Monday, April 26, 2010

On accomplishing more and less

Recently, I realized that in several weeks it will be three years since my mother died, which was a defining period in my life for a number of reasons.
1. I realized that chronology had caught up with me and I was officially the eldest member of my family. Me, the matriarch. One who is expected to be wise and mature both in years and behavior. (Do not laugh here). One who is, well, old. Having a birthday two months later and adding up the numbers made me reflect that the majority of my life on earth was indeed behind me. None of these thoughts, to be honest, was a happy one.
2. My number two daughter discovered a week after my mother's passing that she was pregnant, making me not only a matriarch but a grandmother to be. Wow, talk about passages! Loss, pain, joy and hope all rolled into one package.
3. Losing the last parent suddenly and unexpectedly (despite my mother's advanced age) made me realize again just how fragile life is and regret the things begrudged, undone, unsaid, unasked, unknown. I wished then and wish now that I had listened better. Now that questions cannot be asked or answered, especially.
4. At the time of my mothers death, I was trying to sell my house as a means to provide more monthly income and downsize my lifestyle but like many in our area in 2007 couldn't find a buyer. My mother's passing made the move unnecessary and eased my immediate financial worries during a time of deep Recession in our country. I wish it had happened another way, but what, is is and I am thankful to my parents for their parting gift.

I have reflected recently more than I would like, usually in the early morning hours when I should be falling asleep but can't, that in the past several years since Mother's death I seem to have achieved very little. My daily routine doesn't change much. Hours merge into days into weeks into months with a similar pattern: I wake, read the paper, sip coffee, breakfast and check email then spend ninety minutes walking the dogs. By that time its lunch time. I eat, straighten up the house (ignoring dust and actual cleaning), do laundry or go grocery shopping, write a while and then its time to get dinner, walk dogs again, catch little TV, and go back to bed to read for an hour or two on Kindle. Boring, eh? Sounds like it as I write it. I have flayed myself emotionally for this. But, what was I supposed to be doing really? I have no real good answer to this question.

But wait: In that same time frame, I cleaned out her house (which was an enormous task for one little matriarch), organized all her financial records and went through forty years of haphazardly piled up papers, found her missing stocks, updated and staged her house, sold her house, reinvested my inheritance, settled her estate, and hand carried her ashes to the little mountain cemetery in Pennsylvania where her family has been buried since 1805.

I supervised the extensive updating and some renovating of my own house and perhaps most importantly I wrote three books. A collection of short stories and a poetry anthology. The first two are published and the third, my first novel, is in edits.

So, maybe I have accomplished a few things after all. On the non accomplishing but life enriching side, I spent the last non committed to something useful funds from my inheritance for a Winnebago. In which Danny and I have taken frequent weekend and day trips and two long trips in the past year. Traveling on the roads with a bathroom and kitchen in the back is educational as well as fun. Dogs can come, too.

So, I will say tonight, "Shut up little annoying in the dark voice. I am not idle and anyone who can be a matriarch and write science fiction is decidedly not ordinary or boring. And dust bunnies contain a multi verse of life even if we can't see it. Leaving them under the chairs and in the corners and over door jams is perfectly all right. So there."


Still, as some clever fellow once said, even if you are on the right track you'll get run over if you stand still. While walking one of my three dogs this morning, I found myself thinking about that and wondering if I am indeed on the right track or standing still as regards my writing. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am dragging my editing heels on the dragon book.

I am doing this, I think, because once done I have to decide what to do with this one. And folks keep telling me I should use it to seek fame and fortune. So, are they right? Do I seek an agent, seek traditional publishing and have to do the ghastly in person book promotions if it does get almost miraculously published? Aren't most of the big box booksellers teetering on financial collapse? Aren't a lot of book buyers like me, rapidly changing their habits and buying most of their books off Amazon and or on Kindle? Would the brief emotional high of seeing my book at Borders or B & N and the approval of those folks who only respect conventionally published writers worth the lengthy emotional cost of getting Tim's book there and the physical misery of promotion? I have to answer, no.

I don't fly commercially or drive self more than an hour away from home unless it is life or death. I hate sleeping in hotels. I hate being started at. I can't do cold call phone calls and early morning meetings. Doing readings, signings, and speeches whatever the time of day would give me migraines, stomach disorders and probably bring back my long vanished Panic Disorder. No quality of life here. I know many people would enjoy all if those things. To me, it would all be purgatory if not Hell.

So, I ask myself: Why did I decide to write the book in the first place? Easy answer. For my grandchildren (and I have three now), children, extended family, and any friends who would enjoy it. If the rest of the world wants to read it, super. So, I think my conclusion is just to finish the project, not worry about the agent and submission thing. Small press it or POD. Put it out as a Kindle book and as an Audio and/or Podio Book. Let the words fall where they may. On fertile ground or parched earth.

To those who see this as a cop out or as less legitimate, I will wave good bye from the window of the Winnebago as I ride off to enjoy the dusty road wherever it may be leading. As a matriarch, my years have earned me the right and excuse to do whatever I want to. Or not do what I don't.

Right now, before the day is over I'd better get to a few edits. Live long and prosper.

Friday, April 16, 2010

April update and musings

April update:
Still sneezing: the pollen continues to drop. Enjoyed Easter Sunday with a visit to Preacher Tom's church, an egg hunt in the front yard with all three grandkids, and dinner with the entire family for a change. Finished the first draft of my first actual novel. Took Laura and her little family to Flagler Beach.

Now, am struggling to edit the novel. That is not as much fun as writing it was and it is impossible to predict how long it is going to take. Think of pulling teeth. Yeah, it is like that without the Novocaine.

I think part of my problem is not knowing what to do with the novel when I do get it in finished form. So, procrastination is nipping at me. I am taking a lot of naps instead of working. Getting headaches. Will I look for a publisher, agent? Self publish? Or just take another nap? Huuummm...

Here's the facts: I hate selling myself or anything else. I hate public speaking and hate commercial airline travel. Hate staying in hotels and calling strangers. Book signings would give me a stomach ache. So, that little voice inside me is whispering that the book is bad, so I can avoid working on it, avoid finishing, avoid decisions, avoid looking for commercial publication. Obscurity is easy. Success would not be.

Am I cursed or blessed? Is it the journey or the destination? Does one bite off the head or butt of a chocolate rabbit first?

I am off for a nap.