I was 23 when my ex-wife and I first started dating. In many ways, I was just a dumb kid, full of dreams and ambitions, but truly clueless about how the world really functions. I believed in my abilities as a writer and even had a handful of publishing credits under my belt, but in terms of building a career, I had no idea what I was doing. I decided to go to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing because I thought that degree would afford me the opportunity to write full-time and teach for a little while until I began making a fortune from my books.
She and I married my fourth semester of the six semester program, and I was utterly miserable in graduate school. All of my passion and love for writing was crushed by the petty workshops and backbiting students and the un-inspirational core faculty. To this day, I will not join a formal writers’ group for those reasons. Shortly after she and I married, we found out she was pregnant, and without any real support system in Memphis, I chose to get my Master’s in Creative Writing (which is considered a lesser degree but still allows one to teach on the collegiate level) to find work and be able to provide for my new family. I also made the decision to move us back to East Tennessee to have our families near us for support.
Shortly after the move, she had a miscarriage and for the most part blamed me because of the long ride in the bumpy truck. The first year of our marriage was almost as bad as the last two. I worked several crappy jobs while looking for teaching work and struggled just to keep a roof over our heads. By this point, at 26, I had given up on writing. The experience of graduate school had been too much, so when I first landed a teaching position, I resigned myself to being a full-time teacher. At least, I rationalized, I could share my love of language with others.
The school where I held my first full-time assignment treated its faculty like second-class citizens and worked us beyond anything reasonable. For over 8 years, I gave those bastards my absolute best, and in return, I got a paltry salary, a mountain of attitude, and zero respect. Not from all, there were some people there who were wonderful colleagues, but the bad far outweighed the good. In 2003, about halfway though my career at that school, I experienced a rebirth of sorts when my first son was conceived and, despite working full-time at the college and part-time on the weekends, poured myself into crafting The Brotherhood of Dwarves. I truly believed writing would be my ticket out of education and the way to provide a better life for my son.
Other than the birth of my second son, 2006 was a rough year for me. My marriage was unraveling in front of my eyes, and my relationship with the college had soured to the point that I would no longer attend meetings to avoid the negative bullshit. I felt besieged at home and work and felt trapped in a life that was draining me of all hope. To make matters worse, Brotherhood had been a resounding flop in terms of sales, and I had no way to release book two, Red Sky at Dawn. The only positives in my life were my two sons. Being their daddy made everything bearable.
When I look back at that time of my life, I feel like my youth was drained from me by a woman who didn’t believe in me and a college that never appreciated me. Today, that’s why I’m so steadfast in my mentality that no one will ever mistreat me again. I’ve paid my dues and, since the divorce in 2008, learned to live without my children on a daily basis. I cannot and will not accept anything other than respect and fairness. Without those two as a foundation, nothing can be healthy or positive, and I’ve already lost too much of my life to draining experiences. Now, I will not settle for anything less than an equal balance of give and take. Slowly but surely, I’m inching towards the man I want to be, and one day, I will get there.
14 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Ramblings”
Not going to weigh in on the divorce stuff, but you know I’m a member of that unfortunate fraternity, too.
But one thing you nailed was this: “and I was utterly miserable in graduate school. All of my passion and love for writing was crushed by the petty workshops and backbiting students and the un-inspirational core faculty. To this day, I will not join a formal writers’ group for those reasons.”
I’m the exact same way. Was arguing with an author recently about this. Speaking for myself, and I know I’m in the substantial minority on this, but I will NEVER, EVER attend another writing workshop, review group, etc., etc. My past experiences in these set me back years and years in confidence. And unless something happens that seriously changes my mind, I don’t plan on attending any conferences. I’m honestly learning that for the most part, I don’t like other authors.
The divorce fraternity is not one I’d wish on anyone, and I’m with you on the writers’ groups. However, I will tell you that if you want to be successful, you will eventually have to attend conventions and conferences. Yes, there are some assholes out there, but in my experience, when you find the right circuit, you find professional authors who are cool and supportive.
Not trying to be argumentative, but what would you say you gain from them? I follow quite a few authors through their blogs and get lots of marketing advice from them, and I’m quite regularly reading some type of writer’s improvement material, so I guess I’m missing what I would gain. And unless something major changes, I don’t plan on going the traditional route, so I’m not looking to meet any agents or folks from the publishing industry.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but to me, there’s no better avenue for building readership than through face-to-face discussion, and conferences and conventions are where readers go to find new authors. It can be done online, but more can be done in person.
Maybe it’s a genre thing. You make a good point, but I don’t think action books really have similar traits. At any rate, I better get back to the craft!
Are you familiar with Cameron Judd?
Just know the name.
He writes Westerns and historical fiction. We used to work together, and he told me a few years ago that if he were starting out today, he would follow my blueprint for laying a foundation. I’ve held onto to those words through some dark days.
Gotcha. Geez. Can’t get higher praise than that. Did he stop writing?
As far as I know, he’s still writing. We haven’t talked recently.
Roger. So what are you working on these days? Another one for your series or a new series or what?
Book four of the series.
I once wrote much, very much. Only it was MySpace and a blog and I never really tried to publish beyond that. I have written poetry, essays, rituals, and two dissertations that were sold for a nifty fee. However, despite this, I still call myself and hack, and am my own worst critic. The problem is that I trusted academics and received the same horrid treatment that you did.
And the Muse departed. That was back in college, and years later, while being a hack with a pretentious, obnoxious tendency to satirical blogging and possibly an unhealthy love for Hunter S. Thompson, I let the same bastards drive the Muse from me, and to this day, I have not recovered.
You, colleague and brother, I see are managing to re-discover/invent/establish yourself. Believe it or not, I find you an inspiration.
Thank you, Xavier. I think you have more talent than you give yourself credit for. You have a great, twisted sense of humor and should delve more into that, I think.