At the moment, I am sitting in the pleasantly deserted gate 175 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. I am in the midst of a 7-hour layover on a trip to Beijing. I’m going to visit a very good, old friend of mine, and for once, there’s no agenda to this trip. I’m not going to be pitching anything, I’m not going to be networking, I’m even, to the extent possible, not going to be working. It’s tough for me to take a true vacation due to the nature of what I do for a living, as I’ve mentioned before, but I have been working hard over the last two weeks to scrub my to-do list as clean as it can possibly be. So right now, I feel… can it be… relaxed? It’s a pretty foreign feeling, which is kind of awful. You see a reference to someone being a workaholic and you think, “damn, that poor sap,” but I don’t know that I’m that far off. I used to think I was safe, because the textbook definition of a workaholic would have to be “someone who chooses to work to the exclusion of everything else, including presumably more pleasurable or entertaining activities.” Seemed impossible to see myself being that way. But these days, most days, I rarely get to lose myself in fun – two exceptions are when I’m seeing a good movie in the theater and if I’m out at a bar or otherwise hanging out with friends. During almost everything else, I’m thinking about what else I “should” be doing – advancing creative projects, working on day job work, etc.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine I’m all that different from anyone else. I just have 7 hours in Toronto to fill and a blog to write (but of course, that doesn’t make me that different from anyone else either, except perhaps the Toronto part.)
Point is, I’m relaxed! Right now! There’s nothing I HAVE to do. I can watch some of the TV I have stored up on my laptop, read something on my brand-new Nook e-reader (purchased for this very trip), finish The Thousand Ships, consider how to get started on an entirely new project, do one of the crosswords I printed out, or hell, maybe even play a game (still haven’t beaten Dragon Age, and I got that ages ago.) It’s kind of amazing.
But at the moment, I’m blogging. I had the good fortune last night to have a few minutes to catch up with Brad Meltzer, the bestselling thriller and comics author. He and I went to the same school, although he was a few years ahead of me, and he came to give a talk about writing to one of my classes. His career was just getting started at that point (although he was already on his second or third published novel, I think), and as I was interested in writing myself, I got in touch. Over the 10+ years since then, he and I have met and corresponded from time to time – he’s given me great advice as I have tried to navigate my own path into the writing world, and as some of you know, even went so far as to read my first graphic novel and gave me a killer quote. This is a guy who doesn’t have to do any of this. There’s no reason for him to do it, and he certainly has people placing demands on his time who are more important than I am. It’s kind of amazing, and if I ever get to the point where I can give someone a leg up in the same way, I’ll absolutely take a page from Haley-Joel Osment’s book. In a minor way, I try to do it now – from time to time these days writers or artists will come up to me at cons with questions about breaking in, or the path/process, and I always make a point of giving them my time. It doesn’t cost me anything, and it’s not like there’s any real advantage to keeping anything secret (or any real secret at all – it’s mostly about working very hard, networking and continually improving your work – constantly on all fronts).
I’ve met creators, editors, etc. who act like complete prima donnas, like their success has given them license to be disdainful of people who haven’t quite made it to their level yet. It’s the least appealing thing you can imagine. No one stays on top forever, and I’ll tell you, if you’re a good, generous person when you don’t have to be, when things are going well for you, then if things ever turn the other way for you you’ll find tons of outstretched hands willing to help you out. But be a dick, and eventually, you’ll get it right back. I think there’s some sort of rule about that principle, actually.
Anyway, so there it is – Brad’s a great guy (and a kickass writer, of course), and provides one hell of an example for me to follow in my own slowly evolving career.
Okay, six or so hours left to kill. Hopefully the next post will be from Beijing, and will include some cool photos.