That critical moment when a writer is forged.
I have to give the guys of Rush significant credit in me being a published author. I’ve never met them (what a dream come true that would be), but they’ve been in my life nearly every single day since I was 16..
I’ve been a Rush fan since Moving Pictures first came out in 1981. It was the first album I purchased with my own money. Still have it, and most of the rest on vinyl up until CDs came out.
I’ve recently been getting the older CDs to replace the vinyl, but my favorite still remains Moving Pictures.
I took my son to see them at the Gorge in George, Washington back in 2002. He was 12. First time I’d seen the band live, and the setting could not be more spectacular. It was a religious experience. I’d been a studio snob, avoiding live tracks because I had the studio version in my head, ingrained. But once I saw them live, it opened a whole new vista for me.
The influence Rush has had on my life cannot be understated. Music has a significant impact on my life, and Rush has been the dominant player on the scene.
Back in 1990, before my son was born, I was working as an assistant manager in a large chain retail store in Kentucky. My wife was pregnant with the boy, and we were on a track on what I expected to be an average life. One I soon found onerous and unsatisfactory. We’d both dropped out college several years earlier, which was the right decision at the time, but I was staring down a long career in retail and thinking how I’d end up miserable and bitter.
At this time, I’d almost given up on being a writer, a dream I’d pursued since I was twelve. Taking care of my family was the most important thing to me. I was 25 and skating close to the margins. Two strange events occurred to get me back on the road to college and where I am today.
The first event was a little book I found while cruising through our local book store, Joseph Beth Booksellers. Stuck between two very large tomes of literature criticism, was this tiny little book called Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. I wasn’t even looking at the Lit Crit books intentionally, I was walking by, looking at books on writing in general, and noticed that they were oddly spaced apart. Pulling them down, I discovered the Goldberg book shoved way in the back, definitely misshelved.
I bought it. Felt like the universe pointed me to that book, ya know? Every day at lunch, I’d leave work and eat someplace else, pull out that book, and fall into the renewed thoughts of being an author.
Months earlier, Rush had released a new studio album, Presto. I had an hour commute each way, but I lived in the country. I was driving 50 miles each way to get to work. I was also salaried, so I worked 50 – 60 hours a week, and my go-home-time was not really consistent. The funny thing was, while I was reading the Goldberg book, every single day, no matter what time I drove home, one of the songs from that album was playing on the radio. The song, “The Pass” really got into my consciousness. The whole song spoke to me, but one verse in particular just echoed in my mind, waking or sleeping for the next few weeks.
“It’s not as if this barricade
Blocks the only road
It’s not as if you’re all alone
In wanting to explode” The Pass, Rush, Presto.
It was like Neil Peart had looked into my heart when he wrote those lines. Like Geddy Lee was talking to me directly as the music blared out of my speakers as I rolled home to my wonderful wife. I’m not sure what Alex Lifeson was doing at the time, but I imagined him in my back seat of my car, jamming out. The way this song is put together is astounding. I think it’s one of their best, musically.
So, here I am, reading this book about finding the zen in writing, and Rush is telling me that the road I’m on isn’t the only one. Suddenly it all fell together and I quit my job.
Now, Kathy was pregnant at the time, which made it not the most intelligent thing I could do in hind-sight. Well, in the short run. In full hind-sight, it was brilliant. We both went back to college, found out way to the west coast, I kick-started my writing again, and now I’m a Tor novelist.
Lots of things happened between those long rides home, exhausted and disheartened, and where I am today. But I give huge props to Natalie Goldberg and the guys of Rush. They opened a path for me that I had given up hope on.