My Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Spaceman!Did you ever have dreams when you were a kid? Did you want to be an astronaut, a police officer or a firefighter? Maybe a zookeeper or an archaeologist (thanks Indiana Jones!)? I went through phases where I wanted to be all of those things and more. I’d play outside for hours as a kid, pretending to be all of those things. Or I’d be in the house responding to one life-threatening emergency after another with my Lego, Playmobil and Fisher Price toys.

But more than anything, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write books. I loved books. I remember sitting on the floor in the hallway in my house, copying (word for word – so much for plagiarism) articles from my National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals books. I was pretty young then – maybe 5 or 6 years old. Maybe a bit older than that.

A couple of years later, I made my first book at school and shared it with others a local young authors conference (my memory of this is hazy, but I think I remember the event taking place at the Hamilton Art Gallery). I don’t have that book anymore, but I remember it was hand crafted from paper and coloured card board (for the cover), with a child’s imperfect touch. I don’t remember what the story was about, but it was short and I’m certain the story was secondary to the physical book that I had created on my own.

I tried writing more. But it was hard work. I wasn’t very creative. I didn’t have a flair for writing. My early (and brief) attempts at writing stories didn’t get very far. I only remember one of my early stories and it was repetitious, boring and lacking in substance. I found it tough to simply put words on the page. I wanted to write lots of books, I just didn’t want to do the writing. Discouraged, I stopped writing.

Stephen King autograph
Me at a Stephen King autograph session in 2013.

I kept reading though. I discovered Stephen King in grade 5 or 6. He was THE BEST! His stories were scary, they had lots of bad language and they were full of adventures, violence and lots of kids getting in trouble or causing mischief. And, he was an awesome storyteller. From simple stories like “The Long Walk”, to stories that became Academy Award winners (Misery) or near winners (The Shawshank Redemption should have won), Stephen King had it all. And he had it in droves. I had more reading than I could handle and I loved it!

I forgot about writing for a while. I came of age with the Internet and I built my career on it. I worked at AOL and Postmedia (amongst other places) as geek, building the tools that writers used to connect with readers online. I got to see the growth of the online industry from the inside. It was awesome. And still is. I still find it fascinating that such a huge economy is built from transmitting ones and zeroes all of the place. Computers make something from nothing. You can’t eat the Internet. You can’t live in the Internet. The Internet won’t keep you dry when it rains. And the Internet will not stop your neighbour from robbing you.

But the Internet does provide ALL of the information you could ever require to accomplish any of these things: it’ll help you optimize your crops, it’ll help you find, make or improve your living accommodations, it’ll teach you how to build a lean-to (why don’t more kids go to cubs and scouts to learn this stuff nowadays?!?!) and the Internet will even connect your sensor-laden house to the police to tell them that someone has broken into your house.

I started writing again in my mid-twenties. I was working on a liberal arts degree (philosophy and religious studies) on the side, while working full time in the IT field. This re-awakened my desire to write. But books were written and published by big publishing houses and only professional writers could do it. Oh wait… that was before the Internet. The Internet was revolutionizing print media. It was like Gutenberg all over again. Power to the people. Anyone could be an author. If only you knew the technology… And as luck would have it, I was one of those people that helped build that technology!

So away I went, writing and blogging and tweeting and more. I had aspirations of riches and fans a plenty. I did build community. It started with family and close friends. I’m sure some curious co-workers lurked as well. Then it grew to be people I interacted with online – peers, strangers and other interested onlookers. Then it was friends of friends. I learned from others and they learned from me. I even published a book – it was a collection of blog posts, but it was an actual book. Not a printed book – it is in e-format only, but still – I wrote a book!

Then life got in the way. Work got busier. One baby multiplied into three (not triplets, but staggered over a few years) and my numerous book ideas started aging in Google Drive.

Then I got sick.

It didn’t seem life-threatening at the time. But then the doctor told me the tumour they removed was cancerous. He said it wasn’t life threatening and that I was going to recover fully. But holy crap was it a wake up call! I started thinking about what is really important in life. This is where people can have a real mid-life crisis, rethinking their lives and making drastic changes to achieve things they think will make them happy.

I feel so fortunate. I had a lot of time to think. I assessed my life. I thought about what I am happy with and what is missing. I love my family. My wife is my soul mate. My kids are awesome. The only thing to change here is to spend more time with them. Focus on making memories because the work and the rest of the noise of life will always be there. But the kids will grow up. My wife will grow old with me and we’ll miss out on doing things when we’re young. And I love my career. I am in an exciting field doing interesting things with a great group of people. And I am growing in my responsibilities at work. I feel fortunate – the two most important things in my life are already awesome. Other things are good too: I am fairly fit (I teach karate), I have a great group of friends (who I don’t see often enough!) and I have a comforting sense of faith and I belong to a great faith community at my local church.

The one thing that stood out to me during my recovery though was my writing. I have a bunch of unfinished projects and I would regret not finishing them. So here I am, on the far side of a serious life changing event and the only thing I want to change is to write more. It’s no mistress or overpriced sports car and I can do it without disrupting the other important things in my life. And if that is my mid-life crisis, then I’m happy with that (and so is my wife!).

So yeah, that’s my big hairy audacious goal: I want to be a writer.

I’ve got about ten project ideas floating around inside me. Single books, multi-book series, fiction, non-fiction. And I suspect that at least a couple of other people will find them interesting. And my blog is the primary place where I’ll talk about my writing. I have other online hangouts, which I’ll touch on another time, but my blog is my home. So stay tuned – I’ll be sharing more about my book ideas in the near future.

In the meantime, what did you want to be when you grew up? How’d things turn out for you? And how do you feel about that?

Thanks for reading!



By Todd Dow

Author, Geek, CF fundraiser & Cancer Survivor. My family, baseball, infosec, privacy & devops are a few of my favorite things.

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