It’ll be three years this October. You’d think I’d be over it by now. But you’d be wrong.
There are a lot of reasons I don’t want to talk about my vaporware book.
It left me feeling used up and thrown away. Let me tell you about that summer. After I worked my 8-hour day, I’d come home around five, throw a frozen pizza or something similarly effortless into the oven for 30 minutes, then I’d sit down and write. When the pizza was done–I learned how to recognize when things were done by smell–I’d go get dinner, bring it back over to my keyboard, and write some more. I’d stop occasionally to get a drink or something. Sometime after midnight, I’d call it a night. Sometimes quitting time came at 12:01, and sometimes it came closer to 2.
The next day, I’d start the process all over again.
One day very early in the process, I was driving home from work. The right side of my body completely shut down. I couldn’t move my right arm or my right leg. My head felt funny. I left-footed my way home. I dragged myself up a flight of stairs, and by the time I found my keys to my apartment and let myself in, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know who I was. I started thinking I was probably in trouble. I went and found the phone, picked it up, and started to dial for help. But I couldn’t remember anyone’s phone number. I couldn’t remember how to dial a phone. And even if I’d been able to do all that, I wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone who I was.
I laid down, not knowing if I’d ever get back up.
I awoke a couple of hours later. I called my doctor. “Get in here,” he growled. So I went in the next day. Yes, the word “stroke” was batted around.
Ultimately, it turned out it was a panic attack. The CAT scan of my head turned up nothing out of the ordinary. Fortunately.
I’m an overachiever and when I have fears that I can’t live up to my own expectations, bad things happen. It’s the way I am. My dad was the same way. Fortunately a combination of people managed to calm me down and it didn’t happen again.
What did happen was a slow, gradual pain in my wrists. I used to play baseball and softball a lot (I still play softball) and I always had a nagging injury because of my style of play. I learned before I was a teenager how to play through pain, and so I wrote through my pain. Except it got worse. And worse. The 16-hour days took their toll. One day in June, I was out of clean dishes, so I closed up the dishwasher and did a load. (I’d put the dirty plates in the dishwasher previously, for some reason. Probably because there wasn’t any room in the sink.) An hour or so later, I opened the dishwasher. I reached down for a plate. I couldn’t grasp it. I was physically incapable of unloading a dishwasher. My wrists were in agony and I had no strength in my hands.
I laid down on my futon wondering what I’d do with myself. If I couldn’t write or fix computers, what would I do for a living? Going back to school to learn another skill was out of the question. That would involve writing.
Somehow I managed to do my job. Any time I had to type something, I’d get someone else to do it. My brain still worked, and I gained back enough strength in my wrists to be able to do hardware work. So one of my coworkers took care of most of the software issues, while I took on hardware issues.
The book sat and sat. Eventually I got to the point of being able to write again. That was a bit of a miracle in itself. Someone who bought my first book, Curtis Horn, somehow got wind of my troubles and wrote me with a book suggestion. I bought it that night, read it cover to cover, and went out shopping for vitamins. It all worked. In late August I sat down to write again. By September I was able to write for a couple of hours at a time. At the end of September, the book got cancelled. I fought it for a while. Then I had my agent look for other possibilities. But I wasn’t 100% yet.
I’m still not completely recovered. When I have to do a lot of repetitive motion, especially mousing, like I’ve been doing for the past few days for a project at work, my wrists start to hurt after about 20 minutes. I have to stop and do something else.
I can type, but the marathon sessions required to write a book are beyond my reach. I’m not a 9-inning pitcher anymore. I’ve accepted the possibility that I might not ever be again. A 1,000-word magazine article is about right for my typing abilities at this point. So I write the occasional magazine article, Wikipedia entry, or the stuff you see here.
Can I revisit the book? No. I put both of my careers on the line for that book. I poured everything I had into it and got a whole lot of nothing back out. I think I know what hard drive contains the manuscript. I have less idea where to find the CD-R backups. I don’t know if the drive still works. Honestly, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if it didn’t. I’m pretty sure the CD-Rs have gone bad by now.
Getting all the copyrights released, if it’s possible, would be a phone call or an e-mail message or two away. But I can’t do it. That’d be like calling up the ex-girlfriend from hell, years later. You know her. She’s the one you loved more than life itself but the relationship was fatally flawed, unsalavagable, and she ripped your heart out, jumped up and down on it, then kicked it back at you with a disgusted look on her face. And you looked down on it and wished you were dead. We all dated her once. Well, at least everyone I know dated her at least once.
I dated her. Then I built a replica and I titled it Integrating Linux Servers with Windows Networks.
I’m past the stage where I don’t want that girl to know where I’m living or how I’m doing. Apathy’s kicked in. She can know whatever she wants, as long as it didn’t come from me. But that doesn’t mean I want to pay her a visit. The book’s even worse. I can still feel the pain some days.
Maybe someday there’ll be another book. It probably won’t be much like either of the other books I worked on in the past. I’ve got some books in me, but I don’t know if I have the ability to get them out of me.
And right now I’m enjoying just having a life. Back in 1999 and 2000, I completely forgot what a life was. And since I’m not willing to make the sacrifices I would have to make to be a full-time writer, I have to choose between a life and writing books.
I choose the life.