A Second Career

writing deskI have always been an avid reader and have, perhaps, an overly active imagination. I often find myself dreaming about variations of the stories that I’m reading or inventing new stories of my own. Late in my career, I traveled extensively for long periods of time and even lived overseas. To keep in touch, I began to send travelogues, sometimes a photo-journal and sometimes a story. I guess these were primitive blogs, though intended only for friends and family.

Two things happened. First, I really enjoyed putting the travelogues together. Life on the road can be tough, with seemingly endless weeks of long working hours. A creative process was a welcome change from the daily grind. Second, people liked what I sent. I received a lot of positive feedback, which gave me an incentive to write and send more.

Last year, I retired from industry after turning 60.  Retirement offers most of us a chance to catch up on some of the things we have put off for years, with the best intentions. Mine began with a journey though a collection of old family slides that needed to be sorted after Mom downsized her home into a tidy and very cool new senior apartment. The slides led to a biography of my father. My small audience voted with an enthusiastic thumbs-up. No surprise, it was free after all and Dad was well loved by my readers. Encouraging, nonetheless. There seemed to be a novel waiting to emerge, so I moved on to find out.

Through the writing process, I discovered that Dad’s story represented many others in the Greatest Generation. He was a small town boy that journeyed through the Navy and university to land in a large company and to raise a family in the new American suburbs. In every story, real or imagined, there are lessons worth sharing and insights to be gained. The bio taught me that writing should both entertain and inform.

Going from hobby to a paying profession is always a stretch. I’m finding the publishing business tough to enter. There is a lot of clutter, making it difficult to become noticed. In addition, new digital formats, print-on-demand, and online sales are putting pressure on the established publishing / retail sales business model, making them more risk averse and unwilling to take on a new product line. This is another way of saying that my queries to dozens of agents, the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, were met with polite declarations of non-interest.

On the other hand, new self-publishing channels offer those of us outside of the mainstream a chance to enter. A few months into my adventure, I’m preparing to make a first bet. Motivation and energy are there. The products seem to be coming together and my friends are giving good reviews. Others have done it. John Grisham is probably a better writer than lawyer. We’ll see how I stack up.

 

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