Once Upon a Time

I have always loved the world of stories, ever since I was a kid. In fact, I loved stories so much that I even made up my own little magazine when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Unfortunately that little venture almost got me expelled when I decided to do a little exposé about what “really” went on inside the Teacher’s Lounge! Some people really didn’t like that — but it was very fun, and in a way it was my first introduction into how much the passion you feel for a story can really come through to readers.

I wrote my first manuscript while in college — I was lucky enough to do some traveling, and that was an adventure from start to finish: I began writing while traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and ended while in the Serengeti! I was so inspired by my journey that the writing I did on that trip became my very first novel. After returning to college, I sent the manuscript off to publishers, and it got a great reception: it was rejected by THIRTY-TWO separate publishers!

I spent seven years brooding over those rejection letters. In the meantime I put aside my writing, and got a job in the financial industry, but those letters — along with my dream of being a writer — still nagged at me. I couldn’t stop thinking, “What if…!” So one night my wife and I stayed up all night talking, and together we made a decision. The next day I walked into the office and announced to everyone I was resigning to follow my dream of becoming a writer. The boardroom was stunned — one of my partners walked up to me, very seriously, and pressed a beat-up old business card into my hand. “Tom,” he said, “this is my therapist. You really need to call him.”

My business partners may have thought I was making a big mistake, but I knew that I really had to try. People have asked me, “Wasn’t it scary to change your job?”, and of course it’s always scary to change anything in life. But leaving the comfort of my job wasn’t nearly as scary to me as the idea of becoming an old man who looked back on his life and realized he never really tried to be what was deep in his heart. I didn’t want to look back on my life and realize that those thirty-two rejection letters had defeated me so early on!

Well, that was more than 20 years — and more than 30 books — ago, and I have not had one millisecond of looking back. It’s a cliché to say that “life is short”, but it’s true. I have always felt how important it is to be whatever we can be during our brief time on this earth. And I feel immensely grateful to have had another chance to try to do what I had longed for.