punch a hole in the sky

Earlier this week, I wrote on CardSquad that other than my Tuesday and Thursday games at PokerStars, I’m taking a serious break from playing poker. I have been running so bad lately, and I’ve been so consistently unlucky, it’s just not fun. So while I’ll continue to write about it, and I’ll continue to enjoy watching it on TV, my own play will be limited for the near future.

This pays off, I promise. So don’t think this is another one of those poker stories and skip over it, okay?

I also have to take a break, because losing in poker games has struck a very raw and very exposed emotional nerve with me: I’ve felt like a complete and total loser the last few weeks, and not just because I’m not winning at cards. In real life, I’ve been withdrawn and depressed, even (especially) around my wife and kids. So yesterday, when I walked to the bookstore, I was honest with myself about why I feel so lousy: I am still hurt, and angry, and disappointed with the way O’Reilly completely fucked up Just A Geek. More than that, I’m hurt, and angry, and disappointed at the way I was treated, as a person and as an author. It’s completely out of my hands, now, and I’ve learned an awful lot from the experience about the vast gulf between what people say and what people do, and the importance of getting things in writing, but it still makes me want to alternately break things and cry when I think about the totally wasted opportunity, and how mislead I was during the whole thing.

I worked hard on Just A Geek, and I put my faith and trust into other people to help me share it with the world. At the end of the day, I just feel like I worked real hard so I could get a miniscule cut of the profits, and my work wasn’t even shared with anyone I couldn’t have reached on my own. The fact that they insisted on promoting it as a Star Trek book, which I correctly warned them would severely limit its audience and appeal, after I was promised that they wouldn’t, just adds to the feeling of betrayal and disappointment. It’s very hard for me to even look at the book on my bookshelf and feel good about it, and I hate that. I know that there’s nothing to be gained from wallowing about it, but it’s there. I guess I just have to accept that I was mislead and taken advantage of, and never let that happen again. Taking control of future publishing is easy — I already proved that with Dancing Barefoot. But getting over that sense of betrayal anddisappointment . . . well, it’s not as easy. But at least I’ve honestly identified it, and maybe I’ll be able to move on from it now. I feel like a loser because I wanted so badly to believe everything they said, that I ignored my instincts when my instincts told me it was too good to be true.

In Radio Free Burrito Episode Zero, I talked about an audition I had for a sitcom, where I totally nailed it. I left feeling better than I’ve ever felt about an audition in my life, and I knew that I was, as they say, "The Guy." The casting people, producers, writers, and everyone else felt the same way, and I was one callback away from booking an awesome job, on a hilarious show, with all the freedom, success, and opportunity being on the next Friends would bring.

The callback happened while I was out of the country for the poker tournament in the Bahamas, and there was no way at all to make the schedules work out. I told myself that if I was meant to get the job, they’d find a way to reschedule, but that was incredibly unlikely since it would be over ten days until I’d be back. Of course, they couldn’t reschedule, and I lost the job. Actors spend their entire careers trying to get an opportunity like that one, and when I finally got it, I lost it. I feel like a complete loser because I don’t know when another opportunity like it will come along, or if I’ll ever have another chance like that in my career, where I pretty much just have to show up to get the gig.

I understand that by any rational metric, I have a fucking great life, and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t, or be ungrateful for the things I have. But the fact is, I’ve felt frustrated, tired, and depressed for weeks.

So what? What am I going to do? Sit in the corner and feel sorry for myself? That’s not going to do anyone any good. Go on a raging bender, crash my car, pick up some tabloid press and get my own reality TV program? That is so 2002.

Aware of the reasons I have felt unhappy, I decided to spend some time thinking about what makes me happy. What makes me feel good about myself? What do I look forward to, everyday? It should come as no surprise to anyone (myself included) that the answer is my family. The very people I’ve been so withdrawn from while I’ve felt like shit about myself for things that are totally out of my control. It’s put me on this downward spiral of idiotic self-loathing and self-pity, where I’ve asked myself on an almost-daily basis, "Why am I doing any of this? What’s the point in even trying?"

"Well, stupid, the answer is right in front of you. You work hard to support your family because you love them. You try hard to write good stuff and get acting jobs because you’re an artist and nobody ever said that any of this would be easy. In fact, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. You can’t change any of these things that have already happened, and you’ll never be able to control how many acting opportunities you get. But you can control how much time you spend with your family. You can choose to make an effort to play games with the kids, take walks with Anne, and be present and involved in their lives. Or you can be a whiny little bitch and boo-hoo-hoo your way into misery. But take responsibility for your choice, whatever it is, especially since you’re now aware of why you feel shitty, and how to not feel shitty any more. No excuses, Wil."

No excuses. I take responsibility for my choices, and I accept that there are things I just can’t change that are beyond my control. I also resolve to embrace the things that are within my control, and not take my family for granted. If I’m completely honest with myself, the brutal truth is: I feel like a loser because I haven’t been there for my family. That has to change.

Yeah, it was a pretty good walk. Two big things, both essentially opportunities that missed after I’d worked so very hard to get there. And poker? I play tournament-style poker, which means that most of the time, I’m going to work very hard to get there, miss the money, and have nothing to show for my efforts. When I made that connection, I understood why I was getting so irrationally angry when I took a bad beat, or finished in 19th when 18 places paid. But my family is entirely different. I don’t have to work very hard to get there, because there is here. Somehow, I’d lost that forest because of the trees.

So last night, I grabbed the Whole Foods Cookbook — which I can’t endorse strongly enough — and made dinner for all of us: borracho beans, cilantro and lime rice, plus grilled tequila-marinated chicken breasts. It reminded me of how much fun it was when I made The Chicken Soup last year. My family sat together at the dinner table and I knew why I am doing any of this. I understood the  point in even trying.

When dinner was done, I had about 90 minutes until my Thursday night poker tournament began, so Nolan and I played Dungeon. We played three games, and we realized that there is a tiny bit of unbalance in a two player game: If you play the Wizard, and take two teleport spells, you can poof down to level 5 right away, cast your other spells into rooms without risking death if you miss, and collect treasure fairly safely if you hit. When you run out of spells, you just poof back to the main staircase, reload, and head back to level 5 or 6. Since the Wizard needs 30,000 to win, you can get it in eight or nine turns at the lower levels, and easily win against the Paladin or Warrior. Interestingly, though, if a Wizard is playing against a Dwarf, it’s a much closer race, since the Dwarf only needs 5,000 to win and can pull that off without ever going deeper than level three.

We played three games to test these hypotheses out. During the second game, Ferris grabbed one of the Dwarf figures out of the box and chomped on it before we could do stop her, so I played the last game as two little feet. When Nolan won, I said, "In my defense, getting 7,000 when you’re just a pair of shoes is pretty good."

"Yeah," he said, "You have mad kicking skills."

After we were done, I sat down to play my poker tournament. It was really fun to play with my friends from the WPBT, especially when my friend Chris was moved to my table a few hands into the tourney. Chris is a well-known aggressive player, and I knew that he’d be picking on my blinds whenever he got the chance.

The third hand after Chris came to my table: I am dealt pocket aces in the big blind. I am confident that I can goad Chris into making a play at stealing my blind, so I type, "I dare you to raise." Of course he does, and I re-raise him. I hope he thinks I’m just trying to steal from him, and I’m thrilled when he pushes all his chips in. I insta-call, and he turns over two queens.

The flop comes K-T-x, and I type, "oh crap, you just picked up some outs."

The turn is a queen, and my only hope is an ace on the river. Instead, another queen comes out, and I lose to quads. I think I was the second or third player to go out.

"It’s Groundhog day . . . again." I thought. "I was only an 82% favorite on the flop. Of course I lost."

If I hadn’t taken that walk yesterday, if I hadn’t spent the entire evening with my family, goofing off with Ryan while I prepared dinner, playing nerdy games with Nolan after, enjoying and appreciating the love that fills my house, I probably would have gone head first out the office window. Instead, I cussed like crazy in irc, sent Chris an e-mail that said, "nice hand, fucker. now go win this thing," closed the office door behind me, and watched CSI with my family.

"I thought you were playing poker," Nolan said, when I sat down next to him on the couch.

"I was." I said.

"Did you get knocked out already?"

"Yeah."

"How?"

"It’s not important," I said. Then, "this is important."

"Huh? CSI?"

"This. Us. Family. Together." I pointed around the living room.

"Uh . . . okay, Wil." He said in the "my stepdad is nuts" voice.

"What I mean is," I said, "I love you."

"I . . . love you too, Wil." He said, in the "it’s real good that you did that, now please don’t wish me into the cornfield" voice.

I smiled at him.

"You’re kind of creeping me out," he said with a smile of his own. "No offense."

"None taken," I said. "I understand."

Yeah. I understand.

47 thoughts on “punch a hole in the sky”

  1. The family epiphany hit me too, recently. They are the only thing that keeps me from falling into the dark completely.
    I love reading about you and your kids. You seem like such a great dad to them, which I guess is a lot coming from a complete stranger. I keep a quote of yours that just makes me smile, “I’m not one of those “toolbench” dads . . . which is sad, I know, but I’m a “gamer” dad instead. Some dads have bags of nails, I have bags of dice.”
    This stranger/fan thinks you’re doing a pretty great job at life.

  2. Congratulations on your epiphany. Some guys never realize what you have realized, and many are uncomfortable once they do. If you want to reinforce your learning, there’s a pretty neat book called Just Enough by Nash and Stevenson that helps people sort this all out.

  3. I can’t tell you how much this honesty meant to me. I am feeling totally fucked by a company in which I have devoted time to that I can’t get back. I am constantly reminding myself that I work to support the true meaning of my life: my family.
    Thanks, Wil

  4. “Good on you Wil!” as they say across the pond. It’s funny how life and work kind of flip-flop. Things at work are getting better and things at home are getting worse. I almost dread going home some days because I never know what to expect. My oldest daughter is getting a lot of crap from other kids at school and instead of mouthing off to them and telling them where to go, she saves it for when she gets home for her mom and me. She is about to turn 10 and I think that the tten brattiness and attitude are kicking in early. Sorry for complaining. Enjoy every day that you have with Anne and your kids, Wil.

  5. Unless they’ve changed the rules from the original edition to the classic edition, the wizard can only teleport to a central room one level up or down, and the central rooms start with monsters that would have to be fought if not cleared.
    Ie, if you’re in the level two chamber, you can only teleport to a level one or level three chamber, not anywhere you want.

  6. Well now that makes sense. Sorry about the comment on Card Squad. But if you read the blog it sounds as though you’re taking a leap off a cliff because you took some bad beats. Losing at cards should never be a reason to take a break – you either keep playing or quit playing for good. Thank you for clarifying.

  7. So in lieu of saying anything poignant or meaningful after that wonderful post, I just wanted to say I laughed out loud at your twilight-zone wishing people into the cornfield thing, reference.
    Thanks I needed that.

  8. I was wondering when you were going to come to this conclusion. I think you need to totally forgive yourself for missing out on the sitcom opportunity. In one of your books, you wrote that you went on auditions and missed a family vacation. You hated yourself for doing it and promised yourself that you would never put work before family again. You spent time with your wife and there’s nothing more important in life. Promise fulfilled.

  9. Nothing wrong with a little whining, no matter how good your life is. We all do it. No matter how good things get, we always readjust our sights to our current level of goodosity and the become discontent at times with the things we don’t have. As long as it’s kept in check, I think it’s healthy as it keeps us going, striving for ever higher goals. I think it’s much better than just being completely content with everything, and therefore not ever trying for anything more than you have. Sounds like a pretty boring and zombie-like alternative. It sounds like you know you’ve got it good in a lot of ways, so if you feel the need to bitch a little from time to time, I think that’s reasonable. ;)

  10. My wife bought me Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot for Christmas and I blew through them in no time. I am impressed. I knew you could write, but those stories were excellent. They made an 8 hour flight across the pond a great deal more fun than it could have been.
    Also, chin up, man. Things seem to come together about a minute after you stop expecting them to work. It’s the strange way of the world. It’ll flow when it flows.

  11. Wow. That’s a lot of stuff in one post. On just about everything, I can say “I know how you feel.”
    Its frustrating sometimes trying to balance everything out and figure what’s the most important to you.
    I missed an important audition last week and was bummed out about it, and then I thought, “Hey if I had gotten that role I’d miss out on ten weeks of small sword fighting class, Friday night D&D, and most important of all I wouldn’t be able to spend any time with my partner.
    I love your writing, I just finished “Barefoot Dancing” and I’ve been going through “Just a Geek”. Both of which I got for Christmas. I’m looking forward to your next book! You’re a great author, just get a better publicist that’ll actually listen to you.

  12. Dungeon is a great game. I bought a copy for my girlfriend for christmas, because she used to play it as a kid. Her parents were friends with the original designer.
    You also get mad points with me for linking to BGG, as well as playing games. My parents played games with me growing up, and that’s stuck with me today. Now I run a weekly board game club, and run a weekend long gaming convention. You can look up my profile on BGG with this username.
    And you’re right; deep down it isn’t about the game, it’s about spending time with your friends, your family, the people you love.

  13. I’d like to add to what Squirrelgnome said. You need to forgive yourself. You need to forgive yourself for believing O’Reilly. You can forgive without forgetting, and learn from the experience.
    But you also need to consider forgiving O’Reilly. I know that’s hard, but as long as you carry the anger and hurt inside you, it will eat away at your soul.
    They’ll have their “Earl” moment someday, and you’ll have yours. I’d rather be you when the karma hits the fan.

  14. Will,
    I’ve been a fan ever since your Star Trek days (I admit to a bit of a crush). My sister and I read your blog all the time and I’ve bought BOTH of your books, (not because I enjoyed start trek, but because I enjoy reading what you write.) I’m glad your sit ei s back up and that you have found your peace.

  15. Will,
    I’ve been a fan ever since your Star Trek days (I admit to a bit of a crush). My sister and I read your blog all the time and I’ve bought BOTH of your books, (not because I enjoyed start trek, but because I enjoy reading what you write.) I’m glad your site is back up and that you have found your peace. And annoyed that I’ve missed a chance to see you in a new series. Loved your work on CSI.

  16. I’ve had to deal with some of my own ups and downs this past year and I agree with you on the importance of family through it all (in my case, a wife and 2 teenage daughters).
    I also want to say thanks. I read Just a Geek about 7 months ago when I was going through surgery for cancer. I’m a Christian and was reading things for my faith as well, but the humor in your book helped keep my spirits up through the experience. It also appealed to the geek in me. And, although I enjoyed the Star Trek references, I bought the book because I was interested in hearing more of your story.
    Keep up the good work. It is appreciated.

  17. I had this terrible run of cards in January that left me (slightly) -ROI for the month over like 320 SNGs. That’s pretty bad, since I estimate I’m at least a 12% ROI player, and probably closer to 18% at the level I’m playing. Not only were my starting hands awful (I had, statistically, AA like 15% less than would be expected, same for KK and QQ, although I did get too many pairs of JJs, but they’re a pain), but I was absolutely awful when it got to pushbotting the end game. Even though my moves were 99% correct and typically unexploitable, “coin flip” meant “there’s an 80% chance I’m out now”, whether I was on the 60 side or the 40 side.
    In my best hand, I had 99 in the BB, and after one limper, the SB minraised. I decided that was probably AK or such fattening the pot, and I called as did the limper. Flop A9x, and he checks. I’m thinking: omg, he’s about to c/r me, this is awesome. And I lead about 1/2 the pot. Limper folds, and this guy raises. I reraise, he moves in, I call. He turns over AQo. He is now a 98.5:1.5 dog in this hand. You know it goes from here, right? Queen on the turn, ace on the river, if you weren’t sure of the order. Puh-lease. It felt like the odds of winning overpair vs underpair (all in pf) was about 50/50.
    But you know what? That’s variance. Talk to Greg for a minute when you can, and ask him to give you his shpiel on decision making. Every time you turn over the cards and you know you got your money in as a big favorite, you won, whether the chip stacks reflect it or not. Sooner or later, you’ll be on the OTHER side, where you win every coin flip, and any time you screw up and get it in as a huge dog, you suck out like a Dyson. You’ll have some run of 100 SNGs with like 50% ROI for the whole 100, and you’ll wonder what you did to deserve it.

  18. Good for you for identifying what was bothering you and ways to resolve it. It may sound easy, but I know it’s not.
    Getting over poor treatment in work situations, coupled with people who don’t keep their word or are unreliable is tough to get over. Even when you do get over it, it can still color your view of other situations. (ok, maybe I’m not really over it either.)

  19. Ok, my turn to be a geek. I found your blog through Basil’s blog. I found it mainly because he’d linked to something of mine and I was looking at his post…a few sentences above is your blog and I’m thinking, Wil Wheaton? No…can’t be the same guy. I arrived out of pure curiousity to see if it was in fact, well, you.
    Anyways, I started reading and I have to say, you are in fact a good blogger. I’m impressed and I like your blog. And I of course learned that you are indeed, Wil Wheaton, the Star Trek kid…lol. I decided to comment because I particularly liked the post above. I’m glad you decided to share it.
    ~Holly

  20. Wow! I admire you so much for your honesty, it just makes your writing seem so much more beautiful and true. It gives me a warm feeling that there are good-hearted people out there like you. :)

  21. >..I decided to spend some time thinking about what makes me happy.
    >What makes me feel good about myself?
    That was what I was going through this past summer. After doing some serious thinking, I decided to share what makes me happy in a podcast.
    http://www.PracticallyHappy.com
    The items I talk about may not do much for you, but it might get you thinking what makes you happy.
    Jim

  22. I played in Thursday’s game too. I was surprised to see you knocked out so early, because I’ve seen you play well. The fundraiser tourney for Katrina was a blast – I made it into the top 100 (out of what, 3000 or so? – I was PROUD of that) and you placed well ahead of me
    Nickerson knocked me out when he drew three of a kind against my two pair. I was so certain that I had him and turns out he held the only cards in his hand that could beat me. Arrrrgh!
    It was fun to play though.
    -Animeraider

  23. Great story Wil. Glad you saw what really matters in life was your family. and not how many acting jobs you get or if you make tens of billions of dollars doing it.
    but you have a great family and they love you which is the most important thing in life. But I’m sure your already aware of that.

  24. Wil,
    Congratulations on your epiphany. I have battled those same feelings my entire adult life. I may not have the family that you do, count yourself lucky-you have a wife and kids that love you-it doesn’t get much better than that. Just keep your eye on the important stuff, and the rest will take care of itself. I’ll see you next Thursday-it will get better, it’s those pesky laws of variance.

  25. You know, even if O’Reilly blew the OUTSIDE of your book and the marketing, they couldn’t mess with the really important part, which is, of course (cue music) the INSIDE. You wrote a great book and should never feel bad when you look at it on the shelf.
    If all else fails, you can always do what my mom did when she brought home illegal discards from the bookstore where she worked: rip the cover off. The book itself is still perfectly good, and I built up a great library of coverless stories that I enjoyed just as much as the next kid.

  26. By the way – thanks for writing so much lately. Your posts had kind of trailed off, and I missed them. It actually does make a difference for lots of us out here – you make our day just that little bit better. Thanks.

  27. Very interesting post Wil.
    While I hate to gloss over the meat of your post, one thing amused me:
    “I thought you were player poker?”
    “I was.”
    “You’re out already?”
    I wonder how many poker enthusiasts have had that conversation before.
    Poker is an unusual game, because even if you play a perfect game you can still lose. In fact the poker gods can even conspire to confound the rules of chance for months on end. I was reading in Annie Duke’s biography about her brother going broke. Howard Lederer no less! In fact I’ve heard many pros end up broke for a while. So I figure if this can happen to even the best in the world, I’ll just hang in there.
    As far as the meat goes, I can quite see why you would have difficulties with motivation from time to time. You have chosen a series of very difficult professions. You are an actor, a writer, an entertainer, an author and a poker player. These are all brutal professions requiring enormous self belief and resilience. Rejection and failure are probably in more abundance here than in almost any other choice of career. Other people have ‘normal jobs,’ they go to work perform a series of duties and get a pay check. Well none of the things you choose to do with your life are that easy, but ultimately can be far more rewarding than a typical office job.
    So I guess at the end of the day you have to put into perspective what is important in life and take stock of all the achievements and try to forget the bad beats. Whatever life throws your way you certainly appear to have the support of a loving family and quite a few fans out there who also believe in you. But if that’s not enough my wife is a therapist and I’m sure she’d give you a good rate given what a Trekkie she is ;)

  28. Just to say- Just a Geek was one of the small handful of books in my life that I read cover to cover overnight without stopping. One of the other ones was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so read that as you will.
    And f*ck O’Reilly. You’ve still got us bookstore minions pimping it out like crazy. We’re fighting the good fight..

  29. What a beautiful post. Wil, your book was an amazing piece of prose, and the way it was or wasn’t promoted doesn’t change anything about your efforts and how great it was. Even if only you and I had read it, it would be an amazing book, and it’s important you know that.

  30. Wil, you are a smart man to remember what is important. I am 30 and have not been blessed (yet) with a family, and there are nights when the world is going to hell that I wonder what it is all for. That is when we all need hope and faith that something good will come out of hard days. You have had the unique opportunity to effect people’s lives. I read Just a Geek and thought it was excellent. Not many people can share themselves with others the way you do and it is truly a gift no matter how your publishers screwed you over. Last night my blog “friend” CJ (who you have played poker with and actually met) spent the over an hour online remembering our favorite ST:TNG episodes. I spent my teenage years being taught how to think about life, politics and social issues in a unique way by a show you helped make famous. How many people can say that? Not many. So I guess my point is, you have assisted so many people see the world in a different way.

  31. Wil, I think O’Reilly’s problem was in large part that they weren’t used to non-tech books and didn’t realize what the smart way was to promote yours. I don’t defend them in any way, as I know they didn’t listen to your advice at all…but I think they were typical of some management in that they got their heads wrapped around one idea (that yours was a “Star Trek” book) and they wouldn’t give it up even when presented with evidence that countered that view. Looking forward to your new book when it comes out.

  32. Wil, for what it’s worth, words can’t describe how much Just a Geek inspired me. When everything seems to go wrong & an end to the hell seems nowhere in sight, it’s so easy get into the self-destructive mode of abusing drugs & alcohol – especially when you’re a celebrity. But you didn’t take this all-too-common-tragic route. You had the strength to get yourself out of the rut & to do something you loved (& still do) & could profit from. And you did all this drug-free. That’s quite a feat in itself. I don’t think you give yourself nearly as much credit as you should.
    I know what it’s like to feel cursed. I’ll refrain from telling my sad stories, but I will confess that a series of REALLY traumatic events have occurred in my life these past couple of years. So to put it mildly, there have been A LOT of instances that have made me feel like “F@#$ this! Why even try over & over again when nothing ever comes of it?!
    So what if you don’t ever get another role? I’m saying this as a worst case scenario. It’s not going to change my opinion of you as being 1 of the most talented, underrated actors. Wil, I don’t think you need me to tell you that the criteria of what talent is in Hollywood is EXTREMELY skewed. There are so many countless actors that should be in major movies regularly & aren’t & so many who suck & are in movies back to back when they have no business being in Hollywood.
    All you have to do is be a good person, Wil & you are & I’m glad you have an awesome family that is not shy about reminding you of that. That’s all it takes turn around an incredibly shitty day. I should know from past experience.

  33. Well, you did it. You finally got me to come out of lurkdom with that post. (For whatever thats worth…) I’ve greatly enjoyed these posts from you that show the depth of the relationship to not only yourself but to your family as well. While its not an easy thing all the time, it is a magical thing, isn’t it?
    I too am in a relationship with a woman who has kids from a previous marriage. One of which is 12 and just venturing out into the world of teenager woes. Because I work at home these days, I also play poker online. The need for a break, a re-assesment of perspective and priorities is crucial. For what its worth, you’re doing the right thing.
    Just keep doing the Invitational, okay? *wink* I just got to PS and am looking forward to making it into one after all this time of reading about it. *grin*
    But, honestly, family comes first and if you need to have a run of Dungeon, Talisman, or even Chutes and Ladders with your family then thats the way to go! Thanks for the wonderful posts and insight into the depth of who you are as a person. As said earlier, “good on you.”

  34. I tried to post this last night, but I guess it didn’t go through!
    Your post really resonated with me, as I’ve been experiencing some similar feelings lately myself…I’m still working on pulling myself out. But I will try to follow your example. It really is all about family, though…if it weren’t for them, I shudder to think what kind of shape I’d be in right now. Take care of yourself!

  35. Just wanted to thank you for this post. Having been through some stressful stuff, depression, etc. in the recent past, I could absolutely relate. The part where you give yourself a little lecture totally struck home; I remember days on which I went through similar conversations (can you call it a conversation with only one person talking?) before convincing myself it really was worth getting on the bus and going to school.
    For me, getting through my “stuff” started by simply doing things. Taking walks in the park. Baking. Going out with friends. Reading some good books. More baking. And all the other things I love that I had been to “busy” and upset to do. It was time to start enjoying things again. No excuses. Things are worth doing; life is worth living.
    So I guess I just wanted to say: 1) you are totally on the right track. Taking the time to do those things that matter to you, whatever they may be, is in my opinion the best way to get a handle on your life. Dwelling on the things that sank you in the first place only drags you farther down; it sounds like you are well on the way to moving forward. (Not like you really needed some Random Stranger to tell you this, but even so…)
    And, 2) thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us Random Strangers and for articulating them so well. One of the biggest problems with stress and depression is that you feel so isolated. Sharing what you’re going through helps not only you, but anyone else who reads this post.
    (Honestly, now, I don’t always sound this cheesy. But I just felt like this had to be said.)
    Best wishes.

  36. Wil, There’s something I don’t understand… When you found out you had a callback for a show that you knew was perfect for you and that could give you long-term financial success, not to mention relaunch your career into the a-list, why on Earth didn’t you go all in on the poker game and catch the next flight to LA? Seems like a much better gamble than staying in some poker game. I mean, Los Angeles is accessible to nearly everywhere, so hopping to Miami and LA shouldn’t have been a problem. If you were my friend, I’d be really worried about your priorities.

  37. Wil, I know a lot of novelists and other published writers, and all I can tell you is that JAG was *not* a wasted opportunity; it was a fairly universal Rite of Passage, authorship-wise.
    The cover/jacket issue is nearly always a disappointment to authors in their early published works, along with royalty issues and marketing issues and lots of other things.
    These early disappointments are actually Learning Opportunities, as well as the writing version of paying your dues (something I know you are familiar with in the acting/voiceover field).
    As you publish more books and have a more proven track record, you will have more clout with which to bargain on your contract… and more experience with which to determine your own personal priorities (because it will probably be a long time before you get everything you want – you are probably going to have to make trade-offs for a while).
    Don’t get discouraged. Most successful authors have gone through similar struggles. The difference between them and the *unsuccessful* authors is that the successful ones learned from the experience. All indications are that you are going to do just fine!

  38. Hi Wil, Just spent the last day or 2 looking (read devouring) your blog and podcasts and they are really good, motivated me to go and buy Just a Geek as soon as I get the chance, and to start my own blog over at otborder.blogspot.com it may not be most peoples cup of tea as it deals with the daily ramblings of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (a mental illness) but I want it up there so if it helps one person understand this illness im happy. Thanks for the motivation and insight and I have just set up my aggregator to scrape your feed as your site rocks.

  39. Awesome post. Thank you.
    I loved the initial “not just another poker story, keep going bit” (how’d you know I needed that encouragement?). :-)
    Your insights are worth sharing, and told in such a way that I laughed out loud at least twice.
    Thank you.

  40. Wil, a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post–thank you for sharing it with all of us. I had a similar epiphany myself many years ago when my youngest, now 21, was only 2. At that time I was a stay-at-home mom, and my housekeeping was a family joke. Tired of the jibes from my in-laws, for one week I devoted all my energy to keeping the house clean: every floor was mopped or vacuumed; every flat surface was dusted, organized, and cleared off; every horizontal surface was washed, scrubbed or otherwise cleaned. I didn’t leave the house without first making sure that everything was put away in its proper place. And how did I accomplish this amazing feat with three children, a dog, a cat, and a pet rat (and, oh yes, a husband)? Every time one of my children came to me and asked if I could play with them or read them a book or otherwise spend time with them, I answered, “Later. Mommy’s busy right now.” I see the look on my two-year-old’s face when I told her, “Mommy can’t play with you right now; come back later,” so that I could wash the kitchen windows instead.
    Fortunately, at the end of the week, I had the presence of mind to ask myself this important question: Twenty years from now, *who* is going to thank me for spending time with them? Will the HOUSE say, thanks for the great job you did on my windows? I thought not. So I went back to my old standards: if the carpet didn’t crunch when one walked across it and a small child didn’t stick to the kitchen floor, the cleaning was good enough. Far more important to spend an hour with plastic beads, practicing “patterning” with my kindergartner. Today I’ve three reasonably production citizens to show for my “skewed” priorities, three grown children who nevertheless voluntarily call and visit their mother. So I think you are very much on the right track when you chose to put family over career–nothing lasts like family; nothing matters like family. You’ve got *teenagers* who talk to you! You are so obviously the opposite of a loser. :-)

  41. In two hundred years, nobody is going to know that most of us existed. A loser is someone who tries to be a somebody in the face of that, succeed or fail. It sounds like you’ve realized a winning formula for life…work hard and love.

  42. Great story, Wil. Even when things don’t exactly go your way, at the end of the day, family is what is most important to you.
    Your conversation with Nolan was absolutely profound, considering the fact that a lot of step-parents don’t take the time to communicate with their step-children the way that you do. I, myself, had a terrible relationship with my stepfather when I was Nolan’s age.
    It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized that he made a lot of sacrifices for my sisters and me, and really, he’s the only Father I’ve really had. My own Father wasn’t around very much when I was growing up, but my stepdad was always there for me. If only I had realized then exactly how important I was to him instead of thinking of him as “The enemy.”
    We have a much better relationship now than when I was a teenager, and I made it a point to thank him for putting up with my bullshit and being patient with me during those volitile years.
    Good job, Wil, and congratulations on your part in raising what seems to be two very happy and well-adjusted kids. You’ve truly hit the jackpot.

  43. Hi Wil, I came across your blog via a friend’s and have to say this was a touching, well-written and thought-provoking piece. Our perceptions of success and failure often hit us so hard, for positive or negative, and yet those perceptions are always subjective and the way we divide the events in our lives into good and bad is often arbitrary, because we can’t see and don’t know the connections – one bad experience could lead to a good one, and vice versa. The important thing is to focus on things that matter. Ultimately, what matters is connection to the people and places you find yourself in, and love. When every religious and spiritual belief since the dawn of man, be it paganism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or more, has as a central tenet the notion that love is all, love makes the world go round, love is the basic building block of everything, then you kind of know, even if people lose sight of it, that this is true. You really did have an epiphany and those moments are rare and precious. One day in the distance, you will be so glad you wrote this down to share not only with your readers but, on a bad day in the distance, with yourself as a reminder so you can relive the moment again as needed. x

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