All posts by Wil

Author, actor, producer. On a good day, I am charming as fuck.

I’m narrating Randall Monroe’s What If? 2, but you didn’t hear it from me.

I’m generally not meant to talk about what I’m working on without explicit permission, so earlier today, I posted this on Instagram:

Workin’

You know, like I always do when I’m working on something. It’s fun, and I enjoy having this easily searched archive when I want to pull a memory out of storage.

A little bit later, I added

Be cool and don’t narc on me. Snitches get stitches.

Then I went back to work and didn’t notice until I got home a bit ago that stupid fucking Instagram was like “Hey, how about I crop your image to ruin your joke? I’ll cut your name off the bottom so none of this makes sense lol. Now watch all these reels from people you don’t follow. You’ll see your friends’ posts in … the future.”

So here is the uncropped image which I TOLD Instagram to upload.

See? Narrated by me. I didn’t tell you, thus revealing a secret! You just read an unrelated screenshot. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Have I over explained the joke enough? Find the nearest dad to pick up the baton from me if not.

I’m always told not to talk about what I’m working on, so the publisher can make announcements and do PR at their pace, on their schedule. I always wait and then just amplify their messages. I know lots of professionals do lots of hard work, and I don’t want to step on it or make it harder for them, just to amuse or promote myself.

So, here’s the timeline on this job:

The day the book was announced way back in … I think winter, early in the year? I started getting asks from people if I’d narrate it, since I’d already narrated the first one, it was kind of in my wheelhouse, etc.

At that time, I hoped I would be asked, because I freaking LOVE Randall Monroe’s work, it was a blast doing the first one, and How To, and I loved the idea of getting the team back together (same director and studio) to do it again.

But like months went by and nobody called us, so I presumed they’d decided to use a different narrator. Oh well. Sad trombone but life goes on, long after JCM’s record has stopped playing in the last little pink house that hasn’t been destroyed by climate change.

Then! Then I got an email from my agent about 6 weeks ago, asking if I would narrate What If? 2. I replied something like, “Yes. I don’t even need to read it first. Just close the deal before they change their mind!” And that was that.

I still couldn’t talk about it (or at least chose not to, as expressed above), and when someone asked me if I was doing it, I always said that would be super cool, but I couldn’t say one way or the other.Then like two weeks ago, maybe three, I searched my name on Audible to find a link to one of my NUMEROUS AWARD WINNING NARRATIONS flex and saw that this one was on the list! HO HO! I don’t have to wait! They’ve already put it online!

Which brings us up to about 5 hours ago, when I posted what I imagined was clever, but was missing what I believe was/is vital context.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Hey everyone! An old man is talking!

In seven days, I will be 50 years-old. This is … weird. I do not feel the way I expected I would feel when I was approaching 50, nor do any of my friends. The only time I feel like I’m middle-aged is when my body does some bullshit that takes me down for hours because I had the nerve to stand up quickly. And I really hate it when I have to use the flashlight on my phone to see a menu. I mean, at that point, I may as well be dropping my pants for free and singing the Old Gray Mare.

Anyway. This has been on my mind for a little bit, so I had something to say when someone used my tumblr ask me thingy earlier this week:

Q: I hope I’m as cool as you when I’m 49. I’d like to think I’m taking the right steps towards that version of myself.

A: So I’m not sure I’m cool, but I do know that I don’t suck, and that it’s a choice I make every day.

I desperately wish someone in my family had told me, or shown me by example, that getting older doesn’t mean getting stupid and boring and stuffy and extremely uncool. I wish I’d known that, because I spent all of my life until I was in my 40s feeling like there was this day coming very soon when I would have to stop listening to punk, stop playing video games, put on a suit, and start yelling at kids for no good reason. I didn’t know that you don’t have to suddenly stop being who you are and become something or someone you hate, just because of a certain age. I know that’s super obvious, but to young me, it was not. My dad was an asshole, my mom never showed up for me. Directors and people on set had been treating me like a thing for my entire life. I got yelled at for no reason from adults who knew better almost every day. Most of my elementary school teachers were authoritarian, evangelical assholes. All of these different adults, consistently, shut me down and made me feel like I didn’t matter, the things I liked were stupid, and my opinions were invalid because of reasons I didn’t understand because I was a dumb kid. So I presumed that when you got to be a certain age, that’s what happened. I didn’t want to be that, at all, and I was sincerely afraid of the day it would happen.

But as I got older, I discovered that all that stuff I hated about adults doesn’t automatically happen. Those adults I just mentioned all made a choice to be an asshole. I just didn’t know it. I was in my early 20s when I did a movie with a cinematographer who was, I think, 45 at the time. He was the coolest, kindest, most artistic dude I’d ever known. He mentored me and we had epic fun making great art together. I remember telling him, “I’m not afraid of being in my 40s like I used to be. I didn’t know you could still be cool.”

It’s sad, that I grew up in such a toxic environment, and didn’t know any of these things.

So, 9 days before I turn 50, here are a couple things I have figured out: You know who sucks when they hit 49 and 50? People who sucked when they were 20 and never grew up. You know who is an asshole at 49 and 50? Yep. Someone who was an asshole as a kid and never experienced consequences for being an asshole.

Hitting middle age has been awesome for me. Other than the aging of my body and its reluctance / refusal to do what I want it to do, I love everything about it. I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life being afraid that, when I hit 50, it was all over. Because honestly it’s kind of just starting. The coolest stuff in my life to date has all happened in the last ten years, and I’m so grateful that it coincided with me figuring out a lot of shit so I could enjoy it.

The best part of getting older, by several thousand light years, is the part where we figure out how to stop putting up with other people’s bullshit, and we contract our social circle until it’s only populated with a VERY few people who deserve us. And I am incredibly grateful for these occasional opportunities to be a 49 year-old dad who can say all the things that would have been reassuring for 19 year-old me to hear (he wouldn’t have understood, but 29 year-old me would have remembered, and he would have understood. I think.) I sincerely hope someone hears it and finds it helpful.

Anyway, you’re gonna be fine. Just remember that being cool, kind, honest, honorable, reliable, listening and showing up … they are all choices. If you want to be cool when you’re 49, make the choice and set the example for someone to follow you.

Treat kids the way you wanted to be treated when you were young. Listen to them when they offer you the privilege, because that means they trust you, and you have credibility with them. Be a mentor. Be supportive. Show up. Make a choice to be the person you need in the world, and never stop being that person. Start today, and when you’re nearing 50 like I am, hopefully you’ll remember who you needed right now, so you can be that person to someone else in the future. You’re already asking the right questions and taking the first steps. I believe in you. You’ve got this.

I wrote fan fiction for my job and got paid for it and everything.

A few months ago, an editor at IDW reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in contributing something to their 400th issue of the Star Trek comic. I told her I was VERY interested, but wasn’t sure how much time I had in my schedule.

I offered a few options, presented in order from easiest (and least desirable for me) to most time-consuming, but most exciting for me to do: I could give them an essay that already exists, I could write a short, new essay, or I could write an entire new story.

She was like, how about that new story?

So I pitched something, and told my team that I was going to be working on this for a couple of weeks. One of them wrote back that I didn’t have time to do this. I told them I was creating time out of thin air to work on it, because it was that important to me. And that’s what I did.

My pitch was accepted, and I set my brain upon the task of developing it. It came in little pieces, out of order, until I woke up in the middle of the night about a week in, with an idea that was orders of magnitude more interesting and challenging. I got out of bed, transcribed what my brain was delivering, and hoped it would make sense in the morning. When morning came, I saw the shape of it, and I saw The Thing that I really wanted to do, The Thing that makes the whole story worth writing. (For shorts, there is always A Thing I want to tell in the story, and that’s why I write it. When The Thing revealed itself to me, it happened to be about 4 in the morning. It happens like that pretty frequently.)

We had to get approval, but time was already short. So I got to work before I even had permission and hoped for the best. I was fortunate to get broad approval, and the notes ended up being about small things that didn’t affect the narrative arc.

So a lot of the process to bring this together was watching and consuming Star Trek (thank you for your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time) so I was steeped in the universe. Think of living abroad for so long, you have to relearn what your cultural and language norms are before you go home.

It was the most fun I have ever had writing something. From the very beginning, I just had fun. I didn’t second guess myself. I didn’t worry. I didn’t let my anxiety or the relentlessly critical inner voice of the man who was my father speak up and distract me. I worked hard and without fear, and it was the best thing, ever. I have no idea how this will be received by the audience. I hope other people like it as much as I do. But even if they don’t, I love this story and I loved writing it. That’s all I care about, and WOW let me tell you what an incredible feeling that is!

I’m so grateful I learned how to separate the joy of doing the work from the anxiety of how it will be received. The rest of this post is collected from daily posts I made on Facebook as I tracked my progress.

July 11

I am having the BEST time writing this thing that’s due on Friday. I love EVERY SECOND of this process, even the parts where I don’t feel like I’m making progress the way I want to. I’m still making progress, and I’m learning to embrace that process so I can enjoy it more.

I’ve been at it all day, and I want to keep writing SO MUCH, but I am just totally out of gas and it’s time to go play NHL 22.

I love this. I love this so much. I love being a writer and a storyteller. I am so grateful for this life.

July 12

It’s another day on this project that’s due Friday. I’m on pace to wrap up tomorrow, have Thursday to polish it, and turn it in on time.

I think I’ve overwritten it (I usually do) and I may have to lose a substantial chunk, but that’s cool with me. I’ve learned how to save things, how to let go of my original idea when the collaborative process begins and the work starts to develop into its own thing. It’s pretty great.

I’d love to keep going, but just now, in the middle of a sentence, I ran out of gas. It happens, and I’ve managed my time responsibly enough to go ahead and call it for the day.
I’m still having the best time doing this, and I’m super excited to release it into the world.

July 13

I’ve been working on this thing that’s due on Friday for about a month, but I didn’t start actually writing it until last week, because WOW HAVE I BEEN BUSY.

I just finished the first complete draft, and I’m walking away to let it breathe until tomorrow, when I’ll rewrite. I am exhausted, but this has been so much fun. It’s going to kill me when I have to cut at least half of it, but I’m actually going to make this deadline, like I’m an adult and a professional, and everything.

July 14

So that thing that’s due tomorrow? Finished it and turned it in a couple hours ago. For the first time in my career as a writer, I actually got something in AHEAD of a deadline.
It wasn’t easy. This morning, while I was working on rewriting, tightening it up, raising the stakes, and all that, I hit The Valley of Despair. This is a part of my creative process, very close to the end, when I feel like everything I’ve done is terrible, I’m the worst writer in the world, they’re all gonna laugh at me, and I should just give up and quit right now.

When that happens, I know I’m close to the end, but too close to be objective and see the words among all the letters. (This took many painful years to learn.)

So I reached out to a friend I respect deeply, who has EXTREMELY relevant experience, and asked for notes. They gave me notes, some INCREDIBLE ideas that I absolutely LOVED adding, and they got me across The Valley of Despair. Once I was on the other side, everything came together so effortlessly, it was kind of rude.

It’s so interesting to me that I can struggle for so long to see where the cuts need to happen, never seeing them, feeling like each precious bit is too precious to cut, right up until the moment they are all suddenly so obvious, I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote them, and I never miss them when they’re gone. I cut a lot of stuff today that I enjoyed making up and writing, but I don’t miss it at all. The story didn’t need it. I’ve heard some writers talk about that stuff as the scaffolding they use to hold the thing together while they work on it. I like that metaphor.

Maybe the Valley of Despair is what happens when I take the scaffolding down. That’s a neat metaphor, too.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to get into details about this. Until then, I’m going to stay safely vague. But I’m super excited for this to be a thing in the world that all of you can read. It was really fun to imagine.

July 20

So I turned this thing in on Thursday last week, knowing it was overwritten and needed deep cuts that were going to hurt. That’s okay. It’s part of the whole creation process.

On Monday, I made some deep cuts. The manuscript sank into the swamp. Then I made more deep cuts yesterday. THAT sank into the swamp. I just finished ANOTHER round of extremely deep cuts today. If it follows, it will burn down, fall over, and sink into the swamp. BUT the next one will stay.

It’s fascinating to watch this happen in front of me. When I see the cut bits behind the green “cut this” suggestion thing, I REALLY miss them. But when I accept the cuts and read it all without the stuff I’ve cut, it still works and I don’t miss it at all. That is so WEIRD.

But it is so much fun, and so satisfying, to play with these toys. I still can’t believe I get to do this for my job.

Also, could someone get that guard a drink of water?

July 21

That thing I’ve been working on? That I couldn’t get specific about?

Well, now I can.

“IDW Publishing is celebrating 400 issues of Star Trek. This September, IDW will release the oversized Star Trek #400 one-shot featuring new stories from across the Star Trek universe. The stories include a brand new Star Trek: The Next Generation by series star Wil Wheaton, who recently reprised his role as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: Picard’s second season finale. “

I think this drops in September, around Star Trek Day. If you want to get one, tell your local comic shop so they can order it for you.

Self Help: An Audible Original

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the tremendous privilege of narrating some outstanding audiobooks that have just been a joy to work on from start to finish. One of them is Self Help, by Ben Winters. It’s narrated by me and features Ron Perlman in a sensational performance.

A darkly comedic thriller by the New York Times best-selling author of Underground Airlines, The Last Policeman, and the Audible Originals Q&A and Inside Jobs.

Jack Diller is just one more struggling actor on the road to nowhere. He’s got an agent who barely remembers his name, his ex-girlfriend has hooked up with a Silicon Valley dude, and the milk in his fridge is so far past its sell-by date it’s historic. The only way Jack can scrape together a bare existence is by delivering food to exactly the types of successful people he wishes he could be.

Then, one day, a very strange audiobook shows up on his phone. The Killer Instinct seems to be your basic self-help guide, narrated by a washed-up action star named Hector Bruno, and brimming with cheesy advice for how to get your life together.

With so little to lose, Jack starts listening… and listening some more. He starts talking to Hector like he’s his best friend.

And then… Hector starts talking back.

This is one of those things that’s in the space between audiobook and narrative performance. Ron and I never worked together, but WOW do our performances work together! The result is something that feels like Twilight Zone / Tales from the Darkside / Outer Limits / and so forth. It’s about three hours and forty-five minutes, so you can do it in one go if you want.

On a more personal note: I recently realized that I am at the point in my career where I have the privilege to choose what I do, and I’ve only been choosing projects I love and feel excited about sharing with the world. It’s taken a lot to get here, but it’s all been worth it. I feel so happy and grateful, and I can’t wait for all of these things to roll out.