Friday, August 15, 2008

Roger that

And it’s Charles’ Time.

It was one of those days, part of one of those weeks. The pressures at work were intense, things were crazy busy at home, and I had little time to write for myself, and when I did write I was lucky to get 100 words down before something pulled me away or if I did write like a fiend I’d read it over the next day and realize it was so bad and so off target that the only humane thing to do was put it down. We all have these days/ weeks/ months/ lifetimes, and the writers in the house will agree that the toughest part about getting through a patch like this is that you start feeling like a person who used to be a writer. Then something happens that brings a little of that 'I really am a writer' feeling back. My something was a quick note from my editor, the esteemed Barbara Peters, forwarding a blog review of my first book fellow author Timothy Hallinan had sent her.

“He can do everything: write clean, clear narrative; create engaging, wholly individual characters; transport you physically to settings as diverse as Cairo, Singapore, and Pottstown, Pennsylvania (it’s about as glamorous as it sounds); set a breakneck pace that makes perfect sense given the story and never once feels forced; and make the reader laugh out loud an unreasonable number of times.”

When you’re in the grinder, it’s hard to remember that yes, you are a writer—and a darn good one. This one little paragraph helped me remember. In her email to me, Barbara calls Mr. Hallinan “a great writer”, and that qualifier made his comments all the more meaningful.

And at the same time, the email made me feel even more frustrated. Why don’t I spend more time writing, why aren’t I doing more to promote myself, why can’t I just say no to all those distractions that keep me from finishing the next book? The answer was equally frustrating—that’s just the way it is. Jobs are demanding, and as I’ve become fond of things like eating and electricity, I’ll be sticking on. My hectic social life? What do I give up—my friends, my family, exercising, playing my saxophone, my share of the housework?

There’s a guy I work with, let's call him Roger because that's his name, who just never seems to get frazzled. The work piles on and yeah, he’s not thrilled about it, but he has this ability to manage it all with a quiet, focused determination. Yesterday, I was feeling crushed by the work I’m juggling. Then I chatted with Roger and heard what was on his plate. I was amazed at how cool he was about it all. Then I realized how many non-frazzable people I work with, people who live lives just as busy as mine if not more so—some with kids thrown in the mix and that, as we all knows, really messes things up. So my moment of insight was a bit anti-climatic—we’re all busy and we’re all doing the best we can, and the goal is to do it all with a sense of style and grace, and, at my age, I still have a lot to learn from folks a lot younger than me. Like Roger.


Timothy Hallinan said...

Hi, Charles --

Glad Barbara sent you the review. I loved the book.

Here's how good I think you are: I'm not allowing myself to read NOBLE LIES until I finish my new Bangkok mystery because -- well, because I'm afraid to. Once MISDIRECTION is at Morrow and a bunch of people have told me they like it (that's in their job description), I'll read your take on the Land of Smiles. But not before.

rowin said...

Charles, you old softy,

I'm not sure how gracefully I handle the work load, but I'm glad it looks it.