oday I am a writer. A writer with a day job, but a writer nonetheless.
I’m not one to define a person by their work or their occupation. Never have been. I believe that people are far more complex and multi-faceted…too nuanced and with too many sedimentary layers piled up on the seabed of their soul…to define them by the work they do to pay the rent and put new Nikes on the kids. I certainly never want to be defined by my day job. I’m not a Business Continuity Manager or a Change Management Manager or a network engineer any more than I was a fisherman when I worked on salmon boats in Alaska. Whether or not I was masquerading as a fisherman (or a Business Continuity Manager or a Change Management Manager or a network engineer) is debatable, but commercial fishing was never who I was. It was something I did in order to pull together the money to support the person I did define myself as at that time: a traveler.
The last sixteen years have been more or less devoted to being Married Guy (which has been great!) and catching up on all the income and retirement nest eggyness that I didn’t accumulate during the ten years I spent wandering the earth getting into adventures. But I’ve caught up now. I’m fortunate and blessed to have been able to load up the piggy bank a bit and now it’s time to become what I’ve always wanted to be and what I’ve not allowed myself to be: a writer. With that said, as much as I want to abandon the day job and write full time, I can’t. Not yet. So for the time being there will be a parenthetical tag following “Michael Raymond, writer” and that will be “(with a day job).” I can live with that.
In 2014 I accomplished a lifelong goal: I wrote a novel. Notice that I didn’t say I published a novel. But I did write one. It’s 130,057 words of first draft fury and it’s called The Gospel of Isabelle Dequenne. It’s about a French woman who makes her triumphant return to France fifty years after fleeing her home country as a teenage refugee during WWII. Her triumphant return doesn’t go as planned and the story relates her struggle for redemption and acceptance as she confronts the ghosts of her past. So that—the story—is out there. The problem is it’s in first draft form. And the problem with it being in first draft form is that it perfectly exemplifies Hemingway’s description of all first drafts: “The first draft of anything is shit.”
I harbor no illusions. The first draft of Isabelle is awful. But the critical thing is that it’s written. And it won’t stay awful. The story—rough and ugly, bent and misshapen as it is, with its itchy rash, extra eyeball, gap-toothed smile and its shoulder hump – my pretty little beast in all its knuckledragging glory—has slouched forth to be born. It breathes and it speaks. Its face seeks the sun and it whispers to me in my sleep. It dreams. It aspires. And this year I’m going to turn it into a goddamn swan. Because I’m a writer.