Every fall, I catch up with a group of my closest friends. We travel to Florida together to stimulate that state’s economy by hanging around in bars and filling up bartender’s tip jars. No, Florida, you don’t have to thank us. We do it because it is the right thing to do.
Well, we do it for a lot of other reasons too, but that’s what I’m hanging my hat on for now.
Like Many Stories, This One Doesn’t Start With Me Having A Salad
A little over four months ago, we were at it again. It was late in our week away from home, we were enjoying a band and having a good time. One of our group tossed out the question “why do we keep coming to this warm place, listening to this music and drinking beer?”. The question brought a flurry of sarcastic answers like “I don’t know, I think I’m going to fly out early” and “I’m not coming next year”.
And then came the answer that stuck to me like honey mustard dressing does to the front of my shirt – “Because good stories don’t start with someone having a salad”.
I will admit that most of the stories involving this group of friends begin with us going out for drinks and end with someone doing something like wandering the halls of a hotel clad in a leopard print robe*. But I was certain that somewhere, maybe in another group of friends, there had to be a story that began with someone enjoying salad. Read the rest of this entry »
At the start of my retirement, I have the chance to chase my dream of writing a book. I’m fortunate to have this sort of adventure and blessed with the support I’ll need to make it happen.
Support doesn’t equate with words on the page. Those have to come from me. Some days the words don’t come. By “some days”, what I mean is “a lot of them until recently”. Fortunately, what I mean by “until recently” is that I’m finally getting some chapters drafted that make sense.
But this isn’t about me writing a book. This is about when I wasn’t writing a book and how I regained my focus.
When the book wasn’t rolling at all, I thought about dropping the idea. More than once I voiced those thoughts; I always got a smile and a gentle “not yet” that sent me back to the keyboard. Still, the words didn’t flow. Frustration did. I spent some of my writing time looking at want ads. I was so discouraged that I started making notes to help assemble a résumé.
Kung-Fu Movie Night
And then came Kung-Fu movie night.
One of the things most of you don’t know about me is that I love old Kung-Fu movies. I know that they’re awful. That’s part of their appeal. They’re not for everyone, so some evenings when I’m alone I order Chinese take out and stream a movie with Shaolin in the title.
On a recent Kung-Fu movie night, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner. There was a help wanted sign on the door.
Have you ever seen a help wanted sign at a Chinese restaurant? Me neither. But there it was. And as I sat there, waiting for my dinner to come out, I thought about the help wanted sign. I wondered what it would be like for me to interview for a job waiting tables in this place.
Restaurant owner: You really want to work, here?
Owner: Well, this is unprecedented.
Me: Really? No one has ever applied for a job here?
Owner: It’s just that you’re not…well, perhaps it’s better that I say it’s just that we’re all…it’s just, you’re not what we’re looking for.
Me: But you really haven’t asked me any interview questions.
Owner: Fine. Tell me about your work experience.
Me: Well, I was a police officer for twenty-eight years and I specialized in hostage negotiation for twenty-two. I also…
Owner: Did you ever negotiate in Mandarin?
Me: Mandarin, like those little canned orange slices?
Owner: Yeah, Sparky, like the orange slices. Your food is ready. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Of course, if you want more food, you should call us.
Write, Or Get A Job Peeling Tiny Oranges
As it turns out, my food was ready at about the same time my imaginary job interview ended.
While I drove home, I thought about the interview. If I couldn’t get through an imaginary job interview with a Chinese restaurant manager whose conversational style was oddly similar to my own, my prospects out in the world were not very good. The book, if I could get it out of my head, would be very good.
And so I started working on the book again the next morning. The dry spell ended. I’m going to give myself a fair shot to make this book thing work. It can’t be harder than learning Mandarin, can it?
The dream lives.
So does my smile.
I’ve written this blog for almost five years. My ability to express myself has grown over those five years. My writing delivers my message more powerfully than it did at the beginning. I read my initial drafts and they make me smile. Being creative is cool.
Of course, my regular readers might have noticed that my creativity has not flowed in quite the same way recently. When I have an idea, the words to express it just don’t come. The ideas aren’t coming either. I suppose the nice thing about the lack of ideas is that I don’t have to struggle to express myself if I’ve no point to make.
I’ve had short periods of struggle before. Those periods make me certain that I’ll pull through this somewhat longer phase. My writing will flow again.
I’m back from vacation. Hope you’re all still here.
I had a great time seeing almost all the people who are on my kidney list. I saw and did so much, including having a few adventures I’ve dreamed of for a long time.
I’m back and I’m happily tired. So I’m slowly restarting the writing machine with a rambling discussion of an incomplete thought.
There was a good bit of driving and time alone on my trip. Alone time in the car provided me with a chance to sing and not have anyone ask me things like “do you know more than one note?”*
I took time between songs to solve the world’s problems and think about writing. Read the rest of this entry »
When I find something to write about, I make a note to myself about it. Topics that I am eager to handle are a big problem. I want to sit down and go right to work. Life doesn’t always allow for that.
The idea for a post on Airport Pizza came to me last week. In the few minutes I had between forming the idea and boarding a plane I stored the first few lines of the post in my phone. Read the rest of this entry »
When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who insisted it was always wrong to write using absolute terms like always or never.
It seemed strange to me that a person could have an absolute rule against absolutes. Besides, if we were not meant to use always and never, why were those words in the language?
Mr. Arthur Is Always Partly Right
Mr. Arthur could never answer why the words existed, but always red-penned my papers when I used them. I don’t write for Mr. Arthur anymore, so I use the forbidden words. Read the rest of this entry »