworked occasional visitor.
But as I get things transferred, everything else is going off my sites. I’ll be closing my little writing shop, and closing the online versions of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS, as well as the Free Plot Outline course.
I’m working on transferring How To Think Sideways first, and the Walkthrough will not be included in the e-book and print versions. I may at some later date figure out a way to do the Walkthrough lessons as DVDs, but right now, my plan is to simply keep them available for Legacy HTTS students.
If you want the How To Think Sideways course with free lifetime community membership and the Walkthrough included, you’ll need to join before I post all the lessons on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (because of technical issues, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to offer the course on iTunes).
I have that pencilled in on my calendar for February, 2012. On the day the course goes live on the big platforms, the doors for the online version close permanently to new members.
How To Revise Your Novel will then follow suit as quickly as I can make it happen.
How To Write A Series will be open to new students considerably longer, because I still have to write the books that I’ll use to expand the course.
And following that, I’ll write the rest of Create A World Clinic, which will ONLY be available through the big platforms. I’ll never sell it from my own shop, which I hope to close before or around the same time I close How To Write A Series.
It comes down to time.
I don’t know how much I have left, but whatever time I have left, I want to invest in my passion, my true love, the thing that has made me willing to pop out of bed at six in the morning for the past twenty-seven years, just to be a part of it.
I’m going back to writing fiction exclusively.
All the existing courses will still be there for you, in one fashion or another. The community will get even better.
But no matter how long I live, I cannot live long enough to tell all the stories I still want to tell. I would, however, like to write as many of them as I can.
And I aim to give it my best shot.
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