Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Last One

I rather wish I hadn’t used the title from the final episode of M*A*S*H (“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”) in an earlier blog post, because I think it would be fitting and proper to use those words here and now.

You see, this entry will be the final one for this blog; I have decided to retire from writing.

In fact, I’ve decided to retire from a lot of things, but primarily, I’m giving up on the putting of words to paper with the intent of having other people read them.

I enjoy writing, I really do. And I really wish I could make a living doing it. But it’s just not possible, not for me, anyway.

That’s why I’m going to stop writing on my blog, and I’m going to cease efforts to get my novel published. I think about things all the time—politics, philosophy, religion, sports, relationships, etc. And I think I have some pretty good things to say about all of them. However, it’s become overwhelmingly apparent that I just do not have the resources to market those things rattling around in my head.

I spent more than six years on and off writing my novel. I thought about it every day. I’ve thought about it every day since it’s been finished. I spent about a year sending letters and e-mails to agents. I’ve been trying to find a way the past two years to get to a conference, after finding out that’s the best way to get an agent to lay eyes on my work. But I just can’t do it anymore. It hurts too much to keep pursuing this dream. I can’t keep thinking, oh, if I can just get this thing published, our money problems will go away, and I can quit my job to write full time. I’ve got two more ideas for novels in my head, a play I started years ago, and ideas for two television series that I’d like to work on.

But then I think about the cost. Do I come home from work and hole myself up at the computer and bang this stuff out every night until bedtime, obsessing over this dream? Do I miss watching my kids do swim lessons and tee ball? Do I miss more talent shows and dance recitals because I’m off at conferences, spending money we don’t have?

For some career-driven parents or business entrepreneurs, those sacrifices are worth it. However, it’s not for me. I don’t want to be the dad whose kids wonder why everything else seemed more important.

I had one of those dads, and I know how it feels.

My dad wasn’t really career-driven, though; he would just rather lie on the couch and watch TV or work on his fishing boat than do stuff with me. I can remember a whopping two times growing up that we played catch. I would ask him to take me to the batting cages at Wright’s Barnyard, and he’d laugh and he’d say, “Yeah, right, get a job.” I remember in 8th grade when he sold our ski boat that we used on the lake by our little summer cottage to get that stupid fishing boat. I was crushed, but I tried to be optimistic: “We’re going to take that to the lake, right?” My dad laughed like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. The fishing boat, I was told in no uncertain terms, was HIS, and was going to be used only for fishing trips. Never mind that we’d use our ski boat every weekend from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and lots of weekdays during summer vacation. That fishing boat was HIS, and it was only to be used the one or two times a year, when HE wanted to go fishing. (He even tried to enter a fishing tournament once—I don’t know if he had his own dreams of being Jimmy Houston or Al Linder—spending more time and money getting into that. He and his partner finished dead last. Didn’t catch a single fish.)

So I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to spend my time and money fixing up a shitty old fishing boat to use once or twice a year in lieu of doing things with and for my family.

For instance, do I spend about $500 and a few days away from my family so I can go to a writing conference so I can meet an agent or publisher about my novel, in hopes that MAYBE someone will want to work with me on it? Or, do I put that $500 toward a new play set or patio for my family, and spend those few days working on them? I have so much that I need to do and should do that I can no longer justify doing what I want to do. I don’t have infinite amounts of time or, more critically, money, to take care of the things that I need to do and try to further my own ambitions and dreams.

Part of the problem is that there are just so many things I want to do or try, I know there’s no way I’ll ever accomplish them. I obviously want to write. But I also want to learn to play the guitar and piano again. I want to be in a band. I want to coach football. I want to be back on the radio, hosting a show this time. I want to travel, and write about traveling. I want to cook. I want to learn to build things and fix things without having to ask for help. I want to golf—a lot. Of all the wants I have for myself outside of my children’s happiness, the only thing I’ve been able to accomplish is a well-maintained lawn.

So that’s why I’ve decided to retire from writing, as well as any other personal ambitions. I just have to put out of my head all of those things I want to do, because it just eats away at me day by day, little by little, that I can’t do any of them. I can no longer stand to be selfish, as I have been most of my life. My selfishness has just about cost me my marriage. I learned—probably too late—how to not think of myself first. The only things that matter to me are the smiles on my kids’ faces. Will any of my own personal accomplishments bring smiles to them? No. So why bother? I’d rather be lying on my deathbed regretting that I never became a full time writer than regretting I didn’t do more for and with my kids. I don’t know if my dad will regret anything on his deathbed—including moving a thousand miles away from his grandkids—but I doubt it. He doesn’t seem the regretful type.

Sounds like I need therapy, no? I probably do. But therapy would be for my own personal fulfillment, too, so that's not gonna happen. I really feel, however, in reaching this decision, like a large weight has been lifted from me. I no longer feel the crushing burden of carrying the load of all those things I want for only myself. I feel free. So at least there’s that.

Thank you to all who have read and commented on this here bloggy thing. I really appreciate you taking time to leave your thoughts, and for the kind words that some of you have said about me and my ideas and my writing.

Through all this, my philosophy hasn’t changed: have fun, do good.