The one in which I reassess my life and contemplate my future … which should be about as entertaining for you to read as a stock prospectus for an embalming-fluid company, except less so

My mother gave me that album when I was seven years old, and it changed my life … for the better, I used to think … but now I’m starting to wonder.

To make a long story slightly less long than it’s probably going to end up being anyway — because we all know how much I love the sound of my own voice — that album, and the band that made it, basically carved into my young and impressionable DNA the lifelong belief that I should never give up on my dreams. (Spending one’s childhood worshipping four dudes who not only became rock stars, but who also became bona fide comic-book superheroes, will do that to a kid … especially a scrawny little pipsqueak of a kid whose love of music became both an escape from a rocky childhood and adolescence, and a source of strength and inspiration straight through adulthood.)

That “You can make your dreams come true” philosophy allowed me to spend most of my life believing I was destined for greatness … although just what form that greatness would take always remained something of a mystery to me. Would I be a rock star? For a while, I thought I would. Learned how to play the drums and everything. Sadly, KISS never called. Assholes.

Unsure of what to do next, I joined the army and spent a few years operating under the misguided notion that I would pursue a career in law enforcement. Fortunately, I got over that … and, even more fortunately, my time in the army gave me some much needed discipline and self-confidence, attributes in which I had been sorely lacking, and both of which served to further steel my resolve that I would, in fact, achieve greatness … whatever that might mean.

Having ruled out careers in both music and law enforcement, my search for the path to my dream life continued. A Howard Stern-inspired foray into college radio followed, and it was while attending college that I discovered three very important things:

  1. Radio is a shitty industry.
  2. I am not Howard Stern.
  3. I have a natural talent for writing.

Fortunately, that last one finally gave me something to work with. Music was out, law enforcement was out and radio was out … but, lo and behold, I could write. Hallelujah.

I’ve already documented in great (some would say “excruciating”) detail my adventures with Van Halen, and have often mentioned my post-Van Halen life as a music journalist (which, much to my inner child’s delight, actually included interviewing and photographing KISS). Suffice it to say that finding a way to make a living by listening to music, going to concerts and occasionally hanging out with some of my musical idols felt like the ultimate validation of my decision to hold on to my dreams and pursue a career that I loved. I worked hard, I took some chances, I believed in myself … and it all paid off — for a while.

For years, the writing I did as a music journalist was the only writing I did at all … and whatever part of me believes I have some creativity of my own to offer was always painfully aware that, as well-written as I like to believe my reviews, interviews and other articles may have been, working as a music journalist is, by its very nature, a parasitic existence. Someone else would create something original and entertaining — and, sometimes, inspiring — and I would write about it. Great way to make a living; not a great way to prove to yourself that you, too, are capable of creating something original and entertaining — and, with any luck, occasionally inspiring.

Then, about six or seven years ago, I discovered Dooce.com, and immediately was inspired to launch a blog of my own. The realization that I could just start publishing my own writing on the Internet, and that there might actually be an audience for such nonsense, was a life-altering moment for me. There’s a big difference between walking around for years saying to yourself “I know I can write” and actually writing … and there’s a big difference between writing in private and putting it out there for all to see. Blogging finally gave me the forum I’d been looking for.

And so, for a number of years, I made a living as a music journalist while simultaneously finding my own writing style, or creative voice, or whatever you want to call it, as a blogger. It wasn’t necessarily the dream life I had envisioned, but it seemed like a pretty good place to plateau for a while. Plus, watching Dooce.com go from being a little website with no ads to being an Internet behemoth that generates oodles of cash left me (and 9 bazillion other bloggers) thinking, “Hey, I might be able to pull that off, too! Blogging will pave the way to fame and fortune!”

Five years later, I’m famous among dozens and my blog has generated enough cash that, if I budgeted very carefully, I could probably take my wife out for a nice meal and have enough left over to buy myself a pair of pants — assuming that the pants are on sale and can be paid for in monthly installments … all of which would seem less depressing to me if I was still in my 30s, working from home as a music journalist … but the music-journalism job came to a crashing halt last year, and now I’m in my 40s, working in a cubicle as a web developer.

That dream life I mentioned? I’m fairly certain it doesn’t look like this:

In my dreams, I do not dress like this

I also am fairly certain it doesn’t involve perpetually being one unexpected automotive repair away from financial ruin.

And, above all else, I’m absolutely, positively certain that it does involve writing my own original material.

When I was in my 20s, achieving personal, professional and financial success as a writer seemed like an excellent goal that I had plenty of time to work toward. When I was in my 30s, achieving personal, professional and financial success as a writer seemed like a goal that I was moving toward, albeit in a slow and meandering fashion.

I’m 41. It’s time to either make this shit happen or shut the fuck up and embrace mediocrity.

Fortunately — or, depending on how you look at it, unfortunately — I’m not capable of doing the latter.

Problem is, I haven’t had any luck figuring out how to accomplish the former.

I had long been counting on my father-in-law to help guide my writing career. It is one of the main reasons I was willing to relocate to Pennsylvania. Sadly, that plan got annihilated in mind-blowingly epic fashion last summer. Looks like I’ll have to figure this out on my own.

Blogging has most definitely helped me grow as a writer, but it seems clear that blogging alone ain’t gonna pay the bills, nor will it completely fulfill my personal and professional career goals.

So now what? Write a book? Write a script? Write a ransom note?

Financially speaking, that last one is probably my best bet … but the threat of ending up as some prison bully’s wife has me shying away from that option. Thus, the answer right now is a resounding “I don’t know” … but I intend to figure it out.

And then I intend to do it.

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46 Comments

  1. Allyssa
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    It’s funny how this thing called life works out, huh? I always wanted to be a judge. Now I’m a relatively good lawyer at a gov’t agency that really doesn’t need great lawyers, only decent ones, so most days, I just read blogs like yours. I’m a mom of 2 small children and I already don’t feel like I have enough time for my children, so I revolt against any thought of changing jobs because mine is so easy that I can spend the bulk of my day planning my Extreme-couponing-inspired shopping trips, scheduling kids’ appointments, catching up on Parenting magazine, researching baby sleep issues, whatever, and most importantly, get off at 4:30pm, so I can spend time with my kids every night. Big bad lawyers in the private sector can’t make those claims. So I stick around and tell myself its for my kids, but its also because I’m scared of getting swallowed alive by the real world. Whatever you attempt to do with your writing, let us know if you write a book…I’ll buy it.

  2. Jamie, Mom of 3
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Dude, if you wrote a book, I’d buy that book.

  3. Jane
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    I’d buy it too.

    45 years and still looking for that elusive “something” that ignites my passion – at least you’ve got writing.

    Thanks for being so open & honest.

  4. Sheppitsgal
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I’d buy it as well (make sure there’s a Kindle edition!!)

    Ooh, and congrats on making the finals of PW Action shots 🙂 x

  5. Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Me too (I’d buy it).

    Your writing helps many of us stumble through our own variations of the “not my dream” days, including my own. Not that I’m saying you should stick to blogging at the expense of other possible outlets. Only that you should not underestimate the impact your blog has had on your readers (all several dozen of us?).

    I started my own blog a couple of years ago, largely as a way to document my daughters’ lives for their grandmothers. That’s still what it is, but I find that life keeps getting in the way of my actually writing things down (lately), and that makes the blog less “useful” as an artifact the grandmothers (or the daughters) can go back to.

    What am I trying to say? I’m not sure, except that I’ve enjoyed reading you and am there with you in the “make it happen” camp. Go do it. We’ll read you! And thanks for the writing to this point.
    pvz´s most recent blog post: its an earache- nothing but an earacheMy Profile

  6. Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Being a grown up kinda sucks sometimes, doesn’t it? I think most of us struggle with where and what we want to be when we “grow up,” as “growing up” seems more and more like a moving, deferred target. I’ve had the same feelings the past couple weeks with trying to figure out where I want to be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. I used to think I knew; now I’m not sure.
    In any event, I’d find a way to make time to do the things that matter and mean something to you, like writing. Early in the a.m. or late at night (I do the latter), but one way or another, find a way to do it. I don’t know if you watch TV or not, but if you do, quit! Maybe commit to a page a day and see where your fingers take you!

  7. Katrina
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Your honesty is always refreshing. It’s nice to know that someone else out there is in the same phase of mediocrity that I’m stuck in. I like my job, I like my life, but I don’t LOVE either. Until I figure out a plan b, I’m going to just sit here and continue doing this and that to get me through the day. I’m always dreaming of doing all these spectacular things but I’ve never done any of them. Time to change? Probably…but how in the hell do I go about that??

  8. Bethie
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I feel a little stuck sometimes, too….I like my job okay, and I make decent money, but it’s not my dream. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up – I’m 34 – and I’m okay with that, but I’m not at the same time. I have a son to support, and can’t afford to take less money, but if I started in a new field, that’s what I would have to do.
    Hell, I just don’t know. I try to remember that I’m luckier than so many others, but that doesn’t always help.
    I do know I would pre-order that book of yours like crazy if you write it 🙂

  9. Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I love that you have a real lamp in your cubicle. That shows that you have not given up. I also like the details in the background–the photo of you and MommyScratches, the kid-art, the plant, and the clear plastic cup which I assume is holding vodka lemonade.

    I will turn 50 in two weeks. I work in a cubicle making less money than I made as a part-time freelancer, until my freelancing business tanked.

    But damn, I am all that AND a bag of chips. I just got my stellar 6-month review to prove it. No raise, though.

    Keep on keeping on, DaddyS. You are allthat, too.

  10. Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Welcome back!!!! And, I’d buy a book you wrote, too.
    “Susan Says…”´s most recent blog post: Arnold Schwarzenegger- the BarbarianMy Profile

  11. Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    My mediocrity really pisses me off. I mean, can I not be freaking awesome at SOMETHING? Why must I be average…or below average…at every damn stinkin thing I set out to do?

    So please write an awesome book. Or at least write a great post that I can relate to so much that it’s cathartic just to read. Oh wait…you just did.
    Madiantin´s most recent blog post: Prom and fencing funMy Profile

  12. Lunch
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I understand your desire to exceed mediocrity (indicated by fame and fortune) but don’t forget the daily things that make you great. Today I made a great sandwich. Really. I just ate it and it was awesome. I held the door for an elderly woman who genuinely appreciated it. That was great. I could tell. I told my son he played a great ballgame and he looked up at me and said “Thanks, Dad” in that 8-year old voice. There’s nothing greater…

    You know, once you start seeing the greatness in the everyday things you do, the opportunities for success start presenting themselves to you. Mediocrity then falls away and you’re left with the “fame and fortune” you desire.

  13. Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I am on the same wagon, as far as hating where I’m at (I teach adults in a vocational school setting), but being unsure of where to go next. I make decent money working 25 hours a week as an adjunct, but all the shit I have to put up with to make that money is soul-crushing. My boyfriend works days and I work nights, so we see each other for a couple hours while eating a meal, doing chores, and then going to bed. Being a grownup blows. Write a book, I’d definitely buy one.
    Jennifer F.´s most recent blog post: They say its your birthday- its my birthday too- yeah! -DMy Profile

  14. Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just read the post about your father-in-law and am weeping for you all.
    I’d buy the book.
    Blogging has taught me that I am not a writer. You are.
    Don’t stop. Don’t you dare.
    Janet NZ´s most recent blog post: YumMy Profile

  15. Posted May 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I vote for “write a book,” too! I would definitely get it.
    I don’t have any great words of wisdom to add, but I definitely understand where you are coming from.

  16. Posted May 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    At least you know what you want and are willing to take a shot to get it. Here I am staring at 43 and don’t have a damn clue. I vaguely remember having hopes and dreams back when I was in high school – but damned if I know where they went or what they were.

    Write the book – I will buy it.
    Gigi´s most recent blog post: Why yes- I may be just a tad addictedMy Profile

  17. Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if you will figure it out as much as it will find you. You have a talent. At some point all the seeds you’ve planted will grow. You just need to keep nurturing your dreams by doing what you are good at and I do believe in the end they will come true. Maybe even beyond your expectations.
    melanie´s most recent blog post: Even Goddesses Mess Up SometimesMy Profile

  18. Amy K.
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    As one of several dozen fans (!), I look forward to every single post you write here. I too would buy the book. Just sayin’.

  19. heidig
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I’d buy your book so now you’ve got a handful of books sold – get at it!

  20. Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Unless MS Office’s word count feature is misfiring, you just wrote your book’s preface. I say get yourself some Dragon, use it in the car to and from work, and go for it. If nothing else, it’s better than spending the commute listening to KISS. (There. I said it. OH YES I DID.)

  21. Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Will you warn us when you’re going to stop blogging? Because that will be the saddest day of my hollow, lonely life.

  22. Shawnm750
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Lunch. You have to give yourself credit for doing some great things that a lot of people don’t do. You’re a great dad and husband, which while less glamorous and exciting than a butt-rockin’ music star’s life may be, is far more important (and respectable.) After all, is it better to be admired and remembered by crowds of people you’ve never met, and only remember you for your music, or your book? Or is it better to be loved by your wife, kids and family members who will never forget that you sacrificed your dreams so that they could have a good life?

    I think you would be able to write a great book. You could do well to even write some sitcom material. But, I think where you could really make a splash would be either writing (or possibly hosting) a travel show that was music based. Heck, to get it off the ground, you could put together some of your won webisodes on Youtube or something.

    Whatever you do though, remember that you’ve already accomplished so much more than most people. And while the only t-shirt your face may be on is the one your kids made for Father’s Day, or your birthday, it’ll mean more to you than any shirt you could ever buy at a concert (or out of a trailer on a roadside next to a fleece blanket with a giant wolf’s head on it.)

  23. Posted May 20, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    That’s all life is, after all — figuring it out and then doing it. Good for you, Jon. The striving is all.
    RuthWells´s most recent blog post: No AnswersMy Profile

  24. Bratgirl
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    As someone who went to college for far too long earning a degree I really didn’t need in order to do what I wanted in life and now is STILL paying on the loans for said degree while working part time in a fairly unrelated job while being a full time mommy to two…I’ve long ago realized that MY only option was to embrace mediocrity. And so…I have.

    Please don’t give up and live in the squirrel maze. Some one has to make it out and it might as well be you. After all…I need stuff to read during my mental breakdown. K? Thx.

  25. Posted May 20, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Thank you. This is very much what I am dealing with also, although I’m creeping up on the 32 year mark and I’m already over it. Something has to change. I’m not quite into the open revolt stage yet, but I’m getting closer and one day *Vesuvius* 🙂 Until then, it’s just small acts of rebellion and change and personal gratification/expansion.

  26. Jackie
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I thought you were already famous…. You have I don’t know how many followers for your blog. I have only ever read positive comments from your “fans”. An NOW

    • Jackie
      Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      (sorry someone came in my office and I hit the wrong button)
      And NOW you have your “fans” telling you they would buy a book you write just because they enjoy the blog you write.

      I’d say you are a little above mediocre. 😉

  27. Posted May 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Write for the love of it. Should it happen that you can support yourself and yours with the writing, all the better. But first, write for the love of writing.

    And keep on blogging, too. You are building an audience that will serve you well should you publish a book. With a live traffic Feedjit widget, I frequently “see” visitors to my site leaving it for yours and other blogs.

    For what it’s worth, I thought your photo at The Pioneer Woman should have won.
    Gullible´s most recent blog post: Early BloomersMy Profile

  28. Lisa
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I found your blog through a link at Gullible’s Travels and sometimes on Friday’s when the boss is out, I log in to read your latest. I definately would buy your book. You could write it with the same humor you use in your blog about your everyday life. People can relate to this and I never fail to smile when I read your stuff!

  29. Posted May 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    You know what, you are 5 steps ahead of the me. I’m still trying to figure out what my dream is and I’m 46 and I’m currently unemployed. So, next steps maybe be vague, but there are steps you’ve already taken. And one of them is – I’m gonna follow this dream.
    Ditto on buying a book written by you. I love reading your blog.
    non-believer´s most recent blog post: ryking-“If Housepets Were Libertarians”My Profile

  30. sadie
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    As many people have already said, there are many things that you are GREAT at. Through your blog, you have shared what a loving husband you are and how much you charish your children – even through the most challenging stages. Your love for your extended family shows that you have a tremendous heart. Working at your job allows you to pay the bills, put food on the table, buy a doll baby that poops , take your son to baseball games, take WW out for a few drinks, (insert all the hysterically funny or heart-warming blog themes in here – even if they were pre-cubicle job). Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees – It seems like “Everyone Loves Raymond…I mean…Daddyscratches” going on here. When the time comes, you will take your “average” life and put the Daddyscratches spin on it and pump out something special…a book (yes, I’d buy it too)…a play…a TV script…the sky is the limit…maybe you just need some more time to “cook”…time to have more “average” experiences. Hang in there – I love your blog and the dry spell is agonizing for all of us b/c you brighten up OUR average, mediocre lives….

  31. Kathy
    Posted May 21, 2011 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    I’d like a book too.

  32. Cath
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    That “in my dreams…” comment and photo was the first time that I have read something on your blog that made me spit out whatever it was that I was drinking at the time, and I’ve been reading you for nigh on 3 years I think. Maybe dead pan well written humour with pics is your thing. I keep scrolling back just to see the photo again and again…

  33. Torph
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if I’ve ever left a comment here…I’m one of your silent and older (57 yrs young) readers. I come to your blog to read about your life. Your love for your family and those around you is amazing as is your honesty and sense of humor. I followed one of my dreams which was to travel around Africa helping people to help themselves. After raising my family there I decided a few years ago to return to the States. I cherish those times when I was younger and doing what I loved. But I also cherish the times now when I live in the mundane working a job that’s just okay and living an average life. I have often wanted to write about my journeys but don’t feel I’m an accomplished enough writer to be able to express myself. You my friend have a remarkable gift, one I wish I had. Hang in there and I know that it will work out. There are time when I felt stuck but if I persevered I got past that hard place. When you do write your book I want to be one of the first people in line to buy it. I believe in you………

  34. Bonnie B.
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Your honesty leaves me speechless. Your humor tests the limits of my bladder control. (TMI?) Write the first book. I have a hunch others will follow.

  35. Posted May 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Jon, are you getting you inspire people? I remember seeing a comment over on AmazingTrips.com several years ago and I clicked over to your blog; and didn’t stop reading it for days! I think you have quite a gift, and your book could turn into most hilarious sitcom ever! Nice to see you back here.
    Meg at the Members Lounge´s most recent blog post: Oh God- She’s a Chef!My Profile

  36. Jamie, Mom of 3
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Hey! Your photo won a prize!

  37. Posted May 24, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    You sound like me. Except I have no writing creds. I always think about this too and I think the blogosphere, although a good motivator, it takes some steam out of the actuall process. You need people. People to push and bounce ideas of off. People to work with and listen too.

    I offer this out, I live on the other side of Philly from you, we can do a I want to be a writer meet up in Plymouth meeting or some where in the middle. Bounce ideas.
    Send me an email.
    batmeaks@verizon dot net.

  38. Chris
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Keep blogging! I’m 44 and still don’t have my shit together. I work at home for my husband’s construction company and goof off. I would also buy your book! You could put some awesome photos in it, like the one you posted at Pioneer Woman. I was laughing my ass off when I saw that, because I know she doesn’t have a clue who was in the picture, let alone who Trent is. Rock on with your bad self!

  39. Molly
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Jon;
    I consider myself a fairly conservative (personally, not politically!) middle-age Swedish Lutheran chick. In other words, I’ve got attitude…but I’m not going to tell you about it(and I might get pissy if you don’t guess on your own). I have been a lurker in your blog for a number of months and want to let you know the most compelling reason I have for you to continue writing for me: You are the best writer of curse and swear words I have ever read! Many aspects of your…voca-blue-ary…have surfaced in my day to day life. Just the other day, I was at the grocery story and have a great deal of trouble picking out tea. I found myself saying OUTLOUD “Well, F*$@ this S*(t” and realizing at that point, just how much your words have sunk into my verbal life. Please! Don’t make me stop swearing!

  40. Tarin
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I was just reading an interesting article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review and focused on the lack of the office as a setting for a book. Some claim it would be too boring, but how many books are set in suburbia?

    You’re welcome.

  41. Posted May 25, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a book could be a good idea. Just stay true to your voice, give yourself a couple of years to draft, edit, revise, query… all in your “free” time. But yeah, looks as if you’ll have a few folks lined up at your first signing – that’s half the battle. Go find your muse, my friend. Hopefully one with badass tights and silver face paint.
    Heidi H´s most recent blog post: Wow! What a beautiful foal- and excellent photos tMy Profile

  42. Heather
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    You go tiger!

    apparently the above is to short and your commenter thingy doesnt like it so im adding this sentence to satisfy the comment gods. i think the above statement stands alone quite nicely, just sayin

  43. Posted June 3, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Sup Scratches,
    I came over from Muskrat Dad. Glad I did. Felt like this post was written for me. A major career changed has me feeling ALL the stuff you wrote here. I’ll be around, you got some good stuff to say. Thanks,

    Later,
    Jason
    The Cheeky Daddy
    Jason´s most recent blog post: Graduation DayMy Profile

  44. just jill
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Hey… thanks for this, and thanks to Lunch’s comment about embracing the little things in life.

    Just wanna say you rock, and I love you. Keep on keepin’ on; after you write your book and do the tour thingy – you’d better come to Utah; I’ll be the first in line. 🙂

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