I’m back! (Kinda. Sorta. Almost.)

When my mother passed away last year, it was one day before the OWFI Conference. Certainly, it was difficult, but there was no other option but to go and it is what my mother would have wanted. She and my late father always supported and promoted my writing. Creativity has long been a part of my family.

Over the course of the next several months, there were the legalities to go through involving the sale of her house. This was to be a long distance venture: the house was in Florida and I’m in Kansas. I chose who I thought was a reputable title company and went through an excruciating process based on my inability to make calls from work and time zone differences. There is far more to this part of the story but the details are not the issue. The bottom line is an unnecessary amount of stress was placed upon me by people who were far less than professional.

Then came the holidays.

In the meantime, I had to take a hiatus from my critique group. What started as temporary seems permanent. I had to recuse myself from attending meetings of the writer’s support group which I started. I pulled back and into a shell. The last quarter of the year I didn’t do a single bit of writing. I did some editing on a work in progress once or twice. In essence, I disappeared as a writer and, in so doing, lost my identity.

Well, the holidays have passed, my New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl, and I’m ready to start up again. I have to; there is no other choice. The alternative is to wind up like Amos Hart from “Chicago” (i.e. Mr. Cellophane). Life is too short to be occupied solely with the mundane and trivial. As writers, we create and bring to life the widest possibilities that exist around us. It is a feeling which I need to have again.

I will be doing a final draft on my Transgressive fiction piece, expanding it and making it even wilder than it is. I will be working on a second draft of the Meta-fiction, trying to expound on the notion of the Writer vs. the Writing. I will be picking up where I left off on my historical crime fiction.

Now, notice how I said “will be.” There are still a few plates that need to be cleared from the table, a better organization of my time, and a renewed dedication. So, I’m back, just not all the way yet.

This kinda sucks

I realized it has been a long time since I’ve added anything to this tale of my journey as a writer. This is, I realize, largely due to the fact that the train has slowed somewhat dramatically. An extended and long distance effort to finalize my late mother’s estate has drained me to the point of mental and emotional exhaustion. A labor-intensive home renovation project has made me feel trapped in my own home. And, of course, the “joy” of the holidays is upon us.

I just wish this year would end.

To free myself of burdens, I’ve departed from a writer’s support group that I started and effectively ended my critique group. I’ve been able to sneak in two or three editing sessions on one of the four projects I was actively working on at the time that everything came to a head.

But, it occurred to me that I have other responsibilities as a married man, a homeowner, a full-time employee. I have accepted these responsibilities unlike the carefree days of a Bohemian poet in Boston twenty years ago. I can’t write every day as some mantras declare. As it turns out, sometimes you can’t write at all.

I have stated in the past that the most invigorating times are when I am writing or with other writers. This has not dissipated. However, I have not stopped BEING a writer merely because I am not actively writing. I read, every day at work. (Currently on Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman as a way to inform my own work of metafiction.) I peruse my non-fiction books at home. I play around on the internet seeking general information or go off on a research tangent simply as a way to jump-start my brain.

In essence, I realize that I am not fading away (although from a social networking sense, I HAVE been rather quiet). From a literary standpoint, I would call it more like hibernation. Yes, there is still the issue of my mother’s estate and finishing the remodel and getting through the holidays. But The Writer is still alive.

Nevertheless, this still kinda sucks.

December = A down time for writing

For the last four years December has been a decidedly down time for writing for me. First there is the rush and exhilaration of NaNoWriMo, the goal mostly being to complete the effort before Thanksgiving so that I can prepare all of my food stuffs. Obviously, I don’t want to touch the NaNoWriMo piece until at the very least after the first of the year. I want to give it time to percolate or ferment (whichever the case may be.)
But then the holiday/family festivities begin full blown starting in December. My sister-in-law’s birthday (which we have previously discussed); Christmas Eve (for my wife and myself) and Christmas (with two sets of families); New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. And whereas everything sounds like a lot of fun (which it is) there is a lot of effort involved.
Add to that the year-end discussions with my wife about next year’s plans whether it is vacations or projects or long term events. All of a sudden it is fewer and far between to edit or write or contemplate anything of a literary or artistic nature.
This is not being said by way of disappointment. This is simply something that has come to be over the last few years. There is the writing/literary life and then there is real life. At times they blend and merge; other times they are in conflict; and still other times when one takes precedence over the other.
This being the holiday season, I must admit that I choose to take a bit of a vacation, so to speak. I still read my Writer’s Digest. I always have a novel that I am working on. I read the blogs of the folks I am following. I find a moment or two to make a few entries myself. But for the most part I reflect on the previous year in terms of ALL of the things that have made me who I am.
And I give thanks.

Sister-in-law’s Birthday Dinner

Due to a change in employment and a new work schedule, I was not in a position to create a menu and prepare my sister-in-law’s birthday dinner. Originally. My wife therefore created a menu and was looking forward to preparing it this past Saturday with me coming home from work in the nick of time to play bartender and host.
Then an unfortunate event occurred and there was a change of plans. We would have the dinner on Tuesday night. MY day off.
You have to understand that when I put on a family dinner, five course gourmet menu, I’m planning WEEKS in advance. I knew what my wife’s menu was but I had to get into EMERIL-mode pretty pronto fast. On top of which the New England Patriots had a huge Monday Night Football game against the Jets the night before. Ouch!
It went pretty much like any other family dinner: Getting up early to do as much prep as possible; creating a schedule of when things went where; feeling exhausted midway through the day; welcoming family; preparing everything; getting into a last-minute snit with my wife over some little thing; and celebrating being a family.
My wife had baked an incredible bread on Sunday night, something called Crusty Cob. It was just a good old-fashioned round artisan bread. But she told me on Sunday night a story about the yeast overflowing in the small bowl she was using and I immediately thought of a famous Three Stooges episode (“We ALL put the yeast in”) that some of you may remember.
We hadn’t had the family over in a while due to a recent remodeling project. So Shelia was showing them around just as I was putting the brie in the oven. I let her know that I was putting the brie in the oven. I took in out at the appropriate time and called upstairs that I was taking the brie OUT of the oven. I commented to my brother-in-law who was hanging out with me that my wife was most certainly going to make a comment that the brie was cold, not because it wasn’t done but because she took too long to return. Sure enough…
Now, I’m refilling drinks and not realizing that she is attempting to reheat the brie in the microwave, setting it for a minute and turning away. I will admit that mostly melted brie does taste pretty good although I’m not too fond of having to clean up dried brie after the fact.
For the most part it was an excellent evening somewhat shrouded by the fact that it was a work night. As for me, Wednesday is usually the other half of my “weekend”; unfortunately I had an 8 a.m. appointment to get my permanent crown put in.
The effort involved for these events is absolutely nothing compared to the joy of having family over, whether it is sharing time at the holidays or any other event. There is a phrase that I have used over the years which they are all now used to: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. And when you consider the Thanksgiving turkey and the Easter ham the burgers at Fourth of July, I’m not so far off the mark.