Today is one of the happiest days of my life, because The Happiest Days of Our Lives officially goes on sale, starting . . . now. (Well, actually, starting about 96 hours ago, but you only knew that if you follow me on Twitter. Soft launch FTW!)
I love everything about this book. I loved writing the stories in
it. I loved working with Andrew to put them together into something that is more than just a collection of blog entries. I loved working with Sean to design and create the cover. I loved working with Russ to shake the cobwebs off of Monolith Press and restore power to this fully-operational battle station. I love the excitement I feel
right now, as I get ready to share it with anyone who wants to read it. I love the way it reminds me so much of how I felt when Dancing Barefoot was first published.
But what I love the most is taking back control of my work and releasing it, marketing it, and publishing it myself. The Happiest Days of Our Lives is going to live or die based entirely on my efforts to promote it (first note to everyone: It's not a Star Trek book), which can be a little overwhelming if I think about it too much, so instead of thinking about that, I've been thinking about the path I've walked to get here, starting six and a half years ago, when I created Where's My Burrito? at Geocities. As I wrote in Just A Geek,
My life as a husband and stepfather was very rewarding, but a desire to regain the success I'd enjoyed as a child and teenager pulled at me constantly. It kept me awake at night, and was a constant distraction. Like the Not Me ghost from Family Circus, Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake slept between my wife and me in our bed, and ate with us at every meal. When I could have been playing with my stepkids, Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake and I would sit and stare vacantly at the TV, wondering what could have been.
The weekend after the Hooters Incident (as it came to be known), my wife was out of town and Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake and I found ourselves in front of my computer. I surfed the Internet, played Diablo II, created WinAmp playlists . . . I did everything I could to get that Hooters waitress out of my mind.
Yes, that's how badly it hurt me: I was actively trying to get a Hooters waitress out of my mind. While my wife was out of town.
Somewhere in that day, while I was battling the forces of polygonal evil on Battle.Net, Prove To Everyone tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Dude. You should make a website, and let the world know that you are still alive, and still acting."
I paused the game and looked back at him. I had wanted a presence on the Web for a long time, but I didn't have the skills to build a website. I'd been given the names of several designers, but wanted to do the whole thing myself, for better or for worse.
"Oh my god. That's a fantastic idea! Maybe we'll even get noticed by Hollywood again!"
"Just make sure you make the website edgy." He said.
"If you were real, I'd cock-punch you for that." I said.
I quit the game, and went to Yahoo! Geocities where I created an account called “tvswilwheaton.” (Get it? "TV's Wil Wheaton!" Because I'm still on TV, except I'm not.) Because I had absolutely no idea how to write HTML, and I knew nothing about tables, CSS, RSS feeds, or the W3C, I spent the next few hours clumsily learning my way around the Yahoo! Pagebuilder. I used their WYSIWYG editor to Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake -- ahem -- “design” my very first webpage. The result was incredibly lame, but it was mine. I named it “Where's My Burrito?” after one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons.
When it was done, Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake and I shared a high-five. I was proud of what I'd created and I posted a link to it in a small Wil Wheaton online fan club and wondered if anyone would care.
Boy, did they care! I had over 700 visitors in a couple weeks, without being listed in a single search engine. The response excited me, and I started updating the site quite frequently, by hand-coding “news updates” into the main page.
I soon traded those news updates for this thing called a blog. I liked writing the blog so much, I eventually started my own website where I could update the blog more regularly. Just like Where's My Burrito? it was lame, but it was mine. On the advice of my friend Loren, I moved the blog to the front page, and eventually made it the centerpiece of the entire site. Neither of us knew it at the time, but with that advice, Loren dropped a pebble into a pond, and the ripples it created have been incredible.
As I write this post today, on a day very much like the one I started writing the manuscript for Just A Geek, which lead to Dancing Barefoot, which lead to writing for the AV Club, which lead to writing for TV Squad, which lead to writing the Star Trek Manga, which lead to . . . well, everything else that I love about my work now, the whole thing feels kind of surreal. When I started that silly little page at Geocities six years ago, I had no idea that it would lead me down the path I walk today. If you'd asked me back then what I thought I'd be doing in six years, my answer would have included something about acting, even though I was having serious doubts in the dark of night about my ability to support my family while trying to be a full-time actor.
I never expected that I'd become a full-time writer, but today, I can't imagine doing anything different with my life. In fact, as long as I get to keep doing voice acting, I don't really care if I'm ever on camera again. Telling stories about the things that unite us and celebrating all things geek seems to be my purpose in life. I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile that matters to people, if your comments and e-mails are any indication, and I'm happier than I've ever been. They say that making a living doing what you love is how you know you're living the dream. If that's true, I don't ever want to wake up.