Monday, 29 December 2014

Guest Post: J.P. Jackson: Bucket List

Bucket List Item #09: Unchecked

I think everyone has a list of things that they want to realize in life. I really started to think about my personal list during my late thirties. After all, that’s usually our mid-way point in life and a time where we start taking stock of what we’ve accomplished. Death is everyone’s final item on that so-called bucket list, whether we want it there or not, it’s something we all inevitably will do. After that’s been checked off, there’s no turning back, no second chances: you are done.

My bucket list over the years has grown, and I’m pretty sure that there’s no way I’m going to be able to complete all the goals I’ve set before myself. The more I travel, the more people I meet, the more things I eat, smell, see and do, the more I think, I gotta do that!

Admittedly, my list is fairly selfish, but then I think really that’s the point.

#26: Go SCUBA diving and see an eel garden 

I recently was able to cross this off my list. I’ve always wanted to see the waving tiny snake-like creatures swaying back and forth in the current, only to slip into their burrow should you come too close. In fact, at first I had no idea what I was looking at. It simply looked like ocean floor turtle grass, and then I got too close while standing on the sandy floor, when – slip! I looked closer and noticed that the grass had tiny eyes, two of them on each blade. How exciting! There it was, an ocean floor bed covered in tiny eels. Did I personally become a better person? No. Did I make the world or my corner of it better for the next person? Again, no the list is selfish.

#44: See monkeys in the wild 

For all the travel I’ve done, I have yet to be able to check this item off. I’ve been to several places in Mexico, and to Belize, Honduras and Venezuela, where primates run wild. To date there has not been a single sighting. Don’t ask me why this particular item is on the Bucket List - I have no idea, it just is. I’m quite sure that one day, it will come true, but for right now, it remains as it is without a checkmark next to it.

#09: Write a book and have it published

Another item yet to be completed, but one I’m actively working on. It took me a while to get up the courage to even start writing. I’ve had ideas swirling around my head for years, tales and sagas of strange and wonderful creatures. I have an affinity for anything with wings, tails, horns, and magic. I grew up in a house that fostered creativity although I know deep down my father would have preferred I had been more interested in hockey, something to this day I still chuckle over.

Despite the lack of team sport interest, dad would drive me all over the city to acting lessons, piano recitals, and to the art store for supplies. Any left-over spare time was spent with my nose inside a book, usually something by Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks or Anne Rice. Dad on the other hand had his cardboard box under his bed stuffed full of old dog-eared Louis L’ Amour westerns, where Mom had bookshelves full of Agatha Christie murder-mystery novels. It really comes as no surprise that I’ve taken the next evolutionary step from drawing, painting, playing music, reading, acting – all the way to writing. The creative challenge of putting words into a structure that can convey the meaning in my head is for me far harder than attempting to draw something, although truth be told, I was never a great painter.

Does that mean I’m any better of an author? Hell no. In fact, waiting until my forties to start the scripting journey just means I have a lot of catching up to do, and a whole lot of learning ahead. But unlike viewing the eel garden or seeing primates this journey is one of self-growth. Let’s face facts: by going through the process of becoming a published author, I will have tucked away many new skills into that personal toolkit we all have and use daily. For instance, what is the correct placement of a comma? I still struggle with that one. Sigh.

But, and here’s the big but, achieving this bucket list item does not mean following the self-publishing route. Of course, I could, and there’s nothing really wrong with that, but it’s not for me.

There’s something romantic and personally self-satisfying about checking off that bucket list item by doing it the old fashioned hard way. And let’s face it, getting published the old way is bloody hard. In fact, it’s nearly impossible.

1) Write a story

2) Find someone to read the story

3) Find someone else to edit the story

4) Re-write the same story again and make it better

5) Create your query letters

6) Send your query letters out to hundreds of agents

7) Have an agent contact you back and express interest

8) Re-write that same story a third time based off of your agent’s critique, someone who is in the business and connected and knows what sells and what doesn’t

9) Have the agent accept your re-write and start the process of pitching your book to the big publishing houses in London and New York

10) Have a publishing house contact you, through your agent and negotiate the terms of your story being printed into hardcover books, complete with cover art, an author bio, and a sparkling review of your work from an existing author in the field.

11.) Seeing your book, that you wrote, and spent years devoting unpaid hours to sitting on the bookshelf of your local book store.

I’m tingling with excitement right now. Goosebumps are all the way up my arms. I fantasize about what the cover art would look like, and imagine the calls for interviews and book signings. I dream about lucrative writing deals.

This process, as long and arduous and nearly impossible to achieve, is how I see myself being a published author. It is the only way I will be able to check that bucket list item off and not feel like I’ve cheated myself.

Will it ever happen? Perhaps...and then again, maybe not. I know one thing for sure: it absolutely will never happen if I don’t try. So I carve out time as often as I possibly can to develop my novel. I’m still really only on step one, but I have at least started the adventure.

I suppose, if after I’ve done everything I possibly could do to make my story the best I can, and no publishing deal comes around, I might consider self-publishing, but not until.

So here I sit, working hard at becoming a published author, and item #09 on the Bucket List remains blank, unchecked.

J.P. Jackson


Author Profile
J.P. Jackson  is the author of the upcoming fantasy, Into the Dark. You can read his other article on finding inspiration by clicking here.