The Opening of the Book I’m Now Writing

The Opening of the Book I’m Now Writing July 8, 2010
not actually me

Here’s the (so-far) opening to “All In … Almost,” the book I’m just now writing that I wrote a bit about in My New Book Has Taken Over My Head:

I was thirty-eight years old. I had a job a trained monkey could do, if it could be taught to shave and tie a tie—which I could pretty much never manage without cutting or choking myself half to death. I was making $11.0 an hour, working in a law office with people ten years younger than I who were getting paid $400 an hour to ensure that giant corporations avoided or won lawsuits filed against them by malcontent, working-class losers exactly like, well, me.

My job was to fax things, clean the kitchen and conference rooms, move boxes around, spend mucho hours a day with my gonads pressed against a warm, throbbing photocopier the size of an electrical substation, and deliver mail via a dinky wire cart I pushed around the office that made me feel like the Incredible Hulk doing a little grocery shopping,

I’d had that job for almost a year. That was as long as I’d ever kept any job in my life.

I had been married for fifteen years to Catherine, a woman so smart, funny, artistically gifted, and ridiculously pretty that just thinking about her makes my face melt. The reason I had never had a job longer than a year was because Cat had always been exceptionally keen on supporting me while I made a living writing.

Yeah. And you see how that had worked out for us.

When you’re twenty-three years old, and intent on making your living as a professional author, you’re an exciting (or at least excitable) bundle of potential.

But when you’re a thirty-eight-year-old unpublished wanna-be writer with a pot problem he can’t kick, and a job more suited to a kid just out of high school than a man old enough to have a kid just out of high school?

Well, then you’re just a midlife crisis waiting to happen.

The good news, though, is it means you’ve also got God’s full attention.


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  • Gina Powers

    Ok….so far so good……'course, you pretty much had me at "Hello"…..;).

  • amelia

    Thank you. I am so sweetly thrilled that you shared that. I would budget this memoir into my "definitely necessary" expenditures any month of the year…so bring it, Shore. This is what happens when truth intersects the rare ability to write about it, and triumphs. You really don't need us to tell you how great, hairy, witty, funny, talented, blah, blah, blah, you are. But out of gratitude for your aforementioned candor, I will. On second thought, I'll tell everybody else, too. 🙂

  • MEL

    I really like this post. A lot.

  • Thanks, you guys. It's basically the kiss of death to do this sort of thing: to share, right out in the open and all, the opening of a book you've basically just started. It's … a delicate matter, actually. But I did say I would truly share how all this went / was going, so …. So. Right. So it's nice you guys didn't go, "Okay, stop. Get a job making shoes or something. This chomps monkey rump."

    I feel extremely good about this project. It's … not like anything I've ever written, which is REALLY weird: I'm using a mind I never have before. Odd, odd experience. But exciting.

  • Anything less than this exact style of bluntly honest and insightful introspection and we would have been all over your ass. With love, of course. In a platonic way.

  • Robert Meek

    Umm, where was your mind that you're using that you never had before, before now?

    Oy! Did that make any sense at all? Tis 23:05 here, I am on somewhere between 3.5 and 5.75 cylinders running in my brain, but definitely not an even 4, 6, or 8. Like that's new, right?

    Oh, well. The other reflective "nose-problem" induced by this: "…a pot problem he (you) can’t (couldn't) kick…"? Intensely curious, that. Mainly because ex-#1-of-4 was also incapable of kicking his pot habit. In his case, until he detoxed from cocaine & acid, that is; the use of which explained a lot not relevant to here.

  • If well-begun is indeed half-done then you're well on your way John. I've felt exactly like you describe in this opening, but I never had the spine to tell anyone, much less write about it. Consider me sold.

  • onemansbeliefs

    I spent years going through bookstores selecting books and reading the first paragraph or two before I made a decision to buy. This process served me well and I "discovered" some wonderful authors. Based on what I read above, I would be walking out the store with another purchase. Looking forward to the finished product…

  • No, it's not.

  • Elizabeth

    All that stuff I say about you is true. You really are fearless.

  • Jennie

    Well, you’ve got our attention too.

  • Elizabeth

    @Redlefty: Platonic? Seems to me we sound a little like pre-teens at a Justin Bieber concert. The praise is fully, jaw-droppingly deserved, but still.

    Remember to give us a chance to get our snark on every so often, John. Two months of undiluted adoration, no matter how genuine, can’t be good for you.

  • Diana

    This is true!

  • Diana

    I like it. Looking forward to the rest.

  • ken

    I love the introduction, the fact that at one point or the other in our lives we identify with this in one way or the other 🙂 Cant wait for more!!!!!

  • DR

    I"m struggling with the word "gonad". Other than that, well done.

  • From personal experience and from accounts by others (yours included), it seems that the most mundane of settings is often the place for epiphanies and significant spiritual experiences.

  • I definitely think this is a story to which many can relate and will influence the internal landscapes of individuals in particular ways.

  • It's plural; it's gonadS. I'd be struggling to, if it was singular.

  • DR

    As a faithful reader, I will pay you one hundred dollars at the end of this experience if you find a way of using the term gonads in some variation in every chapter. For example, "It was then when I realized that the Holy Spirit had me at the gonads." Similarly, "I wasn't just fanatical…I was gonadical!". Feel free to use these references, no need to credit me.

  • Diana


  • Diana

    Yeah, I think I'm with you. Starving sounds better.

  • DR

    I've changed my mind. I'd like royalties. Or a loving note on the dedication page, but of course put Cat in front of me.

  • DR

    Rocky Mountain oysters are kissing cousins to Gonadasaurus balls. Of course Gonadasaureses are extinct, everyone knows that, but their fossils are quite impressive. So I've heard.

  • old stuff

    You clearly convey that you were not a happy camper at this juncture in your life. But this is in sharp conflict with what you say back in where you say you were a happy camper (possibly the previous post)

    Dare I say…this seems all to consistent with the ‘born again’ experience of god coming out-of-the-blue when, in fact, the subject is in a darker place.

  • Diana

    Okay, I just re-read the post in which John originally discussed his conversion and I think you (Old Stuff) misinterpret what John said.

    It wasn’t so much that he was a “happy camper” as it was that he had a bunch of rationalizations that allowed him to think that he was doing okay. A huge part of his conversion experience seems to have involved those rationalizations crumbling into dust.

    John, if I’m the one who’s completely misinterpreting, please let me know. Thanks!

  • Allyson

    Looking forward to more! Keep it up.

  • Christine

    ooooooh wanna read more!!! Good job John, keep it up

  • DR

    I hate it!

    (I’m just being the salt to the sweet. And not even that, because I love it.)

  • Elizabeth

    @old stuff and @Diana: Gotta respect blog commenters that will double-check the source for an autobiography. I love it.

  • Robert Meek

    Umm. Gonads. Reminds me of a NC/TN mountain treat: Mountain Oysters.

    Mind you, I’d rather STARVE – truthfully so.

  • Karen

    I’m loving it, John.

  • Berkshire12

    You had me at “if monkeys could shave”.

    Can’t wait to read more.

    I recently did the same with a circle of friends–sent them page one of my first novel. Feedback inspired me to write more, even knowing that in the end, page one will probably look quite (if not entirely) different.

  • “Gonads” is the perfect word choice. Precise connotation and denotation. It might be less without “warm” and “throbbing” so keep those too. Besides, funny, it’s stinkin hilarioius. All that, even though you didn’t ask me to be “critically helpful!” 😉

  • And this one will be marketed as a memoir, no? Easy category.. for marketers… not nec for the writer.

  • I wish it were that simple. The word right now in publishing is that “memoirs” are dead; nobody wants them. So … and this book won’t be strictly a memoir at all, insofar as it’ll be about my experiences in and around Christianity, which … makes it a Christian book? Except … it hardly fits in with those books. So I’m basically ignoring this concern, which I know later will be a … concern. (And thanks, Beth, for your reading of the word “gonads”; you nailed it.)

    And thanks to the rest of you, very much, for your kind and encouraging words.