When I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first story. It was about a kid whose parents were divorced and his dad was on safari. For his birthday, a great big wooden crate came from his father, and within, he found a purple hippopotamus. I showed this story to my teacher and it all began. From that moment, I was a Golden Boy. Writing was my future, and it was all going to be beautiful.
My teachers in high school praised my ability and helped me harness it. Everything I wrote was admired and adored. My friends all told me I was the man, the one to watch, and I rested on that. I leaned all of my shaky confidence on it. I honed it as a part of myself that was impeccable. Say what you wanted about me, but I was a writing Golden Boy and it was all going to be so beautiful.
I had an attitude of mild neglect when it came to my work. I didn’t really need to work at it, and so I learned nothing in college about how to make it better. It will come. I sat on it and did nothing. One day I decided, in order to win the woman I loved, I needed to start taking myself seriously, so I began writing a book. It was largely unreadable, just a block of text that told about a dozen random stories, and none of them well. But I made all my friends and family read it, and they all said I was going to be huge.
I wrote a second and took it to a workshop in Chicago put on by Free Expressions. Had a sit down with a professional agent and he looked me in the eye and shot a huge hole right through the middle of my premise. I didn’t understand why he didn’t see the gold. I was a Golden Boy; it was all supposed to be beautiful. I met with an editor (my editor, Lorin Oberweger), she said I was a potential author, and she liked my world building, but she told me it all had to be rewritten, and she wasn’t offering to work with me. She didn’t see it either. None of them thought it was going to be beautiful. I was bolstered by my fellow students at the workshop, a group of amazing writers that held me together. But I left shaking my head wondering why the professional world was blind to brilliance.
I did rewrite the manuscript and after I did, I contacted Lorin to seek her advice on how to proceed. She offered to work with me and I exploded. I was ready for the beauty to kick in. I was ready for her to witness the Golden Boy in action. She got the comments back to me and I took it like a kick to the chest. My manuscript was a mess. Her examination of my work had been a massacre. Everything was a disaster. She took it all apart, and hardly any of it worked. She propped me up with this quote. “I know that when you have rewritten Liefdom it will be a magnificent success.” Then she bowed out, told me to keep in touch, and left me to deal with the corpse of my book.
I do not know the date, everything was blending together back then, but I do remember the instant the Golden Boy died. I was in my mini van listening to Linkin Park, but not hearing them. I was at the intersection of KK and Logan, waiting for the light to turn green. My entire writing life came to me at that one moment, and I realized I was a good storyteller but a bad writer.
Now, I wasn’t horrible. I was just kinda bad. When compared to most, I was ahead as much as my talent would allow. But when compared to a professional writer, I was a trainwreck.
This was one of the greatest, most crucial moments of my life. I had to walk away from everything I had known since fifth grade. I had to look at the abyss before me and decide how badly I wanted it. This is the part of the story when we are supposed to give up. I looked at my wife and said, “I see it now. I’m a bad writer.”
She looked at me, kinda panicked, and shook her head. She said, “No honey you’re a-” And I stopped her.
Because it had all worked itself out in my head. At that moment, when I looked into her eyes, I knew there was no road but this one. I had nothing to offer the world except the characters, and the plots simmering around them. I was a good story teller, good enough to one day be great, so I needed to learn the next part. I needed to dedicate myself to becoming the best writer I could. Because it was the only path left open to me. At this point, not telling the stories that rambled through my mind was not an option. I needed to learn how to do what I did.
I started writing books, starting pumping them out one at a time. Setting the story out, filing it away, and starting the next. I wrote one book after another, learning the only way I knew how, through trial and error. One uphill foothold after the next. One word after the other.
I’m not a Golden Boy anymore. If I make it in this business, it will be because of dogged resolve and the ability to take a punch. It will be because of the support system that had grown up around me, my wife’s undying support and the friends who believe in what I am writing about. It will be because of a few dedicated people that have bet on my horse. And it will be because I worked with a lot of great people and learned what I could from each of them.
There is no power in the Golden Boy, no glory in being told over and over again that your future will be beautiful. But a kind of power can be found in the Golden Boy’s death. When I lost the part of me that told me I was already a success, it hardened my resolve to succeed.
My advice is to kill him as soon as possible.