As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more aware of the trails that I haven’t taken in my life. Thinking back, it’s easy to picture those points in time when you could have taken a different path. What you don’t see was the death that lurked down that path.

Click to listen

Download | Subscribe in iTunes

Hello, this is Ryan M. Williams, and you’re listening to the 14th Books for Coffee podcast, my insights, thoughts and speculations about living a creative life writing books that sell for the price of coffee.

Sometimes when we think about those alternate paths in life it’s at times when we’re feeling stressed or down in our current life. I got on the scale a month ago and stared aghast at the gray-black LCD display. 177.0 lbs. The heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. A couple years ago I hit a high at 174.0 lbs., changed my diet and dropped 40 lbs as if I was melting butter that had somehow congealed beneath my skin.

Then my diet drifted back to old habits and the  weight crawled right back and curled up around my middle as if it had missed me. It’d be easy to think that if only I had stuck on that path I would be in much better shape now. I’d probably be running marathons on the weekends, racking up Spartan Trifectas, and running the Fat Ass Ultra.

Or maybe I’m actually incredibly lucky and I’d already be dead if I’d taken that route.

What if life is like Final Destination and we’re just not in a position to see it?

Suppose that I’d started running more back then and that led me to be out on a trail at the precise moment when a giant tree branch, broken in a storm and hanging by the thinest sliver of bark,  suddenly broke free and speared straight down to impale me into the trail like a warning against runners?

Maybe I’ve actually avoided death over and over again, and I just don’t know it. Didn’t get to leave work on time? Good thing because if I’d left just a minute earlier I would have been driving the car that hit that big buck, and because I was driving a Beetle he would have come up over the front and impaled me like Wash on his antlers. Instead it was a bigger car that hit the deer and I just was one of the many cars driving past the accident.

There are other times that we question the paths we’ve taken. That job that sometimes seems to suck all of your energy? Wouldn’t it have been better to pursue a different degree? In your daydreams you paint a rosy picture of the outcome — in reality you avoided being terminated, having your house lost in a foreclosure, leading to a messy divorce and culminating in spending Thanksgiving sleeping outside huddled up in a doorway.

And sometimes it isn’t the version of our life where good things happened. Sometimes we take a path and it is the rocky path, the difficult path where it is easy to imagine that surely things would have been much better if we took a different path. If only we could go back and do it differently.

We can’t jump in our Tardis and try again, there’s no groundhog day for us to try over and over again, and as far as I know we don’t actually get to go back to a previous save point when we die.

Based on our experience we simply make our choice out of the paths that appear before us. With each option we tell ourselves stories about what will happen if we take one path, or the other. We weigh the factors that come to mind, including what others will think of the path we choose.

Writers, artists, we need to shut out those voices like a kid shoving fingers into her ears and crying, “Na na na!”

Each project we undertake is a new path. Do we write another book in a series? Do we try something new? Do we avoid topics or projects that will show too much about who we are — or do we embrace those projects? Either way we make up stories about what the outcome will be. Is this the book that will take off the way we dream? Is it the project that will embarrass us? What will your mother think when you write that story you’ve wanted to tell?

When it comes to my own paths I’ve gone down different roads with my books. I’ve written in multiple genres, cross-genres, whatever I’ve wanted to do — most of the time. For years I’ve flirted with the idea of writing erotica and haven’t really pursued it. I’ve paced in front of that path. I’ve looked down it, but I haven’t taken that path.

Until now. Later this month I’ll publish the first title in a new series of short erotica novels. It’ll go up for preorder on January 31st, with a publication date of February 14th — which seemed appropriate. As I pursue my impossible goals I’m going to publish a lot more frequently. In addition to this series I have another that I previously wrote and haven’t published that I plan to bring out as well.

I don’t know what this path will bring. It’s easy to see the fear, the shadows, hear the whispers telling me to turn back. The fun keeps me moving forward. I’m having a blast writing this story. I want to see what’s down this path.

Cake or death? I’m going to believe that it’s cake.

Thanks for listening, I hope you’ll check back again for the next podcast. If you want to show your support of the paths I’ve taken there are a few things you can do that will really help out:

  • Pick up copies of my books, always appreciated.
  • Leave reviews saying what you’ve liked about my work, reviews are hugely important to writers, and it’s a great way to show your support.
  • Sign up for my newsletter for the latest news and special offers.

Thanks again, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments.