A Decade Remembered

For my work, I was tasked in combing through ten years’ worth of Starke County Leaders to find highlights from the last decade. It’s only natural, while making your way through almost 500 editions of a newspaper, that I began to think about the highlights from my own life.

Dictionary.com defines highlight as “an important, conspicuous, memorable, or enjoyable event, scene, part, or the like.”

I think it’s important to consider the fact that a highlight can include negative events as well as positive ones. After all, you can’t take the good without taking the bad. For example, look what happens to the Jedi Order when you don’t study the Dark Side of the Force. You end up on the bad side of Order 66. Nobody wants that.

Here are some of the highlights from my own personal decade:
– I celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary on July 11, 2010.
– In March 2010, I wrote this joke: Q. What do you call a sleep walking nun? A. A Roaming Catholic. It was received with mild success.
– In 2011, I went back to school at IUSB. Instead of Computer Science, I began studying English.
– In December 2012, I wrote a 1,600-word paper on King Arthur’s court collapsing due Marxist Theory. It was pretty spectacular.
– My grandfather, James Norton, passed away on March 7, 2013. He was a great man, role model, and grandpa.
– Signed with Permuted Press to have my book series published in February 2014.
– Spent an amazing week in Seattle for the American Writers & Publishers (AWP) conference with fellow IUSB writing friends.
– In 2014 I got a mortgage for a home in Plymouth with my wife of five years.
– On March 2, 2015, I found out that Permuted Press cancelled the book contract.
– I finished my college education at IUSB in May 2015. It took me 11 years, but I did it.
– Left my job at IUSB and started work at the Pilot News Group, where I’m still employed and loving it.
– Found out I had a ginormous blood clot in my left leg. That was fun (sarcasm).
– November 2015 I signed a new book contract with Burning Willow Press for that series that was earlier canceled.
– In 2017 I became a published author. Since then I’ve published three books, four short stories, and a combined book with several other authors.
– After a two-year separation my wife and I divorced in 2018. This event ended nine years together.
– When BWP closed in 2019, my books were once again homeless. But only for a day when Random Evolved Media offered to pick them up.

There have been many other good and bad highlights that I won’t mention. From the list above, it looks to me as if my life has been filled with more bad memories than good. That might make some people feel depressed. Admittedly, there were times during the last ten years that I feel deep into depression. I still do sometimes.

Since I’m a nerd, I thought of this quote from the BBC show, Doctor Who. “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things,” says The Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. “The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

There’s no way of knowing what the next ten years will throw at us. However, as long as we cherish that pile of good things while learning how to overcome the pile of bad things, I’m sure I’ll be writing another decade rewrap. And hopefully you’ll be here to read it.

Goodbye 2010-2019 and hello 2020-2029!

See you all next year.

Never Lose Hope

About a month ago, I was told that I shouldn’t get my hopes up about something personal. I won’t elaborate about that subject because, as I just said, it’s personal and I don’t share everything with you, my faithful readers. I felt mildly defeated after hearing that. It’s only natural to feel that way.

Here’s the interesting thing about the human spirit: it’s fairly durable. “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down,” Chumbawamba said in their immortal song Tubthumping. For those young enough not to know that song, I’d advise skipping that one. It’s useful for this instance, but really that’s about it.

The way I see it, you have three choices when faced with defeat.  Here they are:

  • The simple one is to quit. Sometimes the task you’re up against is just too massive for your abilities. There’s no shame in it, I’m sure we’ve all been there.
  • This one is easy to guess because it’s the opposite of the last one. Don’t quit. “Never give up, never surrender,” is the slogan of the fictional crew in the movie Galaxy Quest (1999). We’ve all been there too. You think to yourself, “okay I failed. But I’m sure that if I just put in another two percent effort, I’ll achieve it this time.”
  • This next one is a bit different from the first one. It’s this: Put it on hold. It’s technically not quitting if you focus on other ventures. Right? Sometimes that’s the best choice. Sometimes you aren’t ready, but you know that after some growing-up, time, money, or some other factor you’ll be able to come back to it. Maybe the next time you’ll be successful.

Now, depending on what you’ve put your hopes in, one choice may be more feasible then the others. Since this is Mastering the Craft, let’s put these choices into a book related situation.

So there you are, you’ve finished writing your first book. You’ve pumped so much blood, sweet, and tears into it over the years that it’s now become more like your child than a bunch of words on a page. Sending out took a lot of mental effort and you can’t wait to hear back from the publishers. “I’ve sent it to four different publishers. Surely one of them will accept it. Right,” you ask yourself.

It’s okay to talk to yourself, you are an author after all. It’s what we do.

Months go by and you’ve stopped checking your inbox every ten minutes. You’re eating Ramen Noodles, you’re a poor artist after all, when you hear your email notification ding. Throwing the chicken flavored noodles down onto the counter, you open up that email from one of the publishers. Even after reading it three times, it’s the same result. Rejection.

“That’s okay, there’s three other publishers that could say yes,” you say as you dive back into your Ramen.

Four weeks go by and you’ve been rejected from every publisher. Now what? Let’s go through the choices I mentioned above. You could quit. There’s really nothing lost other than your blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and the crazy amount of time you spent working on that turd you call a novel.

Maybe you decide to invest time into another round of edits. You catch several things that the publishers caught. Now you’re ready to send it off to another round of publishers. Maybe they’ll say yes?

You weren’t exactly sitting on your thumbs while you were waiting for your response. You were busy working on another novel. In fact, it’s turning out to be a better one than the first. Maybe rejection was for the best. You don’t want your debut novel to be a dud, right? Maybe after you’ve gotten this whole “being an author” thing under your belt, you can come back and revisit that dud of a first novel. Maybe you can polish it after a few years and send it off again.

You might be thinking, “Why are you talking about this subject?” Well, like I said at the beginning of the column I was faced with these three choices. I could quit my attempts and not have lost too much. I could try again and see if there’s another outcome. I could put the challenge on hold and try my hand at something else. I was contemplating this conundrum when three things happened at the same time:

  • The song “Never Give Up” by For King and Country started to play.
  • I talked to a friend about the subject.
  • I opened my Bible, at random (I’m not making this up), and Romans 8:25 caught my eye. It states, “Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”

I realized then, that I couldn’t live with myself if I simply quit. I could move on with my life and try something different, but I’d always live with that “What if?” hanging over my head. So I’ve decided to keep at it and see if my perseverance will eventually win. If you think I’m crazy, then you might be right.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said an unknown person.

Sure, I know the odds. I know that what I’m trying to do has about as much chance as a snowball in Hell. But that’s what I thought when I sent my publisher the manuscript of my first novel. Because I took that initial chance and had hope about my writing career, I’m now the published author of three books and four short stories.

Sometimes you have to put your hopes into what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s what poker players call “going all-in.”

Sometimes it pays off and you’re rewarded for your efforts.
Sometimes your hope is shattered when you fail.

In recent years, I’ve experienced both results. When you win, you feel invincible. When you lose, you feel like you’ll never be able to put yourself in that position again.

I’ll end this week’s column with a quote from the film Rocky Balboa (2006):
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” spoke the Italian Stallion, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone.