I am leaving home soon to head into the mountains, alone, to finish my first novel. It’s something like a dream. I’ve been writing a story called Minor King for about a year. It’s slow going. I’m about 20,000 words in, and have found that when you work full-time and have an active family life, that it’s a little hard to find the time to sit still and let the muses take over your heart and brain. I’m not making excuses, this is simply a fact. But make no mistake, I love my life. And I realize how absolutely blessed I am, but this thing has been eating at me for a while – and I’m not just talking about ‘the book.’ I’m talking about the idea of finishing something in long form. I can bang out fairly compelling 500 word blog posts in thirty minutes, and could write one every day for a year on different topics, but short form thinking and writing is the curse of being a copywriter. There is limited creative satisfaction for me in blogging, and virtually none in commercial writing. I’m pretty good at what I do for a living, but don’t believe that God gave me this talent to write exclusively for business. It’s time to at least take a step in a different direction. And getting away to finish this first book is a pretty big step in that direction.

Am I afraid? Sure. A little. I mean, I’ve never done anything like this before, so I have no reference point. But my fear isn’t as much of failure, as it is the general unknown. Hell, I’m probably more afraid of success than failure. I do not fear hitting a creative wall as I trust my ability to slip into a trance and let the muses take over. I do have that limited reference point. And yet, I’m not one of those guys who takes responsibility for having any talent to write. I have no idea where the words come from. Whenever I’m “in the zone” – I’m basically something like a conduit. I don’t try to over-analyze this, but rather just go with it. This is not to say that what I come out of the mountains with will be anything like a great work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story. I believe in it. And I’m very excited about the prospect of finishing it and eventually sharing it, but I’m not an idiot. This endeavor isn’t anything like an end game for me. Rather, it’s an attempt to discover what kind of things I am capable of in terms of storytelling. Writing has been a creative outlet for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve never had any talent for drawing or painting. I never learned to play a musical instrument. I can’t dance or act. And while I certainly haven’t always been a good writer, writing has always been something akin to a playground for me.

So what is Minor King about? It’s the story of a man who battles his way out of hopelessness to achieve the American Dream only to discover that he has an inner demon he must face in order to fulfill his destiny. I’m sure it’s been done before – I have no idea. And I really don’t care. This story is something in my chest that needs to get out. As far as a genre, I guess you could call it semi-autobiographical fiction. Or, as they say in the literary world, a roman à clef.

When I told a friend at work about getting away to finish the book, he said, “So you’re pulling a Secret Window then?” Which made me instantly paranoid that when I get up there to the cabin, and I’m alone with the muses – that I’ll be confronted by a madman. And he will be me.

This is not a vacation. It’s a working retreat. Every day will be filled with a routine designed to make the most of my situation. There will be no sight seeing. No fly fishing. No trips to the outlets. I will buy provisions when I arrive, don a robe, and get to work. In terms of shutting down outside communications – I’m definitely turning off the big stuff for the bulk of each day. Maybe the entire time. I can’t get caught up in any online drama while I’m up there. I will be in regular contact with my family, however, as I have never been apart from them for more than a couple of days at a time – and it’s not in my nature to do so. They are my daily touchstone to sanity in this world. They’re what keeps me balanced. Thankfully I won’t be completely alone as I’m taking an old dog who thinks she’s my mother.

Yes, I realize how lucky I am. I’m grateful to my friends, my coworkers, and especially my wife for this amazing opportunity. I am truly blessed.

Now, onto the fun stuff.

secret window


Jim Mitchem

Social Media and the Human Condition
Ninety Five

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.