Thursday, June 16, 2011


And a Fine Mahok To You, Hallowed Reader!

Before I start prattling on about the editing of my book, I wanted to discuss something that, technically, should have been covered in my previous entry about the challenges that writers face.  It's a biggie, so I thought it deserved it's own separate mention.  It's a big, hairy bugbear that stands directly in your path like a bully and pushes you down on your well-intentioned ass.

That challenge is TIME.

For most creative types who work a full time job, time is most assuredly not on your side.  There's the time you allocate getting ready for work, there the time you burn getting to work, there's the time you spend actually at work, and then there's the time you waste getting back home.  Add in various other errands, chores, and responsibilities and it's little wonder why aspiring writers don't just say f#@% it, fire up the ole' X-Box and then spaz out in a virtual world where they actually feel like they're accomplishing something.

And perish forbid if you've got kids to take care of.  Maybe one day when I'm independently wealthy as a self-employed writer I'll consider replication but until then I'm gonna avoid parenthood like the movie Zookeeper.   

I say that not to be miserable, but because it's the way it should be.  It's been my experience that people who hesitate to have kids (and actually ponder the ramifications of parenthood) are the one who actually  should be having kids.  As I've stated clearly right here, as far as I'm concerned, as soon as you start spurting out mini-me's you're livin' for someone else from there on in.  IMHO, your feeble, bulls#!^ self-concern should be as dead as acid wash jeans.

Now, mercifully, around the time I began the book in earnest I also became convinced that T.V. was a vast, time-sucking wasteland.  Like Steven King says, if you've got the time to watch crap like Sarah Palin's Alaska then you've got time to write. 

Indeed both of us are in complete agreement when he records in his memoir On Writing that in order to be a good scribe you have to do two things: read a lot and write a lot.

Although my idiot box was collecting a lot of dust at the time, I wasn't really reading as much as I should have. This is a character flaw in me that I struggle with to this day.  I either blow through a book in a few days (usually anything contemporary and written by Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk or Douglas Coupland) or it takes forever (witness my recent experience with Pillars of the Earth) or I just abandon the damned thing because I'm bored with it.

Okay, let's all swear this right now, Determined Readers: "I hereby do solemnly pledge that I shall emancipate myself from the Plasma/LCD teat and read at least four books a year.  We'll DYB, DYB, DYB, DYB and we'll DOB DOB, DOB.  Hey, nonny, nonny, etc, etc."

After all, according to Unca Steve: "A day without a book is like a day without sunshine", and let me tell ya, folks, us poor Vitamin-D/Spring-deprived slobs on the East Coast here really know what it's like to be livin' without sunshine lately.  I swear to God I'm developing Rickets.        

Although I was slack with the reading, I tried to write whenever I could.  Between calls at work.  When I was left alone at a coffee shop.  After being abandoned by my wife in a mall and turning up at the Lost n' Found looking dazed and frightened.  If I was left home alone for a time.  Any moment of peace I had I'd endeavor to compose a spot o' prose.

Trouble was, these moments were fleeting.  The opportunities weren't consistent enough and huge stretches of semi-abandonment threatened to occur.  As a result, the process began to drag.  Things got worse after the whole Sears debacle.  In September 2000 I started a new full-time job with a major American office supply vendor.  I don't want to give away their name but it rhymes with an ancient southern Italian city close to Mount Vesuvius.  Called Naples.

The fixed nature of the nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday, forty-three hour a week job dove-tailed very nicely with my wife's schedule, but now I didn't have any randomly scheduled middle-of-the-week days off when I could work on my book.  As my life became more regimented by this new job my opportunities to spend time at home working on the book began to fall by the wayside.  Despair and desperation began to set in and I secretly feared that it would never be finished.    

Before I started this new gig I spoke to people working there to see if they could give me the inside scoop on what managers were good to work for and which ones were Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs.  I'd used this same tactic in university to find out which Intro Philosophy profs would force you to mathematically chart arguments and which ones would play audio tapes of Monty Python skits.  

My future co-workers/moles put in a good word for me and said in no uncertain terms that the team I wanted to be on was Linda Shaughnessy's.  As soon as met her I instantly knew why.  Linda was possessed of a warm disposition, a creative soul and a genuine desire to keep her people as happy as possible in such a challenging environment.

As such, a year or so later when we were in the middle of my performance review we somehow got on the topic of art.  I may have mentioned my Dad's paintings at the time and I was impressed to learn that she also liked to paint.  Then, of course, came the inevitable question:

"So, do you have any artistic talent yourself?" she quizzed.

After I got over the initial shock of her not asking: 'So, what do you paint?' I spilled the beans about my book.  Right off the bat, Linda was inordinately sympathetic to my plight.  A few days later, after I brought my MONSTER IN A BOX in to show a few people, she took me into her office and told me:

'Look, if I get you some extra time every week, do you think you can finish it?' she asked.

'Yes!', I shouted, throwing her for a loop.  'You're darned tootin' I can!'

I could scarcely conceive that this gracious lady was going to bat for me over what a lesser manager would likely make fun of.  I was even more shell-shocked next week when she took me aside and said:

'Look, David, I managed to get your shift adjusted.  From here on in you'll only work Monday to Thursday.  You'll have Fridays off to work on your book.'

I was so happy I think I cartwheeled out of her office.  Knowing what she'd likely gone through to procure this privilege for me, I vowed then and there not to squander my rare opportunity.

That Friday I used my newly borrowed time to attack the nigh-dormant manuscript.  The consistent effort of that day and many that followed really helped the book's narrative flow take off.

I can say in all confidence that my book would never have been completed without this woman's charitable intervention and for that I will be eternally grateful.  Needless to say, when it came time to design the paperback's Dedication Page, I made sure Linda's name was included:

For Linda Shaughnessy for understanding the importance of creative needs over business needs.

The DeathQuest Saga: Brother's Keeper (Volume 1)

EPIC  To get a jump on our minimum "Four Books A Year" pledge, here are four contemporary books that I positively flew through:

TrainspottingGeneration X: Tales for an Accelerated CultureThe BeachFight Club: A Novel

FAIL  What the eff is Rosario Awesome doing in this cinematic turd?!?

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