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