01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reinvention or Invention? (a game of Warmer-Cooler)

by M. L. Buchman

I remember a game in a personal growth workshop that I took ages ago. There's a simple kid's game called "Warmer-Cooler." For those of you who missed it, one kid is blindfolded. They take a step and the target answers with warmer or cooler depending on if you are moving toward or away from them. Eventually, the blindfolded kid reaches the target by following the general trends of "warmer" and avoiding the "cooler" directions. (Does this mean we were all uncool as kids? Hmm...)

At the workshop, the instructor reminded us of this game, then he stepped onto the floor. Warmer, cooler, warmer...a big jump in the wrong direction earned him a "cold!" And then he simply stood still and waited. And waited. And waited. No movement by the instructor equaled no response of the target.

Well, that was a huge lesson for me in a Duh! sort of way. If you don't take action (and listen), you don't move forward. I had never stopped moving, I was still too young and excited by possibilities. Since then I've done it with intent and attention.

A second story. My Dad got out of college, looked at the world, and decided that it sucked. His comment, "I gave up introspection at twenty-five as a waste of time." He was very successful at this career, and as far as my sister and I could tell, happy for none of it. He'd stopped trying. He saw the track ahead and followed it relentlessly without any thought to, well, anything.

I spent thirty years as a corporate project manager. I built computer systems, changed policies, and made office operations more efficient. I saved corporations thousands and occasionally millions. I was hard on that track to success. 

But I was also always looking for what was interesting. I think I was more excited about the challenges of each of my jobs than my father was for his at almost any time.

Warmer. Cooler.

Here's where the writing comes in.

There I was in full corporate mode...well, sorta. I'd burned out badly and was taking a break, but I knew I'd go back to corporate--as I eventually did. However, I also decided to write a story. A silly story. One that turned into my first novel and eventually my first novel sale.

A fantasy novel made perfect sense to me. I loved science fiction and fantasy. There'd been decades where I wrote nothing else. My next big book was a massive science fiction epic (still one of my personal favorites even if it is early writing).
That was the path of my reinventing my project manager self as a writer. But I was a long, long way from making this into a career. I moved a major step closer when I decided to plunge in and try my hand at writing romance.

I hadn't known about romances growing up; I was an SF/F geek after all. Then I was dragged to my first ever romance conference at about the same time as the initial release of Cookbook From Hell. I read my first romances during the nights...rather than sleeping. Totally hooked! Though it would be another ten years before I felt I'd read enough of them to try my own hand at them.

The Where Dreams series was the result. Five romances set in the heart of Seattle's Pike Place Market. (BTW, this title is currently on a rare $0.99 sale to celebrate all new covers for the series if you want to try it out.)

From there I launched into the military romantic suspense series that I'm now known for: The Night Stalkers, Firehawks, and Delta Force.

I'm a corporate project manager...except I'm not anymore. I'm a full-time writer.

I'm an SF/F writer, except I'm not anymore. I now have series in: SF/F, contemporary romance (3), military romantic suspense (3), and even thrillers.

By not buying into anyone's view of myself other than my own, I have avoided stagnating to others' stereotypes. By not buying into my own view of myself, I grow and evolve as a writer. (You've all read those writers who stop growing? The ones you stopped reading because they just weren't fun anymore? Well, guess what, they weren't having fun either...and it shows.)

I finally decided that I haven't reinvented myself. Instead, I've never stopped inventing myself. I just read an interview with Nicole Kidman: I Still Act Like I'm 21. Is it any wonder that she has four separate films up for awards at the Cannes festival?

I want to always write like I'm 21. Unafraid, seeking to always be better than I was yesterday. Taking risks. Because guess what?

Every single time I take a risk, I get a response: Warmer / Cooler. 

I'm getting warmer all the time.

M.L. Buchman started the first of, what is now over 50 novels and as many short stories, while flying from South Korea to ride his bicycle across the Australian Outback. Part of a solo around the world trip that ultimately launched his writing career.

All three of his military romantic suspense series—The Night Stalkers, Firehawks, and Delta Force—have had a title named “Top 10 Romance of the Year” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA award. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and fantasy.

Past lives include: years as a project manager, rebuilding and single-handing a fifty-foot sailboat, both flying and jumping out of airplanes, and he has designed and built two houses. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive a free starter e-library by subscribing to his newsletter at: www.mlbuchman.com


Judith Ashley said...

A perfect post for me to read just as I head off to a writer's conference. I realized a few days ago that the malaise in my life was because I'd moved away from my passion (writing and warmer) to helping a friend with dementia (old job and cooler). I've time away from the latter to sort out if there is a way to do both. And if not, what my decision will be. I don't have to totally walk away, I can divest myself of some of the tasks. I'm grateful for the time away and now I've another framework to take a look at my path and the choices along the way.

Paty Jager said...

Great post, Matt! I've never been in the corporate world but I tend to attack things head on and if they budge a little I keep pushing toward the goal. And I enjoy the heck out of writing and won't quit.

SusanD said...

Let's hear it for action. Glad you took the leap and it's really cool you're releasing those Pike Place romances.

But I rather suspect you were always on this path when you were writing corporate plans. Writing. :)

I used to write user manuals for the software I was turning over to my customers (other departments).

Paty, Be glad you weren't in the corporate world. You have to work to be creative then.

M. L. Buchman said...

I didn't start writing fiction until I was 35 (other than the one terrible short story for the obligatory and equally terrible community college weekend course). And it was so different from corporate, that I think I may have had to unlearn more than use what I had learned. LOL!

Yes, Judith, every step is a choice. It doesn't mean it's an easy one, it just means that it is in your power to choose. It's a fantastic power...and often a scary one. My answer to that has always been: find what I fear and attack it. Like Paty, I drive straight ahead, full tilt at my fears and it has served me very well over the years (even, or perhaps especially, when it really is scaring the crap out of me at the time).