Homebody

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

~Maya Angelou

For fifty years I worked. Meaningful work, for the most part, with the exception of a few months when I was just marking time, but basically fifty years of my life, from 17 to 67, were spent in service to America. I’m proud of those years, and proud of what I accomplished both personally and for the good of others, but here’s a thing about jobs: They suck.

We all, well, everyone in the social circles I frequent at least, have to have jobs in order to live under roof and have a table with food on it, and a job is a cruel mistress. When you have a job, it can seem like your life doesn’t belong to you, that all the moments you enjoy, look forward to, and form memories around are stolen, like they’re something you’ve sneaked off with, because you aren’t entitled to them. It seems like every time you get interested in something, you have to put it aside and get ready to go back to work the next day. Weekends? Sure, those two days (if that) when you race around like a runaway pack horse trying to get next week’s groceries in, clean up house and yard, and maybe pop in a DVD if you’re very lucky this week. Slavery may have been abolished over 150 years ago, but not so that anyone would notice.

Well, twenty-seven months ago, in early May 2016, I was put into a Hobson’s choice situation in which the only attractive alternative was to retire. I never planned to, I didn’t want to, but the choice was to stay on at a job that I would have to re-learn from scratch to do something that I didn’t feel was correct, so I pulled the plug. I’ve often suspected that the whole thing was arranged to push me out and bring in some new blood. If it was, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart; that was the day my life began!

 

The pictures here are of my boss, Bo Cadiz, and his boss, Commander Troy Brunhart, wishing me farewell, the after party at Corvette Diner, and the elegant gift they got me to commemorate my service. I’ll never truly know whether this was all engineered to force me out or not, but I can tell you without the slightest duplicity that I harbor no hard feelings.

Since the Big Day, I hardly go out at all. I hardly need to; this here interweb thingie brings the world to me, after all. An occasional doctor’s appointment, or a trip to the DMV makes me put on clothes, put in my teeth, and drag myself down the road, but I’m happy as a clam right here. Our adult children bring our groceries, the web allows us to order everything from clothes to entertainment, and there is no need for me to be out there butting heads and bending fenders with the rest of humanity. I’ve been out there. It isn’t fun.

See, I’ve spent the last half a century making my house, my home, a haven of peace, and now I get to enjoy it. The thing that kills me is that, had I only known, I could have retired twelve years earlier. I was eligible for the full ride. I was just too ignorant to see it. But that’s all water under the fantail. All I have left to do now is enjoy whatever’s left, and dragging myself to a job that wants as its due my whole adult life has no part in it. I have time to do whatever I like, and lot of that has been playing Xbox games without one eye on the clock so I could stop in time to commence the rituals of worship to my job. Reading, similarly, required estimating the time it would take to read a chapter, and waiting for that block of time to become available. Friends and family had to be shoehorned in there somewhere, and all took a back seat to the Earning of the Paycheck. No more.

After a whole life spent one way, I now have all the time I need for everything I need and want to do, and that should include writing. I can spend an hour or a day poring over an outline, reading a how-to book, or watching a video lecture by a famous author. For fifty years I dreamed of this, and now that it’s here, it is incumbent on me to take full advantage of it. I’m trying, honestly I am, and if you don’t see the corresponding new material being added to the tabs above, all I can say is bear with me. I’ve been out of practice for a long time, and I’m trying to get back into it. I wrapped up Chameleon yesterday, and will begin transcribing Broken English later today. Stingaree, my steampunk opus to San Diego, will be finished, even should it take a while, and ramping up in the background is my borrowed story of a detective agency specializing in the . . . unusual. I have a feeling that writing is about to move front and center in my life, and this is certainly good news for me, as I hope it is for my readers.

So the time has come, the walrus said, to wrap this sucker up, to determine what it is I’m trying to say, and say it. I guess it’s this: I have all the time in the world. What’s needed is to manage it. There are things I have to do, yardwork, housework, that kind of stuff;  bummers. Those I can’t touch. There are also necessities that I enjoy, chief among them time spent with family. That I won’t touch. That still leaves several hours in the day that I can spend any way I wish. I haven’t been writing for a long time, over a year since I created any new material, and that’s what I need to address. It’s so easy to watch TV, to flop down and read, to turn on the Xbox, to jam on my blues harp, and beyond being easy, it’s downright enjoyable. Writing is mostly hard work, which makes it easy to blow off.

I don’t want to not be a writer, but that’s one thing I haven’t been for the past fourteen months or so. I enjoy creating and developing new plots, worlds, and concepts. What I have to finalize over the next few weeks is whether I want to do it enough to turn off the Xbox, turn off the TV, close the book, and write. It will be necessary to set aside at least two hours each day to make a story advance. The new project has me excited, and that’s good, but the question that needs to be answered is whether I’m willing to set all the fluff aside and do it on a regular basis. If I am, you’ll start seeing new material here. If not, then I’ll need to quit fooling around, close this blog, and get on with whatever I’ve decided is more important. All I can say at this point is, hide and watch. And while you’re watching, you can pass the time reading Chameleon. I finished transcribing it yesterday, and it is ready to read in all its thrill-packed glory. Anyone with a sweet tooth for dangerous ladies should have a ball with young Colleen O’Reilly. And now, with the last whine-fest in the books, I take you to some less conflicted people and their many words of wisdom.

Other Voices . . .

I’ll begin this week by welcoming back a pair of voices that have been out of circulation for almost three months while they have been transferring their entire multi-feature blog to their new provider. I speak, of course, of Writers After Dark, the delightful work of Raymond Esposito and S.K. Anthony. The several features there include blogs and podcasts, and run the range from serious to humorous, from sincere to sarcastic. If you’re a writer, or merely take an interest in the lives, techniques, or problems of writers, this site is definitely worth some exploration.

I keep coming back to Richie Billing’s blog here, and there is a very good reason for that. He is wonderfully knowledgeable about the basic components of literature, and this week’s post on the quintessential conflict he calls The Crucible is no exception. His explanations and discussions are of a quality that will enable even seasoned authors to pick up new points they may not have thought of, but young and novice writers trying to find their voices are sure to find his among the most valuable and instructive of the many out there. Take a look, and you’ll immediately see what I mean.

The Unorthodox Society for the Elucidation of Retro-Futurism [don’t shoot the messenger!] runs a regular feature called Meet Your Maker in which they interview contributors to the steam- and other-punk diaspora, and this issue goes into considerable depth with one of our regular visitors, Karen J. Carlisle of southern Australia. Much worth a read, and she has a personal appearance in a major con coming up, so if you’re one of my down-under readers, consider making a day of it!

Amy is a twelve-year old artist who makes jewelry of a quality usually found in works from artisans far beyond her years. She sells her work, and  much of the proceeds go toward purchasing plush toys and craft sets for hospitalized children. Her company is Little Dragonite. A huge thank you goes out to Richard Schulte for putting me onto this wonderful young lady and her most worthy cause. Christmas is coming, and it would be just super if everyone could find need of a gift or two from her site; the benefits would be widespread. If you can’t buy, please share; kids like this are the hope for the future, and they can’t be supported enough.

Finally, for a spectacular read, visit Idle Muser, the site of my good friend for some time now, Aditi Sharma, as she ponders coming of age, a process she happens to be moving through at this particular moment. She has a gift for poetry, and an immediacy brought about by living what she’s writing. Swing by if you have five minutes, and see how it’s done.

And that’s 30 for this weekend. Join me Thursday for the weekly roundup of interesting reading, and next Sunday I’ll be back here to entertain you with more rousing tales of the Writing Life. Until then, read well, and write better!

7 thoughts on “Homebody

  1. As I’ve said many a time before, it matters not to me whether you wish to keep writing, or stop. You have to make that determination, but to me, that will not stop making you a writer because your body of work and talent in the Craft will forever qualify you as one.
    By the way, I apologize because i got busy on my end, but I have made it through the second chapter of Chameleon, and I’m enjoying it. SO kudos on persevering and getting it all online. I hope to get back on Stingaree soon, and start it from the beginning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, see, I can count on you to get it; you’re exploring the same swamp I am. I intend to remain an active writer. See the subtle difference there? It’s simply a matter of applying the stubborn side of my makeup to devoting every morning from get-up until noon, which is rarely less than four hours, to The Craft. That should lead to success, if there’s anything left in the tank, yes? Had to deal with multiple posts today, so new material went begging, but I need to put your map on top of my stack, and get it out in the next few days, especially now that you’ve taken off writing again.

      I’m very glad that you’re enjoying Chameleon. She was the first of my Wicked Wenches, and a character dear to my heart. I’ve just started posting Broken English, but there’s no rush to get to that; it’s going to take a few weeks to get completely transcribed. After that, things better start happening at the ol’ desk, because I have no more old material to share; Stingaree looms ahead!

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      1. I get you. But who besides Stephen King says you must write every day? You know my pattern: two weeks on, two weeks off, sometimes longer, like recently. Sometimes I think finding your ‘pulse’ as an artist, when the mood is in or out, is a better route than daily force.
        Oh yes, Broken English! On it

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      2. You have to have a clear definition of The Craft. I’ve never believed in hitting a daily word count, or hours at the keyboard. I don’t believe that discipline equals creativity, but if I establish a No-Game, No-TV Zone on the clock, then that early time when I’m fresh becomes much easier to devote to writing in some form. It might be writing notes, drawing maps (including for friends), flow-charting, preparing this blog, or scribbling down a scene that I don’t have a plot for yet. Stuff that advances story, even if it doesn’t happen immediately.

        Oh, it could be transcribing. I enjoyed Broken English, and I hope it can provide a surprise or two for you.

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  2. We’re finally AT the CCRC in California (11th day now, furniture arrived last Wed.). And still stuff is in the way of me writing: new people, new activities and classes, having the husband awfully close (we’re in a 1 BR, waiting for a 2 BR to become available and fixed up for us), and I have to regain complete control of my computer files.

    I can’t wait to get back to work. Downsizing and moving cross-country is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, only a slight exaggeration. My whole identity is as a writer, and things keep getting in my way. But the change is so right. I just have to tame it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, but you’re settled at last, and you’re going to get more settled. Every day should be better than the last, it sounds like. Wifey was just reading one of those heavy philosophy/self-help books that posits that storytelling is a powerful tool to get and stay in touch with yourself. Hope you can get back to it soon! Enjoy exploring your new digs, and I’ll see you around the stacks.

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  3. This post of yours has provided me such an insight into your life, Jack. We’ve exchanged quite a few e-mails by now, and that makes me want to believe that I know you; but every time I read a new post on your blog, it assures me that I know not a half of you and your life. Which is good. I like to get to know my friends little by little every single day.

    Writing is the toughest job (most of the times). Why do I prefer to watch a movie that I wouldn’t have watched even if it were the last movie available on Earth over writing? All because it has been tougher for me to write from past few months now. Thing with me is, if there is substantial gap between my writing periods, which happens often, it becomes tougher to think myself of a capable writer, it becomes super easy to not trust my writing, and thus abandon the whole process. But, another thing is- I never give up. Yes, when being too busy in self-pitying, I do give giving-up a thought, but that is all that I give to it, just a thought.

    From your last post that I had read, the one that I keep talking about, I had realized how naive it was of me to be curating a writer’s definition. A writer cannot be defined, a writer can neither be created nor destroyed. Once a writer, always a writer, which you are, and will always be, no matter you create something once a week or once a year.

    But, yes, dedicating a fixed number of hours to writing everyday would do wonders for you, as well as for your readers. Tough it is, but not impossible. I’ve been able to live that period a year back. So, trust me when I say it’s very much possible. Just take your time, don’t rush, and you will be there.

    I like to believe that I’ve a lots of years of life, and, like you, I’ll also retire and live that life with all the time. Though too much of time becomes an issue too, managing it precisely. When I say such things, my mom wonders about my life considering it’s been only 2 years of me doing a job. Now, not that I hate my job, not even that I’m planning to get retire anytime soon (as if that’s an option), but retirement sounds something I might like. Grass on the other side always seems greener, you may say.

    And I’m honored to be a part of your shout-out section. Thanks for those kind words! Poetry came as a surprise to me though. Am I really good at that? Thanks again! My write-up inspired by your ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’ will be up next weekend.

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