May Day

I’m back!

Again!

No, really! I mean it this time. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m such a procrastinator. Or am I just really busy?

I’ve done very little work on the memoir since the last time I posted. I could go into all the details and excuses and complaints, but those are all pointless and you probably don’t care anyway. I’m not even sure I care. Moving forward can be so hard sometimes. I did manage to clean up the introduction chapter. But chapters two and three need to be combined and completely rewritten. That’s my next goal. That and to clean up chapters four and five, which shouldn’t be as great an undertaking.

Hopefully.

I’ve got everything I need for the first half. I just have to put it together, man! Then me and Dad can get started on the second half. I will have this done by the end of the year. I am damned and determined to do so. Nothing will stand in my way. Not even the MCU!

Endgame was so many things. It was awesome and unpredictable and fitting and poetic. It wrapped up the way it needed to, but there seems to be such a finality that I’m not sure where they go from here. It felt like the end in so many ways. And that makes me a sad panda. But it also makes me curious as to the future trajectory. Cause it isn’t going away.

And to everyone complaining about Game of Thrones: shut-up. The episode was supposed to be dark. They’re fighting in the dead of night. In winter. In a slight blizzard. And that Arya moment was totally earned. She’s not some chick that wandered into Winterfell and just so happens to be a great fighter. They’ve been setting this up since the beginning. She’s basically a trained assassin. And she was fighting for her home. And her character is awesome. She’s a badass. The show is coming to an end for crying out loud. Put away your internet bitterness and hatred and overall malcontent and just enjoy the damn thing.

In other news, I read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair recently. That guy was a socialist. It was a solid read, dark and depressing mostly. It’s about life as an immigrant at the turn of the 1900’s and what it was like working, and trying to survive, under no labor laws. It also went into some detail about the conditions of the meatpacking industry at the time, which actually caused Roosevelt to implement changes. Another reminder, much like “The Grapes of Wrath,” how easy we truly have it in the workforce in comparison today.

But a lot of people won’t agree with that because that’s what we do now. We go out into the streets and complain about how unfair life is instead of taking steps to make it better. America!

This post was random.

See you next time!

Memoir Update

Nine weeks ago I wrote a post about the next ten weeks and the goal of getting together a rough draft of the memoir. My hope was to have something I could tighten up and maybe release by the end of the year. But, unfortunately, my best-laid plan is not going to come to fruition. I’m not going to make my self-imposed deadline.

But that’s okay! Dad and I are roughly halfway there. We were going strong and then lost the entire month of October to weather and work and a bunch of other excuses I could throw into the air. My ambition got the best of me as it usually does. I pushed myself too hard and expected too much in too short a period of time. No worries, though. If not for that ambition I probably wouldn’t even be halfway there.

I recently took a couple of long weekends in an effort to catch up. That included a talk with Dad in which I was in a foul mood and distracted due to a water stain on the ceiling of my living room. There was also a three-hour block one morning where I wrote over 2000 words. So, needless to say, I had mixed results. But such is life.

Maybe I’m running against the wind here(Bob Seger reference!). It seems that every time I try to implement some kind of writing structure or strategy for myself it never pans out. Maybe I’m just not that type of writer. Maybe I need to just accept that my style is always going to be a bit unorthodox. Regardless of all that “inside baseball” stuff, I’m going to spend the remainder of this year shaping up what I already have. I haven’t gone back and read anything I’ve written to this point, so that should be an adventure. And then, hopefully come January, Dad and I can resume our talks. Stay tuned!

The Next Ten Weeks

I’m always surprised at how much I miss writing after taking a week away. In the past I’ve taken months away, even years, and it’s always jarring at first. Eventually you move past it and find other ways to fill the time. But it’s been such a consistent part of my life this year that coming home from work and not “getting back to work” can best be described as unusual.

Part of the reason for the time off is that I got behind schedule. Life gets in the way. I had to really scramble to get back on track and, in doing so, burnt myself out a bit. I wrote nearly 3,000 words over a three day period which is a breakneck pace for me. Dad and I both have yards to mow and the weather hasn’t always been great recently, making it hard to find the time. Our last talk was a follow-up that took place under the roof overhang while it poured down rain.

It’s also the busiest time of the year at my day job. I work in a warehouse and spend my time on my feet walking and lifting and pushing and pulling. My job is not a sedentary one. Couple that with 5am workouts and I’m dragging ass by the time I walk through the door into the glorious AC of my house. After making dinner and sitting down to eat I’m often tapped-out. Sometimes I can gut my way through it, but it just becomes too much at times, physically and mentally.

But I’m good now. We’re still crazy busy at work, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. The plan is to wrap up the process over the next ten weeks and get a solid first draft of the memoir that I can work on polishing. That takes us to around Thanksgiving, which is right where I wanted to end things. The 50’s and 60’s was a bit of a trudge, but we made it. Now we’re into the 70’s, where Dad has shown excellent recall. It’s the decade where he got his license and started working and found independence. As always, good times await!

Like Water

I tested out my new approach toward the memoir this week and I was amazed at how well it worked. The words flowed like water. I was knocking out 600 in an hour, which is a crazy pace for me because I’m typically fairly deliberate with my words, sometimes a little too much that I tend to think instead of write. But this was bang, bang, bang.

It’s always a great feeling when you progress the way you envision. It so rarely happens the way you expect. Knocking out 2300 words in a four day span with all the other responsibilities of life surrounding me is either maturation, an outlier, or a damned miracle. But I’m not one to rage against the tide, so I move forward and continue to build. It’s the most surefire way of conquering something in this world.

Elsewhere I attended a continuing education class this week on the use of essential oils in cooking. It was fascinating stuff. They take herbs and spices such as oregano and rosemary and basil and condense it into an oil form, completely natural, and use a mere drop during cooking. Seems absurd, right? Well I tasted a few dishes and it works. In fact, there’s a whole culture around the use of essential oils. Everything from digestive issues to muscle soreness to allergies has a simple remedy that loads of people swear by. They also integrate citrus fruits and even fir. Fascinating ideas.

Afterward I traveled down the street with a co-worker to get some ice cream at this tiny creamery I’d never heard of. The inside was a total throwback with décor that seemed straight out of the 50’s. I also had the best banana pudding ice cream of my life, homemade, full of wafers, and absolutely glorious. Small town America, that’s where the real greatness lives.

Perspective

It’s always a rousing moment when you find perspective. That’s exactly what happened to me this week at work. I was going about my day early on around 9am and then it hit me! BAM! I knew which direction to take the memoir. Just like that! No second guessing. No talking myself out of it. It was the right decision at the right time.

I’ve been taking notes and talking with my dad and doing research for about a month now, just getting as many words on the page as possible. But I had yet to find my angle. I wasn’t sure how to approach the material. It has to feel authentic to him and to me, as well as anyone who may read it. Early on these first few chapters have felt like reading a history book of my dad’s life thus far. They were informative, but something just hasn’t felt quite right.

Then an epiphany! In order for this to work it has to be just as much about today and it is about the past. What I mean by that is how the information is gathered and told is just as important as said information. We’ve been getting together every Saturday and talking on the front porch, which is really a deck, and I’ve been taking piles of notes on everything he says and does. Every detail matters and when that fact hit me, it was pure euphoria.

There is nothing better than having a revelation about a project when your mind is elsewhere. That’s what creativity is about. Those first few chapters will have to be altered, but I’m glad I’ve recognized it early instead of three months in. Good times await.

Living Like A Writer

I took three days off of work this week to relax a bit before our busiest time of the year hits at work. It had to be now because there won’t be another chance until sometime in October. It builds slowly starting in August and then explodes and I’m left dragging ass back home every day for three weeks, just trying to catch my breath.

But it’s cool. It happens every year. I expect it. I’m used to it. I even enjoy it because it keeps me busy. There’s not much thinking involved, just moving forward. And given how unusually steady it’s already been thus far, I’m expecting big things. Fingers crossed I don’t pull a muscle.

During my time away I delved deep into research on my dad’s memoir, burying myself in family history. I visited my Aunt and Uncle who have possession of a lot of family memorabilia and antiques, working my way through those. Then we jumped into a full genealogy that my Uncle has spent years assembling. He showed me stacks of marriage certificates, birth and death certificates, military discharge paperwork, last will and testaments, and a slew of other historical documents.

I even learned about Matthew McCauley, great-grandfather of mine seven times removed. He emigrated from Ireland, fought in the American Revolution, and donated 150 acres of the land on which UNC Chapel Hill is built. He was even involved in the laying of the cornerstone of the Old East, first building of the university erected. I even drove out to the McCauley Family Cemetery in Carrboro, NC, to snap some photos and document my findings.

The time off has proved to be really wonderful. I’ve lived like a writer, one that makes a living at his craft, lost in constant research, putting together the next chapter, no other responsibilities, just the work. I’ve also slept a lot, which leads me to believe that I’m sleep deprived during my normal weeks, something I should probably work on rectifying.

It’s been eye-opening and fun, but it’s back to normal on Monday. My goals are all in front of me. There’s no better feeling.

Off and Running

I knocked out the introduction to my dad’s memoir this week and it has definitely reinvigorated my love for writing. There’s always been a tendency with me to take extended periods of time away after completing a project because I usually burn myself out with an unhealthy, hectic pace. I’ll consistently talk myself out of moving forward, believing that I need just a little more research or just one more day to relax and think.

“Ashbrooke City” is a perfect example of this habit. I never had a solid writing schedule, just writing whenever I found the time or when the spirit moved me. Sometimes I would get home from work around five or six in the afternoon, write until three in the morning, get three hours of sleep and then go back to work. I would also binge write on the weekends for twelve hours a day. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take weeks off in between writing sessions. I did that for three years. It’s probably the reason it took so long to write the damn book. If I had been more consistent I might have completed it in half the time.

But you live and you learn. With my dad’s new memoir I’ve adopted a writing schedule that I absolutely love. One hour a day is all I ask of myself. One hour a day. Every day. No exceptions. No excuses. I try to hit at least 500 words per session, but if I don’t there’s no beating myself up, which has been a problem for me in the past. When I get to the weekends I can do more because things lighten up a bit. It’s really working for me thus far.

Typically I’m up at five every morning to workout. From there I have a day job throughout the week that keeps me away until after five most days. So by the time I get home I’ve been on my feet for twelve hours because I work in a warehouse. After carving out some time to make dinner and take a breather, I can sit down to write, usually around eight at night. And of course there are other responsibilities to take into account. It’s all a balancing act.

My secondary goal is a chapter per week on the memoir. If I can maintain this pace I can be done with the first draft by early November. I have no doubt I’ll get there. It’s been too much fun to think otherwise.

Onward!

It was a long week, but a revealing one. Sometimes you just have to move on, from ideas, from expectations, from people. I’m very proud of “Ashbrooke City.” It’s my first novel. It’s the project I’ve spent the most time on. It will always be the book that taught me how to write books.

But it can no longer consume my life if I’m going to meet my next self-imposed deadline. I’ll never stop supporting it. I’ll continue to try new marketing techniques. But I have to move on creatively. Content is King. And in order for me to produce new content I have to compartmentalize, which is a new concept for me. But I’m up to the task. I wanted all this and now I have to juggle.

My next project is much different. It’s personal and, hopefully, relatable. I’m not building a world from scratch or crafting characters from my own observations. It’s the true story of a man who has led a fascinating life through an era of human history in which things tend to change as fast you can blink, and the opinions that come along.

It’s a memoir about my dad. And boy does he have opinions! On everything. Even things he knows nothing about. It’s a project I began way back in early 2010 but had to abandon due to circumstance, and because I just wasn’t ready to fully tackle it. But now I am. And I couldn’t be more excited! To one day, when I’m his age, have a document that reminds me of him and the things he has seen and done would mean the world to me. Like a reference, an idea that can live forever.

I’m aiming for the end of the year. Fingers crossed.