I grew up playing with tape recorders.
My father was something of a gadget geek and he made sure he had one
of the first reel to reel tape decks when they became available to
consumers. I can’t remember the make or model, but it was one of the
most glorious things I can remember owning. I spent hours recording
my voice then speeding it up to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
When I got older, I fell in love with
old radio shows, so a lot of my time was spent locked in my room,
trying to emulate the western shows I heard on nostalgia radio. I
created characters and voiced all the voices — yes, I was a complete
and utter nerd — and added sound effects and music.
Around the same time, I started using
the family Super 8 movie camera to make super hero movies. We didn’t
have the luxury of sync sound in those days, so in high school, when
I shot and edited a blatant rip-off of the movie Deliverance (minus
the squeal like a pig scene), I was forced to use non-sync sound when
we played the movie for executives from Fuji films, who went on to
sponsor the short in a national filmmaking contest.
All throughout these years I played
guitar and a bit of keyboard. I had been writing songs since the
age of thirteen and a few years later won a couple of local
During that same time, I also loved to
draw. For many years I was convinced I was going to be a commercial
artist, and even took a job at my local television station as an
assistant to the art director.
When home computers became available, I
took to them immediately, learning to do some minor programming and
jumping onto the Internet long before it became a household word.
And, of course, there was writing. I
wrote my first "short story" in intermediate school,
penning a cops and robbers tale that may or may not have had an
ending. As I got older, I started writing episodes of my favorite TV
shows — Rockford Files, Harry O, Hawaii Five-0 — in hopes that I’d
somehow be able to break in.
As you can see, I had a number of
different interests as I was growing up.
And that was my problem. During all
those years, I was so torn between being a writer, a rock star, an
artist, a computer geek and a filmmaker that I had absolutely no idea which to choose.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I finally decided to
concentrate on one thing — writing — and when I turned 35, I won a
Nicholl Fellowship and sold my first screenplay.
Now, many years later, I find myself
beginning my sophomore year as a novelist — the thing I believe I
was meant to do all along. It took me a helluva long time to figure
that out, but here I am, for better or worse.
But what I find truly amazing is that
it seems that all those years I spent pursuing those different interests were
simply preparation for this phase of my life. Why?
Because now — amazingly enough — in
addition to writing, I find myself utilizing all of the other skills
I acquired along the way to help me promote this career I’ve finally
My love of audio recording has helped
me learn the art of podcasting. Fellow Killer Year and Murderati
blogger Brett Battles and I do
weekly monthly occasional podcasts
about the craft of writing.
My love of art has helped me develop an
eye for design, and my experience with computers and the Internet has
helped make developing my websites a breeze.
My love of songwriting has helped me compose
music for audio and video promotional materials, and my love of
filmmaking has led me to creating book trailers and short video clips
And it’s all truly coming together for me this Saturday. I was asked and accepted a gig to teach an MWA workshop on podcasting and book trailers in Little Tokyo.
It seems as if some cosmic force had something in
mind for me when it divided my brain into so many segments. All those
years I spent pursuing these separate passions, wondering what the
hell I was finally going to do with my life, seem to have come
together (just as my kids have left the house) to
turn me into a kind of one-man band, allowing me to do all of the
things I love doing —
— and, I might add, saving me
thousands of dollars in the process, because I’ll be damned if I’ll
hire anyone else to do this stuff for me.
I don’t consider myself a big believer in fate, but what else do you call it? Someone, somewhere must have had a plan, and it sure as hell wasn’t me.
But what I really want to know is this:
How did fate know I’d be such a cheapskate?
Rob,I knew you were multi-dimensional, but not the breadth of your creative skills.
As to sychronicity — I’m convinced nothing we do — or have done — is wasted. That’s probably another good thing for a cheapskate.
For me, how did I know that making little hand-drawn magazines with friends in elementary school, acting in high school and college, playing basketball, and being a resident assistant in a dorm would all help me later in editing a newspaper and promoting books?
That’s why I encourage young people to pursue different passions, no matter how disparate they may seem. You never know how they will come together later.
And BTW, if there’s anyone who’d like to check out Rob’s workshop this Saturday, there’s a few spots open:
“…so a lot of my time was spent locked in my room, trying to emulate the western shows I heard on nostalgia radio.”
Oh? Is that like the opening scene in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”? Teenage Harry in a room by himself, under the covers… playing with his wand?
I’ve found that most of the writers I know have wide and diverging interests and experiences, and I think this is an essential trait to writing well. The more we know about, the more raw material we have to help us build stories, and the more we’re able to take advantage of these synchronicities when they happen.
I read voraciously in school and worked on the yearbook. Now, after a long and unfulfilling career in a field I don’t enjoy, I’m coming into my own as a writer and photographer.
Everything might not happen for a reason, but the experiences we have shape the sorts of opportunities we become open to down the line.
Rob, there’s a job description for you and that background. It’s called Renaissance Man. And you fit the bill.
Hah! I did the radio-tape recorder thing for years, too.
And except for the drawing part (I’m hopeless at that), my odyssey mirrors yours in a lot of ways…I was even a film major in college (around the time UNC shut down the film department. I take no blame for this). Unfortunately, my big project, a documentary about a local band, is lost to the mists of time.
A lawyer/mentor of mine once said, “no experience is ever wasted for a litigator. If you don’t use it today, you may use it tomorrow, or next year.” The same goes double for writers, I think.
Ah, Louise stole my line. You ARE a renaissance man, definitely.
I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. We make choices, conscious or unconscious, that affect our lives miles down the road. The trick is being happy with those choices. When we come full circle and begin to write, I think we’ve hit that acceptance.
Have fun this weekend!
So does this mean I need a cape and a tight shirt with a big R on it? LOL.
Can I be your sidekick, Borgia Boy?