Fathers’ Day: Get His Story

img161Nearly thirty years ago, nearly half my lifetime ago, my father died of lymphoma. I was twenty-nine years old and dumb as a post, emotionally, at least.

But I thought I was all grown up. I was about to graduate engineering school and go to work in the corporate world. I didn’t know just how dumb I was. I wasn’t yet mature enough to know, to realize how people can influence our views with a word here, a word there. How people can instill their own hate and anger, their own bitterness into us just by repeating their catalogue of fear, day after day. I was raised to believe my father was a sorry, good-for-nothing man. And for a long time, I accepted it as truth. But as I grew older, I started to doubt it. Even before he died, I started to doubt it, but I wasn’t strong enough to act on it back then. Now I know. I finally recognized the truth for what it was. I was conned.

I allowed myself to be conned.

My father was a gentle person, an uneducated farmer kind of guy. But he was smart. I got my math genes from him. He was also wise enough to know that hard work means everything. That being generous and kind is far more important than being smart or right. He loved animals. And he loved me and my brother. More than I realized, until it was too late.

Some of my fondest memories are of treehouses and fishing, of following behind him as he rounded up the cows for milking, of walks through the woods looking for Christmas trees. Of him showing me just how beautiful bell peppers get when they ripen to red and purple.

I regret not getting to know my father better. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to him more. I’m sorry I didn’t learn more about him, his life.

I’m sorry I was so stupid.

Don’t waste the time you have. Trust your instinct about people. And talk to your father… your mother, your brother or sister. Whoever. Take pictures. Record their stories.

Maybe you’ll look back and think it was a total waste of time. But I bet you won’t.

Do it. While you still have time.

 

 

Finding Time to Write

Most of us who are just starting out as authors have to hold down a job that pays the rent.  So when do we find time to write?

During the week, I find that by the time I get home from my computer geek 9-5 job that my brain has turned to cheese, and not the good cheese. No, by then, my brain is more like the cheese you find at the back of your refrigerator, the hunk of Gouda or Camembert–hard to tell at that point–you don’t remember buying. So I tell myself that it’s okay to sit on the sofa like a giant wilted celery stalk, that it’s okay to do nothing, but I feel guilty about it.  See, I’ve already broken my resolve not to have to produce.

Anyway, as I’m sitting here feeling guilty about not writing, I tell myself that I’ll write this weekend.  But you know what, my weekend is the time when all the stuff gets done, the house cleaning and shopping and the big to-dos like re-sealing the grout in the bathrooms or installing the new range hood.

What I need to do is find some discipline. I need to write for an hour everyday. But discipline, like patience, is not one of my virtues. Procrastination and self-deception, now those virtues I revel in.

IMG_20140608_135745 (2)The problem is that Beryl–the protagonist in the novel I’m currently writing, or not currently writing if truth be told–has been bugging me lately.

And Sinclair, the antagonist and pseudo-love-interest, has decided he doesn’t want to be a teacher at a Seattle community college. No, he has changed professions. Sinclair’s new profession fits more with his personality, or maybe his new profession is a large part of what shaped his personality.

Last weekend I even went to Pike Market to scope out the territory, where Sinclair sits as he watches Beryl. And you thought I just dumped a couple of random pictures into this post. The one jpeg is potentially where Sinclair would sit [a coffee shop across the street from the end of the market] and his view from said coffee shop.

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So I ask myself, does this count as writing? Does building characters and walking around, photographing their life, their microcosm count as writing?

For now, I’m telling myself yes, this does count as writing. I’m building the characters in my head, building their stories. And to be honest, this is the fun part of writing. I love creating people. I love investing enough of the thought process in them that they become real, at least in my head. I can see both of them, can hear their voices, can feel their pain. Because you know if I write it, it isn’t going to be some fun beach read.

Did I mention that self-deception is one of my virtues?