THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY morning I found myself sitting in front of my most prominent client. I had a good relationship with him at the time, so our conversations were casual. At first, I hesitated to tell him about my plans for writing my first book but felt an urge to bring him closer to my idea.
He always knew what he wanted, so our weekly meetings were more relaxed than most others. I didn’t get into too many descriptive details because I still didn’t know exactly how my book was going to play out. All I knew is I had close to forty quotes I was going to package into a best-selling book. I decided to recite a couple of the quotes I had written years ago to gauge an emotional response.
He asked me what each quote meant so I preceded to explain each one and how I used them to stay motivated and work through troubling days. Right before I left, he said something that captured my developing imagination and impregnated my idea.
“Why don’t you write more about the quotes and how they help you in your day to day life.”
I appreciated his insight and thanked him as I grabbed his purchase order on my way out the door. On the way to the truck, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said. I had the quotes preloaded on my phone from the night before, so I read out loud each one sitting in the crowded parking lot.
Although I hesitated to tell him about my book idea, I realized the answers to my unresolved questions might exist all around me. I was so focused on finding acceptable solutions on my own I forgot to look at the integrated environment that surrounded my thoughts. Maybe my experiences and interactions held more definitive answers than I realized. Perhaps I wasn’t alone as I attempted this impossible dream.
I began to slowly articulate the self-direction and visible emotions each quote brought to the surface. I never descriptively translated my quotes in detail or with such intense feeling. In between every preplanned meeting, I would reread a quote and instinctively unlock the keyboard on my phone.
By the end of the workday, I had successfully interpreted three quotes I had written right before the birth of my daughter. I had these quotes in my head for over a year and although I knew what they represented it was the first time I illustrated my intimate thoughts.
When I finished up my day, I thought about my daughter and the puzzle we worked on the night before. When she tossed the jagged pieces on the coffee table, she had no idea where to start.
She saw a picture of a colorful rainbow on the exterior of the box, but the pieces on the inside needed configuration. This idea of different parts of a puzzle fitting into place started to translate into my own life.
After work that day I came home and sat on the right side of the stained cedar bench I built that spring. On both sides of the rounded slats, I attached two cedar planter boxes. I bought two preplanned sets of mixed flowers to put in the roughly sanded planters to add a little color.
I sat between the contrasting colors to email a client back about his previous order, but I couldn’t find the simple words to reply. I found myself in a dreamlike daze looking at the inconspicuous flowers on the left. When I realized my subconscious state, I shook my head and looked down at my phone to continue my reply.
Before I could type a single word, I found myself moving to the right as more complementary colors shifted my sense of reality. I shook my head for the second time and looked again at my phone. I stared at the screen for a couple of seconds before I decided to place it next to my right knee.
I reached both arms perpendicular to my body and touched both sets of delicate flowers. My thumb and index fingers began to rub the silky petals. There was no friction, but I could feel the heat from the sun as the westerly wind blew up underneath the hairs on my arm.
Right as I was about to close my eyes, I felt my phone vibrating. It was an email from the client I discussed my book with earlier in the day. I immediately started to rethink the structure of my book and how I was going to incorporate my thoughts around each quote. I wanted to turn a simple book of quotes into a reflection of my intellection, but forty quotes were not enough material. I decided I needed one hundred quotes to give my writing some depth.
I began to think how long it would take me to formulate another fifty plus quotes. I felt the edge of darkness taking root. If it took me over six years to write forty quotes, it would probably take another six years before my book was close to being completed. My chin moved to the top of my chest as the impossible feat became apparent.
I sat incarcerated in another moment of self-defeat. Taking a disheartening breath, I gazed at the flowers to my right. However, this time my attention was not on the colorful petals, but the dampened brown soil where the roots remained.
This beautiful display of nature would be nothing without the habitable earth surrounding the base, and the flowers would not exist without the promise of a seed planted.
I had an instinct to reach my hand into the planter and touch the loose soil, so I didn’t hesitate and reached. As my four fingers made contact something happened, I still have trouble explaining. A quote came to me out of nowhere.
“Nothing in life is out of reach if you haven’t reached for it.”
My head sprung from my chest, and I shook my head for the third time. I grabbed my phone and started to type frantically. Before I could put my phone down another quote appeared in my mind. Every time I would finish typing another would flash through my mind. It happened again and again. Time seemed to disappear as my thoughts and thumbs worked in perfect motion.
After about an hour I stood up in another momentary daze unsure of what happened. The quotes that took me six years to accumulate I had surpassed in a little over an hour. What seemed impossible an hour before was now a reality.
Reading the words for the first time, I projected back to the moment when I submerged my fingertips in the soil surrounding the flowers. My unspoken thoughts became precious seeds. Each one had the potential for growth, but without the natural beauty of the fertile earth and a constant flow of water, they cannot grow.
My eyes then moved to the weeds growing from under my deck. They used the same earth to develop through the cracks, but the soil surrounding them was dry and rocky. The dirt and the seed below the surface of my deck were different.
It was then I saw the power my thoughts had to create and what they produced was a product of the seed and the soil. Over the next month, I couldn’t stop writing. Every free moment I had away from my family and work I was writing. I still remember the touch of the keys as my fingers punched each uppercase letter into a new sound. When I sat in front of my inexpensive laptop, it was like I turned into a different person. I was still a father and husband who worked a nine to five job, but when I touched the keyboard, I felt transformed.
One night after my wife and daughter went to bed I read some work from the previous day. Sometimes I wouldn’t look at a word I wrote all week, so I could sit back and rediscover the language that translated my thoughts. I sat with a drink to contemplate my thoughts.
I would think and rethink the words I created. I would replace the empty words that didn’t move me and delete sentences that didn’t add to the message. Sometimes I would have different paragraphs when I finished.
What started off as a couple of simple words turned into full sentences and the sentences started to form sections on the page. As the blank pages developed more paragraphs, I realized without small steps my first book could never be completed.
With each critical action, I saw the progression. Writing a few words each day created continual progress and the rhythmic sequence pushed my writing even further. Within this idea of continued progression, everything around me started to have more in-depth meaning.
No longer did I see the reddish basket as I reached for my morning apple. I saw the man who planted the seed. The long hours it took him to prepare the undisturbed soil before it pushed through the ingrained dirt. His patience as he carefully watched it continuously rise from the earth.
The journey he made to bring the shiny apple to market. Before that day all I could see was a single apple. I never gave any thought to the extended route the apple took to land in that basket. If one man never intended to plant the seed and make the sacrifices, I wouldn’t be able to reap the benefit of its taste.
Every single word I would write from that moment would have a different significance. The keys made even more remarkable sounds as I punched them desperately trying to water every original thought emerging.
With each novel idea entering my mind I felt myself growing. It was like I was changing but I wasn’t changing at all. I was still the same person on the outside, but inside I felt the impulse to push through the debris and feel the sunshine pass through my body.
I decided to write under the name Topher Pike around this time. I decided to use this pen name because as I was writing, I didn’t feel like the same person. I felt myself changing, so I used the name to symbolize a new beginning in my life. It wasn’t because I was trying to forget the past, it was more about embracing the future.
I realized that every personal experience in my life leads to this moment and without its clockwise direction, I would never be able to discover the gift of today. Every day I decided to embrace my creative passion was a gift that could not be described by a given name.
With a new chapter about to be written, I realized that the name printed on the cover paled in comparison to the one created behind the pages. I had a new name, but I wasn’t leaving my past behind. I was building a stage and an original script where my past experiences could play a leading role.
I wasn’t even a quarter through my book when I got my original cover back. It was the first time I saw my name in print. I peered for a few long minutes as the glass of red wine slowly found my lips.
I was proud of what I was creating, but as my eyes moved up and down the image, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. I couldn’t put my hand on it, but I just felt it needed a stronger statement.
I stepped away for a few minutes becoming irritated with my indecisiveness. I called my mom to tell her about the cover to get her thoughts. Besides my wife, my mom is always the first person I talk to about my writing. She may not have the answers I am looking for, but I know I can trust her honest opinion and get a boost of faith.
After a lengthy conversation about my book, we started to talk about my brother and how he was coping in their new apartment. My mom and stepfather were in the process of separation, and she said he wasn’t himself lately. He seemed a little depressed, and she wasn’t sure how to get through to him.
She asked me to give him a call to see if I could talk to him. I didn’t realize my brother was battling so many demons because we didn’t speak that much besides catching him walking by when I was talking with my mom. I was in such a different place than my brother, but I knew firsthand what depression could do to a young soul.
He was writing a lot of poetry over the last year, so I decided to troll his Instagram before I made contact. I always found it funny he started writing poetry around the same age I did. I kept in touch over the years, but I left my hometown for the big city when he was a kid. I never had the chance to watch him grow into a man. The last time we connected was playing a game of Super Mario Brothers 3 on his old school Nintendo.
He was about to turn twenty-one and to be honest I still thought of him as a hyperactive child. When I read his work for the first time, I got a glimpse into his soul. He wasn’t the same kid that sat on the edge of the bed waiting for me to save the princess.
His writing was good, but I could feel so much recurrent pain behind his words. Each poem I indulged seemed to be surrounded by a deep seeded repressed darkness. I knew he was struggling with the change, but I had no idea how it was affecting his spirit.
My mom was trying everything she could to help but what twenty-year-old kid wants to listen to his mother. I started to actively think of different ways I could approach him to see if I could shift his thinking from the dark side.
Looking down at my cover once again I realized it wasn’t different words I was missing; it was a number. I needed one more quote to finish my book, and I had a brand-new pen I wanted my brother to grip.
I wasn’t sure how he was going to react to my request when I texted him a few days later. I was already sending him a few quotes to get his thoughts but would never hear anything back. I wanted him to contribute the final quote because I felt he needed to shift his thinking.
I knew the dangerous path he was walking because I traveled down the same narrow road. I knew he took a break from writing, so I thought I would try and spark his imagination with a new project and introduce him to some of the ideas I was studying. My request was simple, but I knew it would be a problematical task in the current state he was experiencing.
I asked him to write a quote that would not only inspire others but show how a positive outlook can shift your thinking. He’s a sharp guy, so I figured he would know my underlining motives. I hoped my brother would find an innate strength he never knew existed.
He was open to the idea and started to send me a few quotes. Although he was struggling to find the farsighted words to add to my message I was extremely proud as I watched him peak through the door with one eye open.
It would be over a month before I received his final draft but what I found within his words gave me inherent hope it wouldn’t take him thirty-seven years to start his journey.