I Had No Choice

 My old middle school notebooks. Inside: the worst fantasy novel ever written.

My old middle school notebooks. Inside: the worst fantasy novel ever written.

Last week was huge for me and my friends. I released the first video game I ever wrote, launched my Facebook page, and posted my first of many blog entries on this site. The public face of all this excitement is a small portion of my journey to get to this point.

I've been writing for years. By middle school, the hobby had become so ingrained in my life that I didn't consider it a separate part of me. I would write after school, I would write at recess,  I would write in those five minutes before science class started because the teacher was late making copies. Now that I think about it, writing wasn't a hobby. It was breathing. I did it without noticing.

Despite the clarity I have now, my chubby middle school self never seriously considered writing as more than a path private self-fulfillment. It was something I did for fun, sure, but those words and worlds scribbled in composition books wouldn't get me anywhere. Would they? The way my two parents and step parents raised me nailed a sturdy pragmatism into my head early on. This is through no fault of their own, I promise. But when a lawyer, real estate agent, accountant, and small business owner try to parent a creative kid, the results can get messy.

I pushed writing even further away in high school when I started getting into video production. I immersed myself in different cameras, lenses, lighting techniques, and editing programs. I still wrote my own scripts, but the stories took a backseat to the more technical aspects of production. It was hard to worry about character arcs and dialogue when I was also concerned with rigging lawn lights on a microphone stand in an empty church parking lot.

Filmmaking stayed on my mind as I went to college. I was wayward, like most college freshmen, and studied English for two years. Not creative writing, either. Remember: writing fiction was just this thing I did that was a very important part of my life. There was no reason to pursue it seriously. Damn, I was clueless.

I got my first gig on an indie film in February of 2011. After that, I dove in. I transferred to film school for my junior and senior years, skipping class to work on different sets around Philly in the production department. That's a nice way of referring to the people who make copies, get coffee, do paperwork, and schedule shoot days. It is not a creative career path. The production department exists solely to enable the "actual" artists. Production handles the real world problems like coordinating schedules to get Tom Cruise and Chris Pratt in the same room at the same time. Then, the director takes over. Needless to say, this backbreaking work was not creatively fulfilling. Working 14-hour days for someone else's vision, while having no artistic input of my own, was killer. So, I did the only sensible thing: I quit the industry I earned my degree for and started writing about video games.

I saw it this way. I loved playing video games and I loved writing. 2 +2 = 4, writing plus video games = video game journalism. Again, I completely missed that little voice in my head. The voice that was there all along, the one telling me to become a creative writer. For whatever reason, I decided that journalism was going to be a good fit. It wasn't. Any of you who have read my previous blog post know this.

In short, I've spent my entire life running away from what has always been right in front of me. Creative people don't get a choice. They get a calling. They can run and run and run, but deep down, they know what they should be doing. The day I decided to finish my novel and try this writing thing seriously, a weight lifted off my shoulders. The world was more clear than ever before. I had a purpose, a direction, a heading.

Almost a year after that decision, I don't really know what I'm doing or if it's working. What I do know, however, is that it was the right choice. I refuse to be one of those people who regrets not chasing after their passion, or even worse: talks about chasing but never does. Like a compass needle always pointing north, I picked the direction of the strongest, most consistent tug and headed toward the horizon. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'll figure it out. I had no say in the matter, after all.