Monday, December 27, 2010

What Does the Future Hold?

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Chanukah, or whatever you and yours celebrate at this time of year. The Savage household has been busy visiting, sharing gifts, playing new games, watching movies, and eating the amazing food prepared by the gorgeous and talented Mrs. Savage.

The trend among author blogs this last few months seems to be writing blogs posts about what advice you would give your younger self if you could. I always find the line between hindsight and foresight so interesting. I want to tell things to my younger self, and I also want to ask things of my future self.

For a long time, my wife and kids and I used to go camping at the same place every summer. Every time we unpacked and set up the tent, we would discover things we had accidently left in its many inside pockets. Flashlights, change, receipts, paperbacks. Each year, I would think that I should write my predictions of what I thought we would be doing the next summer and slip them into the tent like a mini time capsule. Because invariably, my guesses at where I would be in a year would have been wrong. Even cooler would have been if I could open the tent and find messages from my future self.

Many people wonder if they would have been willing to take advice from their future selves. On the one hand, we have plenty of people with experience who we don’t listen to now. Would we really listen to our older and “wiser” selves?

I wonder if my current self should even be giving advice to my previous self. I imagine one of the first things I would have told my former self is to focus more on grades and get a degree. Not having a degree has been a major barrier in my life at times. And I’m definitely encouraging my children to finish college.

But would it have been the best thing for me? If I had gone to college, earned a degree, and landed a solid job with a big company, I certainly wouldn’t have spent a year cleaning out toilet drains. Our family might not have experienced the financial ups and downs that seem to mark many of my holiday memories.But would I have started writing books? What a terrible tradeoff it would be to gain financial security, only to lose something that has brought so much joy to the lives of my family and me.

A couple of years ago, I was laid off from the company I’d worked at for about four years. I made a huge decision, not to look for work in 2009 and instead to pursue the dream of writing fulltime. At the time, if I could have asked my former self one question, it would have been something like, “Will this decision work out financially?” The answer? A resounding no. It was an incredibly stressful year, constantly on the brink of financial disaster. Always trying to book the next school event, and sell a few more books. It put us in a hole we are still climbing out of.

Had I known then, what the results of my efforts would be, I would have taken the first job I could find. And the result would have been that the Farworld series would have almost certainly died. I’ve received over 3,000 e-mails from readers asking when the next Farworld book is coming out. That date is still a little up in the air, but there wouldn’t be a next Farworld book, or most of those e-mails, had I known then what I know now.

If I could give advice to my former self, what would I say? Would I tell me to get another job? Would I have explained how hard that year would be and about the financial ramifications? Or would I have said, “Suffer through the trials, for the sake of the future?” I don’t know. If I had told myself everything that was going to happen, I might not have been able to promote the series with the same energy and excitement that I needed to put in those kinds of hours. In retrospect it was probably better that I did what I did without knowing how the future would turn out.

Our family likes to go see movies together. We are also part of the weird group that stays all the way through the end of the credits (to the total annoyance the employees waiting to come in a start cleaning.) Mostly we like to stay because we believe that it is kind of an homage to all the people who made the movie possible. But sometimes we also get rewarded with an Easter egg—a little scene that doesn’t play until the very end when almost everyone has left. It’s a little thing.

The people who left before seeing it don’t feel like they missed anything. It’s not a key part of the movie. But sometimes it can be one of the most enjoyable parts for us. When I look back at the year of doing school visits, a lot of what I remember is being sick all the time and watching every penny. At times the difficulties seemed almost unbearable. And if I had known that at the end of the year I would be back searching for a job, I might very well have given up.

Then I think back about the amazing friends I made. The fun my wife and I had traveling to schools as small as twenty students. How much time we spent laughing. The fun of bringing our kids with us when we could. Eating in tiny little restaurants in cities many Utahans have never even heard of. The overall experience was incredibly trying, and certainly not what I thought it would be. But like the Easter Eggs at the end of movies, the little things made it so wonderful.

I have no idea where I’ll be next year. When will the next Farworld book come out? How will The Fourth Nephite series turn out? Will Demon Spawn sell? Will writing become a bigger part of my life, or will it take a smaller role? I’d love to ask my future self these questions. But it’s entirely possible that even if I could, my future self would refuse to answer. You’ve probably heard the saying that the journey is more important than the destination. I would add that sometimes what makes the journey so enjoyable is not knowing exactly where or what the destination is.

As you finish up the year past and head into the dark and unknowable future that lies before you, I hope you can keep from being overwhelmed by the big picture and enjoy the little things along the path you follow. Best wishes and happy New Year.

1 comment:

Daron D. Fraley said...

As usual, a very thought provoking post. And as a non-degreed person myself (college drop-out, twice for lack of funds), I have a LOT of empathy for where you have been in your journey.

Thank you for your encouraging, positive words!