When I was a kid, my dad used to pick up rocks when I wasn’t looking and hurl them into the forest, where they would crash-crash-crash through dry leaves down a hill. “Do you hear that? It’s the bork!” What a bork was, he left to my imagination. Even at that tender age, I didn’t quite believe in the bork, but I never fully came to disbelieve it either. Today, when I look out into a peaceful forest, I imagine the lumpy form of the bork there: the world’s most mysteriously awkward monster.
In high school, I spent four months in a supply closet. It was the most logical solution to having been expelled from the bus. I couldn’t get home, and my mom’s coworkers didn’t want a 14 year old sitting with their clients. The metal chair and bare light bulb didn’t bother me. Each day I got to dive into books, and they spoke back with fantastic lives and landscapes. My memory of that drab room is intertwined with the mercenaries of the Black Company, the baffled savior of the Book of the New Sun, the parallel worlds of Amber.
Human imagination works that way: leave a blank space, and given a starter seed, imagination grows and incorporates fresh details.
A decade later, I escaped a low point in life with a year overseas. One cold Scottish morning, I hiked alone through a storm of rain and sleet to the top of a mountain, where clouds swirled threateningly overhead and nearby cliffs promised a quick end, if the gusts should push me over. It was, in a word, grim. But in the distance, beyond the shore, the sun broke the clouds and illuminated a string of islands. There in the chaos and gloom, peering through both the physical and mental storm, I saw the distant promise of peace.
I eventually found some creativity and fun in journalism, and two years ago traded for something even better, game development. The islands, closet, bork and others all get a direct role in my life now, especially as I’m a month into my first solo project. Still, it’s terrifying: my earlier life produced plenty of stories, but not many successes.
But I’ll exit with one “story” distilled from my years of meeting and writing about tech entrepreneurs, and happily shared in a sentence: nobody has a fucking clue what they’re doing. Not even the ones with gold-plated university pedigrees and careers that started at age 14. If you can deal with the grueling experience of figuring things out, step by step, you can do what they do: fail sometimes, succeed at others.
Thanks, Listserve. I like your stories.
p.s. I’ll be looking for co-conspirators soon. If you’re into strategy or RPGs and do code, art or balancing, or want to otherwise assist, email me!
San Francisco, CA