Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Original Intent

There are a lot of reasons why I got into a career in law enforcement, and no small part of them have to do with the fact that I got my ass kicked on a regular basis when I was a kid. I was punched, kicked, slapped, spit on and stuffed into garbage cans, although I was too wide to be stuffed into a locker. I was a chubby kid, very socially awkward, and acted out a lot in order to get attention. I’m sure my peer group found me to be a troublesome annoyance, but regardless of how annoying I might have been, I’m not sure I deserved to be bullied in the manner I was. I lived in more or less constant fear, wondering when next I would be surrounded by a group of other kids who would beat on me, steal articles of my clothing, or taunt and ridicule me until I would sit down on the ground with my hands over my ears – and likely be poked with sticks.

When I grew to manhood, as well as growing several inches and discovering a love of weightlifting and Karate, I decided the bullying was going to stop. Once I figured out how to take care of myself, I signed on to be a lawman and figured I’d make the bullying stop for everyone else, as well.

My original intent, when I first took the three oaths, was to stand up for the people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I was going to seek out the things (mostly people) that went bump in the night and be the one to bump back. It was unfair, I thought, that anyone should live in fear of the malice of others, and I wanted to be a light in the dark.

My original plan of taking on all the evils of the world might have been a little ambitious, but I still try to hang on to the general feeling I had when I first started. The problem I’ve run into, especially recently, is that police work is more about combating human stupidity than the forces of evil. Most of people’s problems are the result of a continuous series of their own poor choices, and it’s difficult to protect people from themselves. Real evil is hard to come by, and mostly this job turns into a practice of wrangling adults who are completely incapable of managing their own lives

I was reminded of my original intent, recently, when I read a blog post by my buddy, Sam Sykes (http://samsykes.com/blog/). Sam had a similar childhood experience as me, where bullying was commonplace and it seemed a tormentor’s main goal was to make you feel “like an outsider,” probably to assuage their own feelings of inadequacy. Sam attributes this behavior to fear, and I cannot find a way to disagree with him.  In his post, Sam examined the reasons that fear can make us do dumb, mean and offensive things, and this goes for both the bullies and the bullied. Often, Sam said, fear can make people fight back against the things that oppress them. But the original intent of self defense can be lost in a feel of power, once you realize that in defending yourself you can make people hurt just as much as they hurt you. The original intent is lost, then, and we become nothing more than what we started out fighting against, and I think we are poorer for it

As I was thinking about all this, I examined my writing life, and what my original intent was. In the beginning, I thought that stories were important, and that if I had some that were worth telling, it was my responsibility to learn the craft and put those stories out into the world. I’ve spent a lot of time, especially during the rough years of my childhood, lost in the pages of a good story and whether they had lessons in them, inspired me, got me through a hard time, or just made me laugh, I thought they were all valuable. My intent was to do the same thing for others that my favourite writers had always done for me

My first few writing attempts were terrible (like a lot of people’s are), but I got better because I still believed that my stories could be important, and I really worked at it. As I progressed, I won a contest, had a short story published and then sold a novel. In a very short time my original intent was set aside by a crippling fear that every tiny bit of success I’d had was all a horrible fluke, and I’d never write anything else that anyone wanted to read ever again…ever! The importance of the stories I might write was completely forgotten in an effort to write something that would sell, that people would like, that would get me a little more attention and keep me moving forward.

Now, after reading Sam’s blog, and thinking about the original intent of many parts of my life, I realize that all the successes I’ve experienced have always come when I worked from the truest part of myself. I always do best when I forget about what might sell and work on the things that really speak to me. In the past year I’ve had three short stories published, and won a non-fiction contest. The three short stories were all pieces that either had a message that was very important to me, or that made me laugh while I was writing because it was so much fun. The non-fiction piece was about the most difficult call I ever attended in ten years of policing, and it felt like I was laying my soul down on the page. All of these pieces of work came from the deepest center of me, the place where I keep the important things: my fears and sorrows, inspirations and joys.

When I remember the place these stories came from, I’m not surprised they did well.

Very often, both in our writing lives and elsewhere, we start a project with a certain ideal, but sometimes lose it in the shuffle of our lives. But I’m sure, if you look back at all the best things you’ve ever written, they will all have come from the same place; the place where that ideal you started with still lives.

As I look forward into this New Year, I am going to try and remember my original intent, both in my policing world and my writing life. Because there are always has to be someone to fight the boogie man, whether it’s out on the street or in the pages of a book.

I hope you have some luck fighting your boogie men, and as always, thanks for reading.

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So, This Is The New Year, Huh?

I was originally planning on calling this post: “Fuck you, 2013. I’m glad you’re dead.” But then figured I probably shouldn’t use the word “fuck” in the title of a post, as well as the consideration that 2013 wasn’t that bad. It just wasn’t that great.

I had some pretty cool highs during the course of the year, but also had some pretty deep lows. I had three short stories published in various places, which was cool, and then won the Surrey Writer’s Conference non-fiction contest, which was really cool. I also finished a novel and set it loose on the world (although, so far, the world has not really given a shit).

The lows I had were not necessarily writing related, but they affected me nonetheless. I crashed my car (oh! how I loved that little blue car), had my house broken into while I was sleeping in it, and got some really, really bad news concerning the health of a family member – without who I’m not sure how I’ll get by.

I got rejected, a lot, both for short stories and for novel length stuff, but I’m not convinced this is a bad thing, because it is evidence that I am working and moving (I’m not sure I’m moving forwards, but if I’m getting new words down then I’m moving in some kind of direction). So, I cannot cry that my year was filled with misery and woe. I cannot say that I kicked 2013’s ass, but it didn’t exactly put me down for the count, either. Right now I think the cosmic referee has called it a draw, and we’ve both retreated to our respective corners, glaring hatefully at one another.

As the new year gets started, I’m eyeing it up with a significant amount of trepidation. I’m waiting on a lot of things that will likely get sorted out in the next couple of months, and how they fall will really play a big part in how the rest of this year goes: There is a decision pending at work which will make a big difference in my career path and what I do for the next year, and many years to follow; I’ve got a novel out to some agents, and I’m waiting to see if they have any interest or if I’m heading back to the proverbial drawing board; and several of my short stories have currently been cast into the ether, and I’m waiting to see if they catch hold anywhere. There is also the news of my family member’s health issue hanging over my head, and when it falls it likely going to hit hard and leave some bruises.

I do not make new years resolutions – I do not believe in them, because they are almost always vague fancies that are forgotten by the time your new years eve hangover fades – I make goals, and I have some pretty big goals for the year. The problem that I’m facing now, is the goals may change pretty heavily depending on what happens in the next few months, and the uncertainty is making me kind of twitchy.

As I face this year, I know I am not alone in my feelings of uncertainty and the loathing of the idea that so many of the things that will affect me are completely beyond my control. I know it to be true, but I have a hard time accepting that I’ve done everything I can, and now all I can do is wait, and work on something else – something that is within my control.

As writers, we cannot control how people are going to view our work; no matter how good we think a story is, everyone who reads it might think it sucks. There are only two things that we can control in this writing life: how much effort we are willing to put into our craft, and how we treat each other.

I really do think that we’re all in this thing together. As the publishing industry changes, and experiences these deep states of flux, the only thing that is constant is how we take care of our own. I’ve gotten a lot of support in the past year from the writing community around me, and some days it really has gotten me through. Comments on this blog, emails from my critique buddies, events where writers come together to shore each other up and improve our craft, these are the things that help me get by, and these are the things that we can control.

So, all other goals aside, one thing I plan on doing is reaching out a little more, to both lend help and accept it. This is a long road, and if we don’t walk it together, I’m not sure how we’ll get to the end.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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