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Selling Myself to Myself.

Just curious—do you have a mantra? A credo? Perhaps some sort of slogan, tenet or delusional proscription to a paranoid manifesto?

You don't? Well this is awkward.

Ben Franklin had a million of them. Here's a little sampling:

"Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead."
"A good conscience is a continual Christmas."
"Beware of the old doctor and the young barber."

Speaking of barbers, not too bad for a guy with the same hair style as the dudes who live in Winnebagos and take money at those go cart tracks that just appear in the Super Saver parking lot, then vanish after some kid named Lonnie separates his shoulder after slamming into a stack of old tires.

Anyway, other humorist/philosophers have imparted wisdom upon the masses through thought-provoking axioms. Of course there was Will Rogers and Mark Twain, and who can forget that great sage, Bill O'Reilly, whose enlightened contemplations produced the following creeds:

"Seven wrongs and two saliva-spraying threats make a right."
"A loud voice cultivates a bushy beard on the cheeks of stupidity."

I'm certainly not going to clump myself in with the aforementioned well-spoken Caucasians. I would, however, like to share with you a slogan to which I've clung over the years with more resolve than a black leather man bag brimming with pornography:

It's only a matter of time before everyone figures out what a fraud I am.

I know, it sounds a little dramatic; I'm not saying this phrase applies to all aspects of my life and personality.

Just the big stuff.

I graduated from college with an accounting degree. Following that, I even passed the CPA Exam, thanks to a solid review course combined with a nice Santerian ritual involving herbs and divination. Did such bona fides bolster my confidence for that first day on the job, the moment I slipped on those shiny Florsheims and green eye shade?

Nah. I figured two, maybe three weeks maximum, until someone woke the hell up and got rid of me.

Five years later, just as I'd convinced myself that, although I despised rising each morning to cinch up the Windsor noose and strap on the ten-key, maybe, just maybe, I didn't suck at accounting.

What better time to change careers? I returned to academia for the necessary tools to pursue a career in my lifelong passion—graphic design. Did I truly believe that my talents merited being hired and actually compensated with cash paper?

Nah. I figured two, maybe three weeks maximum, until someone woke the hell up and got rid of me.

And now, twenty years later, I'm feeling it again—the paranoia and the insecurity, the raw anxiety I haven't felt since the Internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore's eye. But I'm not talking about a career change, it's more of a life's endgame.

For the past two years, with both my sister's encouragement and her hours of editing expertise, I've been writing a book. It's a kids' novel, formally known as middle grade fiction. Back in 2009, when I first began scratching out blog posts, she suggested that I write a children's book. I thought, "Yeah, right. Like any kid would ever want to read a book written by, you know, me."

She badgered me relentlessly, hearkening back to a more innocent time when her badgering included a physical component, like a sneaky and well-placed kick to one of my growth plates. 

Finally, I wrote a single chapter, the big chapter where everything comes crashing down on the main character. A story solidified around that scene. While occasionally I'd write chronologically, I would more often tap out scenarios to be inserted at various junctures in the story. Eventually, a beginning, middle and ending stared back at me from the soothing blue and white hues of Microsoft Word. A draft was complete.

Holy shit, I thought, you just wrote a book. It took two years, but you just put an entire story down on paper. How did that happen?

This past weekend, I attended a writer's conference sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Prior to Saturday and Sunday's full slate of speakers and breakout sessions, I participated in two roundtable critique groups, where an actual agent listened as each of us read the first five hundred words of our stories.

I was terrified; it was like one of those dreams where I'm in a room full of people and I'm the only one who forgot to wear clothes. I'd come up with every single one of those half thousand words that were being lobbed into the critical air of the conference room.

It was the first time anyone other than my sister and I had heard a single sentence I'd written, and wouldn't you know it, who pulled up a chair next to me but that same destructive muse with that same tired message:

Eventually, they'll figure out you're a fraud. Give up now and forget about it.

It pissed me off that time, and I would have slugged that muse in the kidneys if he hadn't have actual been the same person occupying my skin. How can I be a fraud? This is my story and I'm the only person who can tell it. So, you know, shut up, muse ass.

Even though I've just topped off the gas tank, I haven't even turned the key on this long, frustrating journey. But once I get through the traffic lights and merge onto that freeway, I'm only stopping to pee and restock my beef jerky supply.

I'll call you when I get to Fresno.