That's the truth, Book Fan…
I was bored out of my effing mind—which seemed to have a kind of irony to it, seeing as I was studying brains at the time…
Allow me to explain.
The year was 2014, and I was floating through the first year of my neuroengineering PhD program. “Floating” being the key word there.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the science. I always will. Put me in a room with a professor ready to speculate about brain-machine interfaces, sensory processing, digital consciousness, and so forth, and I would gladly talk for hours—animatedly waving my hands and talking entirely too fast all the while.
I love talking about ideas.
But when those same professors put pipette and notebook (or, more accurately, computer, rat, and electrode) in my hands and said, “Okay, now test that idea…”
NEXT STOP: Rude Awakening Central
Not that it was any fault of my professors. Not at all.
I just found out pretty quickly that I wasn't all that interested in the day-to-day benchwork that is the backbone of most academic neuroscience.
In fact, all I ever really wanted to do (aside from talk on and on and on about theory) was get home from the lab so I could dive back into my latest infatuation.
Supernatural. Dresden Files. Game of Thrones. Doctor Who. Bioshock. Metal Gear Solid. Uncharted.
Games… Movies… Books… Shows…
It seemed all I ever really wanted to do was get lost in fun stories.
But what was a story-loving scientist guy to do?
Well, as a wise man named Pee-Wee Herman once said, “If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?”
Maybe Pee-Wee was on to something…
If I wanted to spend my time immersed in story, why NOT try my own hand at the stuff? Why not make it my life?
I'd written plenty of ideas down over the years, but never anything beyond a basic concept or premise.
Certainly never an entire novel.
I didn't know where to start.
Then one day, as I sat down for yet another evening spent playing Diablo 3 and listening to science podcasts, it hit me…
That place, having no idea where to start… That's exactly WHERE you start!
In fact, by that logic, I'd already started.
Wow! I thought to my aggressively cheerful self that night. At this rate, this book is practically going to write itself!
It so didn't.
I fumbled. I stumbled. I did other things that may or may not rhyme with fumbled and stumbled.
In short, I was… wait for it… humbled.
But the more I wrote, the deeper I fell in love with the process.
The months ticked by, and, while I kept on top of classes and lab work, more and more, all I could think about was getting home each day to write.
Then I got the call from my mom.
My father was sick.
And not just sick, I realized as I listened to her explain the extent of his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
He was dying.
I've never been one to react strongly to major life turns—be they wonderful or terrible. So, as I was wont to do, I went with the flow. I kept up with school. I went home to visit as often as I could. I kept chipping away at my story ideas—albeit halfheartedly.
When it was time, I put grad school on pause and went home to sit vigil alongside my mom for what would be my father's final month.
It wasn't pretty. But I was glad I was able to be there.
And if you're wondering why I'm telling you all this, well…
I'll admit, I'd be lying if I said I realized this at the time. And this is not a lead up to some grand proclamation that all I do is in honor of the man.
But thinking back on it now, I'm pretty sure that watching the strong, brutally intelligent world-explorer who was my father die well before his time gave me a bigger kick in the ass than any amount of discontented career boredom ever could have.
So when I returned to Philly, I started investigating the publishing industry. I stumbled into the world of self-publishing.
A world where I wouldn't necessarily have to start with who knew how many decades and piles of rejection letters?
A world where I could take control and maybe even build a career out of this writing thing I was suddenly driven to the gills to make work?
I was so hooked it was kind of scary.
I studied dozens of successful indie authors. I studied principles of business and marketing, cover design and ad copy. I learned everything I could.
And all the while, writing, writing, writing—finding my voice, honing my craft.
I started having crazy ideas. Audacious aspirations.
I saw the indies out there making real livings with their fiction, and I couldn't unsee it. I wanted it—needed it.
I had to make it happen.
But I needed more time. An hour or two each evening wasn't enough.
I'd just witnessed all too clearly how unexpectedly short life can be, after all.
So I decided to grab my master's degree and abandon thePhD ship. I amicably parted ways with my professors (and my oh-so-welcome stipend).
And then I jumped out of the airplane with no parachute.
Now, to put this into perspective, you have to understand, it's not uncommon for me to take 15 minutes deciding which shirt I'm going to wear… on a day I'm not even going to leave the house.
I'm probably not alone in saying I've often spent an hour or more browsing Netflix, trying to decide what to watch that night, only to realize I've burned all my designated viewing time just trying to pick something.
I'm not the guy who makes major life decisions lightly—and certainly not without doing the arithmetic three times first, just to be sure.
But, somehow, taking this dive was one of the most natural decisions of my life. Natural, that is, and utterly terrifying.
But I was pretty sure I could make it work. I had to make it work.
For the first time in my life, my back was actually to the wall.
And I was exhilarated…
Now, mind you, it's been far from smooth sailing since that initial leap. Even today, the ground still feels wobbly beneath my feet at times.
There's good reason graphics like this one are so popular:
But, for the most part, things are working out…
I was bored. And now I'm an authorpreneur.
(It's totally a word. Kind of.)
More importantly, I'm an authorpreneur who gets to eat (albeit frugally) thanks to my fiction.
And most importantly, it's you I have to thank for all of this.
You—and readers like you—are the reason I get to do what I love every day (and make enough to scrape by doing it).
This is why I wanted to share this story with you—to more clearly illustrate just what your support actually means to my life.
So thank you so, so much for reading.
It's a dream come true. Literally.
And now that you've heard my story, I'd love to hear some more of yours.
Don't be shy.
Come join our Facebook group of avid book geeks and say hi!
Luke R. Mitchell
P.S. If I actually kept your riveted this long with my boring little life story, you're gonna freaking LOVE what I can do when I'm making it all up!
Check out my books page to browse my wares. (Two completed series at the time of this re-posting. Which leads me to my next point…)
P.P.S. – Introduction – Typically, I'm told one is meant to place an “introduction” before the material that is to be introduced. In this case, though, I decided, “Ah, hell with it.”
I wrote this little accounting well over a year ago—maybe two, I'm not so good at remembering these things—as part of the welcome sequence for new mailing list subscribers. Going back over said sequence recently, I decided I might as well put it up here on the site for the whole damn world to see. (Because the whole damn world DOES care deeply about my life story, right? Right?!)
Anyway, much as my current self wanted to go back and edit the crap out of certain parts, I decided to re-post it pretty much verbatim, both because editing it probably would've been a fruitless waste of time, and because it somehow seemed far more appropriate for me to share the time capsule version of how I perceived these things back when I was fresh off the decision of, well, deciding to jump out of that plane without a parachute.
I'm still glad I did.
Stability in this vocation, it turns out, (financial, creative, mental) has remained a much more finicky target than I'd dared to hope it may be. Life is hard sometimes. But I'm still glad I did.
Now, I'd better go write more books.
Cheers ad infinitum,