The Kingdom 4: Death of the Golden Boy

Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So today we begin at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.

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 my shaky confidence on it. I honed that image, the concept of the great writer. Nobody had ever found any real problems with any of my work, so I was there. I had already made it. 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 struggle with it. So here comes college. And here comes a conversation with my creative writing professor.

They pull me into the office during their office hours. I’m not sure if they set up an appointment or if I just happened to stop in to get a question answered, or what exactly it was that happened. It was a small room. Desk, one bookshelf, no windows. There was a chair beside the desk. I remember yellow walls. I sat down and I talked to them. We talked for maybe ten minutes before they said, “Listen, you have to take this class, I understand that. But I can’t teach you anything. You’re good, maybe great. And you just have to figure it out, because you’re at a level where I can’t make you any 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. 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 Genius. 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 realized it was all beautiful. I was bolstered by my fellow students at the workshop, a group of amazing writers who 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 Genius 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 minivan 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 train wreck.

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, no, no, no, honey.” Her hands are in my direction, palms up. Her hands are trembling. She’s gotta plug this hole, she’s gotta cauterize this wound. “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 storyteller, 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, then 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 who 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.

And it’ll be because I killed the legend of the Golden Boy, and allowed myself to be just a man struggling with a thing he loves and giving it the attention and humility it deserves.

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 grab him, pull him out into the street. Kick the Golden Boy behind the knees and walk around in front of him. Don’t listen to his blubbering. Hanging from your hip will be a Buck knife. Maybe you write children’s books and it’s a 102 Woodsman. Pull the blade, don’t flip it in your hand. Off hand, behind the back of the neck. Look the Golden Boy in the eye, slide that blade in his throat. If you write romance, then it’s the 105 Pathfinder. If you’re a fantasy writer, sci fi, if you write historical fiction, you have the Buck 119 Special. If you write history, then it’s the General. Slide the General right in his eye. If you write spiritual, if you write autobiographies, calmly pull the Buck 110. When you open it, there’s a hard click that will echo down the street. Aim for the heart.

You cannot use the Golden Boy. He’s a lie. And he’ll lead you to think the worst thing any writer can think. Golden Boy will lead you down the path of, “I’m already perfect.”

Don’t look at his corpse. Don’t think about the mess behind you. Head directly into your house. Don’t pause. Bloody footprints should be left behind you as you drop down to your desk because, accept this and learn to embrace it, now that the Golden Boy is dead and you know what you really are, you’ve got work to do.

Kill him as soon as possible.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.

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