Sometimes when I looked in the mirror in the morning, I didn’t even recognize myself.
Not because my face was older, or appeared wiser, or because I suffered some sort of major face trauma. Everything pretty much looked the same. My eyelashes were still super long, my nose remained huge, and I still couldn’t grow a beard to save my life.
What’s different was that I wasn’t seeing the reader I once was. Instead, I was only seeing the writer.
While over the past few years I’ve spent a good 70 percent of each day writing, I was no longer reading. And man—let me tell you—I used to consume books like nobody’s business. In fact, for much of my life, it was hard for me to even perform basic life functions because I had my a book in front of my face.
I traveled with a book anytime my parents dragged me out of the house. I smuggled a book in my backpack to every day of high school. Any bowel movement was an opportune time to consume a chapter.
The bookshelf in my current apartment (along with the bookshelf in my childhood bedroom and nearby closet) contain the artifacts of proof, but the to-do stack that sits haphazardly next to my desk continued to grow at an alarming rate.
Soon I realized that it had literally been years since I’d read a novel. While I consumed comic books like they were M&Ms, getting me to read prose felt like a job I where I was being paid in “exposure.” I didn’t want any part of it.
I’m not sure why I felt that way. It’s not like somewhere along the like a book had killed my parents, made my browsing history public, or stole my identity. The animosity I had toward the medium was completely unfounded.
Maybe it was an age thing.
Yeah, let’s say it was an age thing.
I was too busy to dedicate myself to a novel. I’d probably forget what happened a week after reading. So why bother?
Then, as sometimes happens as we get older, I became incontinent.
I’m kidding. Hopefully I’m still a few years away from that.
What happened, is that I became interested in writing a novel of my own. I don’t know why. After years of writing comics and video games, which work in tandem with strong visual elements, why in the world would I want to go it solo into a world where I had no art to hide behind? What good could possibly come out of a document containing nothing but my (weird) thoughts, (weirder) ideas, and (super weird) dialogue?
It sounded like madness to me.
Not only did I want to write a novel, I even had the story… you know, one of those ideas that would be perfect for the medium. Except—I was terrified of being a poseur.
I’d always looked down my nose at those filmmakers who couldn’t get their movies made, so instead they adapted their scripts into comic books. Worse, many of these film folks had never read comics, so their attempts at invading the medium I hold closest to my heart felt invasive and fake.
I didn’t want to be that person who runs around the block once and proclaims himself a jogger, the person who helps out on a student film and suddenly proclaims himself an actor, or the person who samples other people’s music under bad rap verses and proclaims himself a musician.
Despite never being a horse person, I had to get back on the horse. I had to read again. I had to find the joy.
How could I write a book if you didn’t read them? Despite the thousand I’d read in my lifetime, what business did I have writing something for the current market, if I had no idea what that market is?
Hypocrisy is the worst.
Over 2017’s 365 days (give or take a few?) I really enjoyed the following books and the journeys their respective authors took me on. I didn’t set out to read novels, I just set out to read books, letting one text guide me to the next and the next. The mix of novels and non-fiction was a ton of fun. I learned, I laughed, I felt. If we’re keeping it real, I read most of these on the toilet.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill
Significant Zero – Walt Williams
Boss Fight Books presents: Spelunky – Derek Yu
Boss Fight Books presents: Final Fantasy V – Chris Kohler
Boss Fight Books presents: Bible Adventures – Gabe Durham
Boss Fight Books presents: World of Warcraft – Daniel lisi
Boss Fight Books presents: Metal Gear Solid – Ashley and Anthony Burch
Boss Fight Books presents: Earthbound – Ken Baumann
Extra Lives – Tom Bissell
Blood, Sweat, & Pixels – Jason Shreier
The Art of Immersion – Frank Rose
What in God’s Name – Simon Rich
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
Best. State. Ever. – Dave Barry
Dave Barry Does Japan – Dave Barry
Hey authors of the above books… if you’re reading this, your book was awesome. Thank you for writing it.
Finding inspiration in all of these titles, I set about writing my novel simultaneously. By December 2017 I’d completed a 67,000-word first draft.
I asked several people to read it. They did. They made notes. The manuscript is covered in red pen marks. I’m that revising it now. But that’s a story for another time.
In 2018 I can look in the mirror and see a reader and a writer.
I still can’t grow a beard.