When I was six years old I imagined I wanted to be an astronomer. I was fascinated by the stars. I checked books on astronomy out of the library. But I didn’t really know what it meant to be an astronomer. I couldn’t see it, couldn’t see myself doing whatever it was astronomers do.
Much later, once I’d decided I wanted to be a writer, I can remember sending off stories to magazines like Analog and imagining what it would be like to have one of those stories accepted. It was clear in my mind how it would work. I could see receiving a letter from the editor telling me they wanted to buy my story. It was this vision that kept me writing during the first fourteen years I submitted stories. It was this vision that kept me sending out stories after collecting one rejection slip after another (many of them from Analog). Because I could see it, I knew that one day, I’d sell stories. I made my first sale in late 2006 to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show.
A few years later, I made what so far was the first of four sales to Analog, the magazine that I dreamed of appearing in from the start. Two of those sales have been fiction, and much to my surprise, two were nonfiction, guest editorials for the magazines.
I’ve recently started writing fiction again, after a five-year bout of writer’s block. I have a new plan now, one that involves writing ten novels over the next ten years, all as practice so that when I retire from my day job at the end of that ten year period, I can try my hand at writing full-time. I’m beginning to see that first novel sale in my mind the way I saw that first short story sale. It’s not a strong vision yet, it’s still fuzzy around the edges, but I think it will clear up as I improve my craft.
This idea of being able to clearly visualize a goal has helped me beyond just my writing. Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by airplanes. I wanted to be a pilot. I even considered Embry-Riddle as a possible school when I was looking at colleges. I read The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual as a kid, and I used to sit around drawing Cessna control panels on days when I was bored. Later, when Microsoft Flight Simulator came out, I had a much more realistic way of feeding that particular curiosity.
Finally, in the summer of 1999, I began to take flying lessons at Van Nuys airport just north of Los Angeles. During that time I worked in Santa Monica and commuted home to Studio City each day, often stopping at the airport for a lesson. I remember clearly sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway, heading north, and imagining myself flying. I remember being particularly nervous at the thought of soloing. It’s one thing to have the vision, but something else entirely to find yourself in an airplane, a thousand feed above the ground and the only person who can get you back down is you. But I did solo, and on April 3, 2000, I passed my check ride and received my private pilot’s license.
Vision helps me in small ways, too. When I am writing something, be it a story, or a blog post, if I can picture the result, and the result excites me, I know I have something good. If I can’t picture that result, I know that I need to go in a different direction. I wish I could easily give up and move in another direction in these situation, but I don’t always do it. And often, when I don’t have the vision, the story or post just doesn’t work.
When I think about the things I have achieved that seemed like day-dreams to me at the story: selling stories, flying planes, I realize that I have been pretty lucky. The ability to use visualization as a kind of barometer for success has been a useful tool for me along the way. I sometimes forget about it, but as I move forward into this new chapter, one in which I am trying to see myself as a full-time writer (albeit ten years hence), I am trying to see that future incarnation of myself more clearly every day.