Note: In the days leading up to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for my middle grade frontier adventure novel The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson on Tuesday, April 17, I’m sharing my story of how I ended up here. You can read the introductory post here, and Part One, “Into the Mist” here. Find out more about the Kickstarter campaign here.
“I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape.”
So opens Chapter 3 of The Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fantastic tale of John Carter, a Civil War soldier who staggers into a cave and awakens to find himself inexplicably transported across the galaxy to the planet Barsoom, also known as Mars.
It’s a helpful reference point for me these days. Because, if I’m being honest, the past season of life, I’ve felt a lot like our friend Captain Carter.
Yesterday, I wrote about the inspiration provided by a cloud of witnesses who nudged me out into the open waters of daring greatly as an independent artist. Today, I want to explain what that season of preparation has been like.
There are seasons in life when you awaken on Mars. You find yourself transported to a new galaxy, where the landscape is alien and you’ve got no idea where to go next. Home and the familiar seem a long way off. Sometimes, those experiences are not of our own making. We’re thrust into them like John Carter, blindsided by the transporting moments of disease or tragedy. Other times, we make choices which, though we don’t know it at the time, lead us to the cliff.
But whether it’s a decision of our own making or not, we reach the precipice just the same, and realize that we’ve been transported to a strange land, and the only acceptable action is to embrace the change and accept the challenges afforded by the new surroundings.
And that’s where I find myself today.
I believe there is an Author to the story, the One whom, if we listen carefully enough, we can hear and see working through the people, places, and situations of our own experiences. The Author shapes and moves, and when we reflect and commune with Him, we gain valuable wisdom and perspective on our story, and our place in the Big Story. So it’s through contemplation and conversation with friends about the twists and turns of my own story that I see more clearly the significance of how I got here.
Though it was more gradual than John Carter, I woke up on Mars just the same. I made the decision to strike out on the path of an independent artist, or entrepreneur, or both, which in a lot of ways is a life lived on an alien planet. I’ve got a “day job,” a family, friends, responsibilities to church and community. But I’ve also got this other life. Yep, just like Bruce Wayne, I’m walking around as a “normal guy” most of the time. But when the Bat Signal of obligation to this artistic life shines in the skies, it’s time to go to work.
After the decision to go indie came, many other realizations followed, dark, scary realizations. How does this story get Out There? What about the connections needed to make it travel? What about resources? And, the one I feel most keenly – what happens after I take the plunge? What happens after I dare greatly?
“Jump off the cliff, and learn how to make wings on the way down,” said Ray Bradbury.
I feel ya, Ray. As launch time beckons, I’m realizing there’s no way to anticipate what will happen after the plunge off the cliff.
Which brings me back to John Carter. Fortunately, blessedly, there’s one key difference between me and Captain Carter:
I’m not waking up on Mars alone.
That’s because, also this past year, friends have come out of the woodwork to join hands and wrap their arms around me in encouragement. They believe this story should be shared. They believe in what I’m doing. And, most importantly, they believe in me. Win or lose, they’re with me. That means a lot.
But isn’t one of the hardest things a person can do is to accept the affirmation and belief of another person during a time when they don’t feel it themselves? Even if it’s a belief in a gifting that I believe in myself. When it comes to leaping off the cliff and waiting for the wing-building, no amount of self-confidence or self-belief is going to suffice. Because the voices, the Resistance, whatever you want to call them, are relentless and hungry. They never stop picking you apart. But this blessed community is also relentless. And I’m choosing to let them stand in the gap for me.
That’s the difference. Daring greatly solo? Dead in the water. Daring greatly with your people around you? That’s the wind in the sails.
Here’s one final picture:
A spindly, wide-eyed 10-year old version of me falls asleep tingling with anticipation for the next day’s trip to Disney World. He’s in a bed approximately 20 miles from the front gates, and at the sheer nearness of the park, the wonders the next day will hold, he’s rendered an insomniac. Finally, blessedly, just as it seems his eyes have only the previous moment fluttered shut, he’s awakened by a whispered voice in his ear – “It’s time. Let’s go.” His dad shakes him on the shoulder, and his eyes flip open.
These are the whispered words I’ve heard in my ear. The Spirit has awakened this slumbering dreamer to a vision of a new season of calling and creativity.
I didn’t go looking for Mars. But I found it.
And I’m ready to go.