What Stan Lee Meant to Me

As a writer, there have been a handful of creators I’ve really looked up to in different stages of my life: JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Sabaa Tahir, Jerry Bruckheimer, Lin-Manuel Miranda . . . people who pour their hearts and souls into a spark of an idea and nurture the flames until their blaze becomes bigger than them.

As a person, there are characters I’ve grown up with, and I aspired to be just like them. I wanted Wolverine’s resilience, Captain America’s moral compass, Spider-Man’s charm and ability to bounce between his contrasting dual-lives so fluidly (but not perfectly) . . . I wanted Iron-Man’s brains and dry sense of humor. I wanted Black Widow’s sheer “badassity” and a group of friends with a bond like the Fantastic Four. These were characters my mom used to hold up to me when I was battling cancer as a little boy. As much as I didn’t want to eat, sleep, or take my medicine, the goal of growing up to be “big and strong like Wolverine” and the fact that the nurses were bringing me “Spider-Man food” trumped all fears I ever had, and the effect endured long after my recovery.

I mourn today for the loss of Stan Lee, a creator who left behind an immortal legacy. His worlds gave us an escape, and then he showed us how there’s hope in our own worlds. His characters gave us something to aspire to, and then he showed us how they’re just like you and me. His imagination gave us something to get excited about, to geek out over, and to hold in our hearts.

I’ll never forget when I saw Mr. Lee at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con . . . a tiny, ordinary-looking man with a presence that was larger than life, standing nearly ten feet away from me and providing opportunities for photo ops. Seriously, my jaw dropped. How many times had I cheered in a crowded movie theater because this man graced the movie screen in front of us for no more than five seconds? I had the money ready in my hand and I was ready to tell him everything I just wrote down . . . and then I simply couldn’t do it. I didn’t think I could say anything to him without getting choked up. But he knew his effect on the world. You don’t build an entire empire without knowing you’ve changed lives. Even being in the same room as him for a few minutes was more than I could’ve dreamed as a kid. Those who were lucky (and brave) enough to thank him often got a moving reply of, “I did it all for you, kid.”

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And now, as creators, we get to remember Mr. Lee and the wonderful vision he left for us to enjoy. I will always be inspired by his vivid imagination, colorful worlds, and flawed but phenomenal characters, and I can only hope to leave behind even the tiniest fraction of what he created.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Lee. May you rest in peace.

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NaNoWhatMo?

It’s official! NaNoWriMo starts in less than a week, which means it’s time to find your favorite writers and give them hugs or send them snacks and inspiration. Throughout the month of November, many of us are going to be bleeding out our fingertips to write the stories of our hearts. It’s National Novel Writing Month, and tens of thousands of writers across the country will be participating.

I’ve had this exact conversation with more individuals than I can remember now:

Person: “Wow, you write books? How cool! I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I have time, I will.”

Me: “Oh, hey, you should think about signing up for NaNoWriMo this year.”

Person: “NaNoWhatMo?”

Me: “NaNoWriMo! It’s a yearly event and a non-profit organization that encourages you to write a novel in a month, or at least make progress and establish a habit.”

Person: ” . . . oh. Yeah, no. I could never write a novel in a month. That’s crazy!”

A: Yes, perhaps a little. All writing is a little crazy. We sit at a keyboard or a pad of paper and manipulate 26 letters in infinite combinations with the goal of creating vivid shared hallucinations. It’s fantastic.

B: NOBODY inherently has time to write a novel. Many of the writers who have done so did not have any more time than you do. Time is a finite economy and we all make do with the little pockets we can scrounge. More on this in a blog post I made last year. The Sparknotes version: If you are waiting for that magic moment to open up when the stars will align and you’ll have ALL the inspiration and ALL the time, you will never write your novel. *puts down the megaphone and steps off soapbox*

C: Truth, homie! Writing a novel is difficult. Writing a novel in a month is SUPA HARD. It can be done, but I certainly have never done it before. In fact, I’ve never even hit the 50,000 word goal that we’re “supposed” to hit during NaNoWriMo. That’s why I use the month to taken in all the creative juices I can and attempt to make significant progress on some sort of project. I pull up my playlists, print out photos of my “fan castings” or settings, light candles that smell like Florindale Square or the ocean or the leather goods someone might find in my world, and I simply add as many words as I can. My record is probably somewhere over 30,000. Fifty K? I can only dream for now.

But, whether I know I can write 50,000 words or 500 words in a month, I could never pass up the opportunity to move 500 words closer to typing “THE END.” After all, I find the revision process a whole lot more fun than the first draft process, and every year I can’t wait to print out that beautifully-spiral-bound-but-terribly-written first draft so I can begin to splatter the pages with red ink and make them sing. (Oh, and nothing I’ve written in November has ever been publishable until at least June or July!)

So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into the writing waters “when you have the time”, why not get started this November and see if you can write half a novel? A few chapters? An outline? Even if you finish with a basic description of a main character and a random sentence that belongs somewhere in the middle, that’s something you didn’t have in October.

I’m here to tell you: You have a book inside of you, you can bring it out, and it is valuable.

You’ve got this!

Cheers,

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