Monday, April 21, 2008

Your Course May Vary

You can always count on having things change. Doesn't matter what you planned to do, there will be some adjustments made before the event takes place.

I have been working on my latest book now for over three years. It seems like forever. The page count grows and the words get hammered out when they don't flow onto the screen. It's the wrapping up the story that is giving me fits. Every time I want to work on it, I have other things to do on the farm.

It's been a very wet Spring, like Ireland around here. I love Ireland, home of Guinness, Irish whiskey and red-headed women. It's home to some great authors too.

J.P. Donleavy, displaced by his own choice, American that he is, lives in the Emerald Isles. The man is indirectly responsible for my penchant for prose. Mickey Cooper was the catalyst. Where he is and what he's doing now is beyond me. I've heard that he's in Colorado, but that's not been confirmed. He was one of my high school football coaches in Brussels.

We were on the bus, riding back from Upper Heyford, England. The U.S. Air Force high school there had just whipped our butts and we were on the road back to London. A night on the town, sucking down Bass Red Ale and ogling the birds would do our wounded pride and aching bodies good. It had been a wet, nasty cold rain of a game, played in mud about three inches deep. You couldn't tell who was who after the first quarter, except for the color of their helmets. Now, in the late afternoon, Coach Cooper decided to distract us with a short story from Donleavy.

He read the opening lines to "Meet My Maker, the Mad Molecule". I was probably gazing out the window, watching the gray sky outline the thatched cottages as we trundled down the motorway. My camera was with me, always ready to take a shot, if a good photo opportunity presented itself. Coach yelled at some guys who were still talking to shut up. Then he started again. I turned my attention to him.

When he finished, I sat there, thinking about how a story works, where it starts, where it ends. In London the next year, after a track meet, I bought my own copy of Donleavy's book. I went on to read almost all of his work. Able to relate to the soul-crushing hell that life can be, especially if you are down in the cash or ego department. The ministrations of the winsome female or their scathing rebukes well known by this male. After reading the journals of the masters, I charted my course.

To say that my ship has not followed it's star would be deceptive. Many of the wrong headings fall upon me, as I didn't act at the right time or miscalculated a position, only to run afoul of bad weather or a rocky bottom. More that once my leaky boat has gone to the bottom of the economy. I have learned to swim in the roughest of waters. The sharks have nipped, but not devoured me.

So, I now work at another career launch, as it's most laughably called by the professionals. As if one's life has no background and you start fresh in every endeavor. We all build upon that which has been done before, whether it's by us or someone else. My ship of words, built thought by thought. Sentences fitted to make a seamless hull. As a new chapter begins for me on the literary ocean.

I'm a better sailor now, having weathered the storms and tasted the fear. There is nothing ahead for any of us, except death.

For that reason, there is nothing to be afraid of in this life. Which is why you should sail through it, using the wind when it's with you and tacking into it when it's not.

Set your course, endure the changes and keep your eye on the star that guides you.

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