The Beginning of a Journey

So, last week, I left my job.  I was working at a rehab center for drug and alcohol addicts and teaching creative writing.  Wow, how do I even begin to tell you about that amazing experience?  The kids changed my life.  So did the stories I heard from people in recovery.  (More on this as the blog develops.)

But there is something else out there for me.  I wanted, and have always wanted, to be a writer.  Below is a picture of my new writing desk.  A friend was clearing out her apartment, and she gave me the desk for $10.  The old desk was a tiny IKEA mess.

All along the walls of my room are post-it notes with ideas for stories.  Some of them will be unsuccessful; others, I believe, will be published stories, poems, and other projects.  And it’s only the beginning.  So let me tell you a bit about what I learned over the last year that has prepared for this journey.

When I was working at the rehab center, I was commuting from Long Beach to Woodland Hills.  Now, if you know nothing about  Southern California, let me put this into context.  Five days a week, I drove 44 miles in the worst traffic in the country, which sometimes would take me two hours one way.  That’s like driving from the East Coast of Florida to Tampa.  Basically, I found myself staring into brake-light machinery that devoured my spirit.  And while I was stuck in that traffic, I was checking my phone to see if I received an e-mail — oh that glorious electronic ticket — that my novel was finally accepted for representation by a literary agent.

During my Master of Fine Arts Program at Florida International University, I wrote a book.  A novel in stories about growing up in my hometown, dealing with a mother who had a mental illness, and trying to find the place where I belonged.  It’s a good book, and I still believe in that book.  Even though I have been passed on about 100 times.  And I won’t ever stop — though I am writing a new one — and when you read this blog, you’ll be following my journey to get that book published.  It’s called, It Happened This Way a.k.a The Adventures of James Tully.

What I’m trying to say is that during my commute I learned patience.  For a year, I went to work, waiting for the day to appear when I could actually say, yes, I am a real writer.

Every Friday, I listened to this counselor, this man with a mullet, talk about powerlessness.  I heard him say you have to admit your lack of control to find serenity.  I hated that.  All I wanted was to be a writer.  I couldn’t figure out why I was at that rehab and what trade winds had blown me there, but, like the saying goes, I kept coming back.  Mostly for those kids.  And that counselor kept talking about admitting powerlessness, accepting that you are where you are for a reason. Of course, he wasn’t talking to me, but that didn’t stop it from sinking in.

So, the rest of that story at the rehab center is a much longer one, which I will be telling later.  This post is simply supposed to mark the beginning — the start of my journey towards making a living as a freelance writer, the start of the mission to accomplish my dream, the start of a path where I have no idea, honestly, where it’s heading.  I’m tired of waiting in traffic.  I know that I can write, and I have a woman behind me who believes.  We’ll call her Heron in this blog.

So far as a freelance writer, I have one client, and I’ve been writing for some cool magazines in L.A.  Surely, it’s going to be a struggle.  I’m going to have to work 7 days a week and deal with a lot of rejection.  After working at the rehab center, however, I found something that will carry me through this adventure.  I wish I could put it into words for you — well, I will try during this blog — but like one of my students said, what I found is something ineffable.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I hope you’ll continue.  You’ll be a part of my failures and successes towards becoming a writer.  Maybe you’ll even want to share your adventures or comments with me.  I’m just writing this to document my experience.  No matter what happens.

17 thoughts on “The Beginning of a Journey”

  1. This is amazing and I am so happy for you. Pursuing your art, your calling, or whatever you’re meant to do is a noble act, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Maybe I’ll join you on that road some day when I’m able to write again. Either way, I can tell you that your passion for life is what makes you a writer, and it’s contagious. Don’t let it be stifled by the literary world, or the working world, or any world for that matter. Just keep living passionately and I know great things will happen for you. I’ll definitely be following this closely!

    1. Awesome, Scott. Thanks for the comment. Your response is filled with a lot of passion, too. I think, anyway, you’ve already joined me. It’s hard for me to think real poets ever stop being poets. Like you. Glad that you’ll be checking out the site. Hope to see you around.

  2. I am glued to the screen as I read each word marking the beginning of your amazing and inspiring journey. I look forward to seeing this story unfold. You are where you are for a reason and today is pretty damn good. I have witnessed the light you’ve brought to your students and continue to be in awe of your kind and chivalrous heart.

    1. Thanks Sarah. Appreciate your comment and the read. Well, it goes both ways. I’ve seen what you do for those kids, too. Glad we could have been a part of it together.

  3. Very inspiring man! I always think about becoming full-time freelance myself. I’ll read posts from strangers online about their own experience starting out but it’s much more inspiring to read about it from someone I actually know. Your story might just be what I need to give myself the push to go ahead with it already. I will definitely keep reading to find out how you do. Good luck on taking the leap and I wish you the best of success. By the way, that’s a nice new desk you got there. I’m looking for something similar, any idea what kind of desk that is or where I could get one?

    1. Dave, glad I could have inspired you in some way. It’s great, but starting out can be tough. A lot of it is just showing up, making your own schedule, and managing fear.

      Your business cards look great. I went through vista print, and I have about 200 left, so let’s talk soon. Also, have you checked out these sits: Elance, peopleperhour, guru. They are freelancing sites—online communities of jobseekers and freelancers. I received my first job from Elance a couple weeks ago. It’s really great, though it starts out low on the pay scale.

      The desk is $50 at IKEA. Go there! I got mine from a friend though for 10. Thanks for reading the blog, and I hope you’ll keep coming back. Maybe I’ll see you in Cali soon.

  4. So many similarities to considerations I’m having right now (though I only have a 7 minute drive to work with no traffic). Perhaps, part of a writer’s life is always seeking that moment of belonging. To seek. To search. To strive. Those are the things that, to me, sustain us as writers. The pursuit is the game.

    To feel the vibe, energy, and brilliancy of a place and its people… for a writer there’s nothing better.

    1. That’s a tough decision to make. Aren’t you an editor right now? That sounds awesome. What kind of writing have you been doing recently?

      I agree, though, a writer’s struggle certainly seems to be finding a place. The “pursuit” can be exhausting, frustrating, and scary. That’s for sure. Maybe it’s all worth it? Thanks for sharing in the discussion and reading my blog.

      1. I’m the Assistant Managing Editor at – covering the technical aspect of spaceflight – yes.

        But I also write sci-fi TV scripts (mainly for a series I created on my own). Hoping to eventually move out to LA and try my hand in the TV writing business. That’s always held a spark for me.

  5. Like Cecilia (Hi Cecilia! xox), I want to subscribe to your blog and cannot find a button or piece of hyper-text or a box to check. I looked for one of those mini-windows, you know, the kind that pops to life when you mouse over it and says something like Need help? Get live assistance now!

    Face it, Joe, like that other great storyteller – what was his name? oh, yeah, Jesus, I think it was – people find what you have to say interesting and the way you say it charismatic. We want to be your disciples! So please baptize us in the name of your blog and make us one big, happy, lost-writers-wandering-in-the-unemployed/unpublished-desert, temple-&-traffic-destroying, wine-&-bread-&-Ikea-cast-off-sharing tribe.

    Give us a way to follow you! Please 🙂

    1. Hi Denise,

      Thanks again for your interest. So weird this is happening. There should be a button on the tool bar that says follow. Maybe you need to log into WordPress. But if you’re not logged into word press, you can click on my name on the home page — josephalapin — a follow but will pop up.

      Also, glad you want to be my “disciple.” That’s really funny. My dad might want you to think of me as Moses…Well, glad you want to continue reading and that you find what I have to say interesting. I will make sure to follow your journey as well.

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