I didn't actually set out to write a novel, back in 2008. The story grew out of little vignettes I scrawled between hellish customer interactions in a call-centration camp — in Rura Penthe. Eventually those scraps became chapters. I read them to friends who begged for more and insisted that I had to finish it. I was enjoying the story too, so I assented. All artists struggle when crafting their work, and the decision to actually write Uncle Arctica triggered a crisis for me. Content wasn't my problem. I wrestled over whether I should be writing a novel instead of religious materials. But I pressed on with it, because the story in my head wouldn't stop.
Along the way, I ended up with one of Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad books and learned about passive income strategies. I realized that my only true, marketable asset and ticket to a better future was Uncle Arctica. I decided I would publish. I got John Locke's How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. I bought the hype. And that was okay for a moment, because it changed my perspective and it kept me going forward. But now Kiyosaki is bankrupt and Locke disgraced, and I am older, and wiser. Yet I found in their books a few positives that gave me motivation, hope, and a strategic perspective I didn't have before, and I am still running on that steam.
But Locke also triggered my second dilemma: artistic integrity — was I going to craft this story as art, or was it just a project with strictly mercenary intentions? The next “how to write a novel” book I picked up also declared “Sorry Kid, it ain’t about the art, it’s about the money.” This offended my sensibilities, so I got some new books. These suited me and, momentarily comforted, I forged ahead with my writing.
I was feeling better about the whole thing when a lady in the Bible study I used to lead suddenly remembered that I had video skills. She began harping about how I should be making my millions by producing Hebrew Roots teaching DVD's. To compound my quandary, a friend came back from Israel, certain that his year-long study of the prophets foretold imminent catastrophe in the Middle East. He advised that I should reconsider my literary pursuits and prepare for Armageddon. I must say, his evidence was compelling — blood-red moons and all. The pangs of guilt returned, but I forced myself to remember how many times I’d heard all of this in the last twenty years. I decided not to allow the perennial Semitic saber-rattling to once again become a self-sabotaging crutch of apocalyptic fatalism. A good choice, as my friend had to scale back his eschatological forecast a few months later. I hope he’ll read my book!
I finished the manuscript. And as I sat contemplating marketing angles, I had an epiphany: in marketing you learn that every successful product must have a Unique Selling Proposition or USP — the thing that makes it a new and exciting must-have. Bible teachers, hot-dog vendors, and Drew Harmon must all find and present their product’s USP. So there it was:
Nobody else had written Uncle Arctica. Uncle Arctica was, in and of itself, my USP. That was an empowering revelation.
My dilemma between pursuing art versus churning out literary popcorn was also recently put to rest. Lying in bed one morning, I remembered an interview I saw with Chuck Jones who, when asked if they had made Looney Toons for kids or for adults, answered:
"We didn't make them for kids. We made them for ourselves."