The Dangers of living… Part 2: Convalesce.

Last time I told of the horrible events that lead to my heart attack and the resulting ambulance ride to rescue.

I concluded that article with a note about how after putting the word out of my malady that my Twitter Friends conspired to blow up my phone with love and support and friendship.

What I didn’t say was that for the first six hours I was required to lay absolutely flat. I could twist my head left and right, but not pull my head up. I could move my arms as desired. This made bathroom tasks impossible to accomplish alone. Oh well, all the nurses that helped with that little part of living were kind and gentle.

While I was still getting the word out, someone from my company called and wanted to know something. They were not the supportive and caring indivuals that I dealt with the night before. After the second question I became a little tired of dealing with it and handed my phone to the nurse. Forgive me a giggle here, but she was professional, and a total sweetheart to me, but to them she turned into one hell of a Mother Bear Nurse Ratchet!

The Doctors came in to see me next. And when I say Doctors I mean plural. There was four of them, and they were about the best sawbones I could have hoped to have overseeing my recovery. They promised to check on me later. The charge nurse returned and asked if I felt eating lunch to which I said I didn’t feel up to it in the posture I was currently in.

More phone calls to family, once again I summoned the charge nurse to help out with relaying information when my limited endurance to handle such things wore thin. Lots of questions and answers and boredom. Oh how wonderful it was to have my Twitter Friends interrupting that boredom at random intervals. One pair of my close Twitter Friends (and you know you are) even tried calling the hospital. Sadly, the Hospital did what they were supposed to do and didn’t release any information.

3pm came and it was time for the 9 inch spike to come out. I had every intention of snapping a photo of it for later posterity, but the nurse kept her back to me, preventing me even a glimpse of its removal. She did offer me a moment to look, but in the moment, the opportunity to take a photo escaped me. Part of the procedure left me sore and bruised. The nurse had to hold hard pressure on the spot where the spike was driven in, for twenty minutes by the clock. While mauling my tender crotch, the nurse was warning me about the area’s importance to my blood stream and that I needed to let them know at once if there was any bleeding from the site.

As my mind is want to do, it cast back into memories then. I silently wondered if I yelled ‘Nurse Quickfoot, I’m bleeding’ into the intercom (not that I needed it, being adjacent to the nurses station) if the reaction would have been memorable in its swiftness. Thankfully the need to put this trivia to the test did not occur.

So far, the weather I could see outside my window was dreary and bleak. I could see the coal trains passing below. Hear the med-flight chopper come and go. Even hear ‘heart alerts’ coming on the PA and knew that they were getting all the same attention I had that morning.

In truth, my Mother was blindsided by my call that Saturday morning. She put the word out to the family and started trying to find a way to get to Virginia in a hurry. Delta bent over backwards to help out, but it wasn’t possible for her to get a flight out Saturday night but had a standby reservation for Sunday.

At 6 pm, I was permitted to sit up to a bed level of 30 degrees. It wasn’t long after this that I was able to eat the first meal I’d had in almost 24 hours. Night had fallen outside my window and there wasn’t much happening. I didn’t get up until later that night after the Doctors came by on their evening rounds. The first thing I did was pull out the drawstring shorts I keep in my shower bag and put them on. Then I grabbed my iPad and played games to distract me until about 11pm when I put everything down and fell asleep.

Sunday morning began much like the day before, though the breakfast tray was the stimulation. I ate most of what they offered me, but didn’t care for much of it. The coffee was decaf, the milk was skim, and the ‘western omlette’ was… Perhaps I better not dwell on that. Called Mom, and she gave me the bad news that she had lost her standby seat because of something else that was going on at the time.

That weekend, a terrible winter storm system was causing all of the airlines much grief all over the United States. But where that goes, I’ll save for the next installment.

The Dangers of living… Part 1, Heart Attack on the road.

Any followers of my blog here know that I often go silent for many moons at a time.  Sadly, I don’t find the time to update things regularly, partly due to my job, partly due to my attitude on free time, and partly due to not always having access (despite having a iPhone and iPad and other gadgets).

All that said, this last ’bout of quiet has a little more than the usual reasons for it, and its serious as a Heart Attack.  In fact, it was a Heart Attack.

Continue reading

By Dain Unicorn Posted in Blog Tagged
20140102-144721.jpg

The world inside of ice

I have always been fascinated by ice, the little fractures and bubbles inside of it, and its very nature. From the galaxies of stars in the middle of a common ice-cube, to the way a sheet of ice will form on a sign and slowly slide downwards. Unlike snow, ice has no color, save for the light that reflects through it. Like amber or certain types of crystal formations, it envelopes what it forms around and locks it in time, that is until it melts.

20140102-143545.jpg

See the greenish tint in the icicles on the right? Its from a street lamp, as are the dots of orange glow in the others. But do you see the tiny little bubbles trapped within? Oh the lovely level of detail this new camera finds.

That street light wasn’t working properly, its light faint and a sickly hue. Between that and the icicles on it, made it another subject for my lens.

20140102-143842.jpg

Perhaps the most fascinating image I took turned this up, after cropping. Are those ‘scales’ of ice over that branch?

20140102-144451.jpg

I’ve a few more shots I’ll post later that demonstrates the variable focus a dSLR allows that most point&shoot digits can’t match.

These were taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on December 22-23, 2013.

New Year, New Camera

Just before Christmas, I took advantage of a special sale at Target and finally got me a good dSLR. I had been wanting one for awhile, but hadn’t made it a priority. This special sale allowed me to get a Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm VR AF-S and 55-200mm VR AF-S lenses in a bundle for less than the regular retail price of the D3100 alone. The D3100 isn’t the latest and greatest, but it is a high-end dSLR with a decent sensor and access to some of the best lenses on the market.

I got my first SLR camera for Christmas in 1985. It was a Sears branded Pentax, the “KS-1″. It used standard Pentax ‘Bayonet’ style lenses and was a really good entry level camera. It didn’t support autofocus but it did have an auto-exposure mode that made the camera really good choice for a budding photographer. Needless to say after that I spent most of my allowance on either Film or Developing. Sadly, the film was always cheaper than developing. Somewhere, there is a cache of some thirty or forty rolls of undeveloped film, and its probably so old its not worth processing.

I’ve been really happy with the Nikon. Its reminded me of how much I learned about photography with that old Pentax. Framing a shot has usually come easy for me, but getting the focus right has been a real pain with the digital cameras I’ve used in recent years. Granted the Kodak KP850 had a manual focus mode, but it was not easy or fast.

Perhaps it was destiny, that sale at Target. I got the camera in Norman, Oklahoma. The day before freezing rain iced in most of the city. While the roads were clear, the trees, signs, buildings, just about everything exposed was covered in ice. A photographer’s paradise!

By Dain Unicorn Posted in Blog Tagged

Summer, Fall doldrums…. Exceptional American Marketing

Wow, it seems as if its been forever since I last posted anything here. I have a cyclical work pattern. I’ll go from several free hours a week to almost none and then back again. It gets so bad at times (like lately) that finding 90 seconds a day to make sure I haven’t overspent my bank account is a real chore.

Also, averaging 6k+ miles a week of ground travel leaves very little time for hardly anything other than sleep. As a American Commercial Driver, I’m allowed to drive 70 hours per week, my co-driver is also allowed to drive 70, thats 140 hours between us. There are only 168 hours in a week, and time spent at rest areas, truckstops, and at our pick-ups and deliveries does an effective job at eating up those extra 28 hours.

As I write this, my co-driver is driving. We are approaching Fremont, Ohio on I-80. We switched out about nine hours ago at the Seneca Travel Plaza on the New York Thruway (I-90) after picking up a load in Freeport, Maine. We have another 30 hours to get from where we are as I write this, to Salt Lake City, Utah, approximately 1650 miles. Of those 30 hours, we will have 90 minutes of regulatory breaks, at least two fuel stops of probably 30 minutes each (a ‘quick’ gas-n-go is 12 minutes if we don’t have to wait on a pump or to leave) and three more stops to switch drivers, perhaps 3 hours overall. We are going to have to average 61+ MPH in the time we are rolling to make it on time. As you can see it keeps the stress up.

This morning, as we left a fuel stop in Fultonville, New York I spotted something… I had to stop and snap a picture of it.

20131108-082210.jpg

Something grabbed my eye, and it took a moment to see… So I took another picture.

20131108-082315.jpg

To my dawning astonishment, the sign is presented in 3-DD!

20131108-082428.jpg

Now I didn’t fuel there, I fueled up at the Travelcenters of America next door, but seeing this put a stupid little grin on my face for a hundred miles.

Working with other writers

In the last two articles I’ve given solid advice about sending work out for feedback and how to accept work to offer feedback on.  This week I’m going to talk about working with other writers.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this, lets take a brief look at what The Writer gets to do.  They get to build.  They can build it all from scratch or recycle one or more points from other sources.  They literally get to be the creator of it all if they choose to be.   They decide what the world looks like, who the characters are, what side of the bed they wake up on, the trials and tribulations that they encounter, the highs, the lows, the good, the bad, and the ugly too.   In short, The Writer has total control.

Writers — plural –  have less control.  Even in a rare pairing where two writers know each other so well they fit well, there are conflicts between the creative forces.  Its part of the beast, all that potential to build and craft a story usually ends up with someone getting emotionally invested in a specific Point-Of-View and when two of these POVs become mutually exclusive, there is friction.  In well run groups, someone backs down.   When there are more than two writers collaborating on a project, this gets progressively more and more complicated.  If you have ever read a compendium of short stories by two dozen authors, you will have seen that while the universe and theme might stay consistent, the storyline typically jumps all over the place.

The pitfalls observed, lets look at the benefits.  First and foremost, you have your Beta Readers built in.  You really can’t be a successful writer if your not also an avid reader.  You cannot hope to be part of a collaborative project if you won’t read what the others write.  Second, you have someone who can help you with the hard parts, or even perhaps a specialist or two that can offer parts of the story you cannot manage.   Writers may not have total control of the work, but its often times a means to something that is greater than the sum of its parts.   One writer works on their strengths and leaves off where they are weak, and the other (or others) do likewise.  It sounds like a wonderful way to put out a really great story right?   Its not.  It works a lot like a marriage.  And how many of those end in divorce?  But if you do your part to make things work, the creative crucible can produce really intense results.

So why would you agree to commit to such madness.  You might be invited to it by someone who’s work you respect.  You might get to collaborate with friends.  Or, perhaps you get invited to continue where another writer left off, most notably after their death.  In future articles I’ll discuss working with another writer’s Intellectual Property with permission (under license or contract) or without (Fan Fiction).  For the rest of this article lets assume your partners are still alive and an active part of the project.

You’ve chosen a literary partner that you can get along with.  You have the story idea, where you do you get started?  Its a really good question, and there is no ‘right’ answer.  Pitch in and between the lot of you figure out where your creative processes are leading you and try and leave the other(s) alone for the first draft.  Plot it out first?  Just grab a hook and start writing and fit it all together later?  Establish a world and a setting before crying Havoc! and let slip the dogs of literature?  Some common ground rules are crucial, but I can’t offer you a ready made framework for your project.  There is hope, because you and your partner(s) are all intelligent enough to write stories, I’m sure you can settle on ground rules.  While some plotting might be unavoidable, its a good idea to plot together, but write apart.  When your stuck go back to the group, but don’t depend on the group to do your work for you.   And please don’t spend so much time in the group that you don’t leave enough time for your work.

In other words, Its every bit as important to close the door to your writing partners until you complete ‘first draft’ of each section.  After you’ve finished a draft of a section, that’s when its time to swap with your partner and read theirs as they read yours.  Unlike the solo writer, you will need to swap sections a little more often, so that both of you know the project isn’t falling apart.  This leads us to the next point.

Who is the Editor?  Your group needs to understand that with several different writers, an Editor will be necessary and that editor could be one of the writers, or might be someone holding themselves apart from the writers in order to be above the literary bickering.  The Editor, becomes the final word on what parts of the work stay, which go, and who gets their way.   Remember that sometimes you’ll be the one that wins these little spats and sometimes you wont be.  You agreed to work together to craft a story and it has the potential to be something great…  Just try and remember that when your feeling picked on.

Alright, the drafts are in, the Editor has put things into a cohesive story, and its time to start sending it out for an outside read.  Everything that I said two weeks ago still applies.  For that matter everything I said last week does to.  The difference is that there are more people to report to on what the Beta Reader finds.  However, one big difference is that with an Editor on the project already, there should be far fewer problems with the story.

For this next section, I need to apply a disclaimer:  I am not a lawyer, Accountant, or any sort of privileged advice professional.  I cannot give legal or money advice.  The rights of a collaborative project are tied up in interesting ways.  If the work of one specific writer can be reasonably separated from the whole,  then that writer may be able to claim independent rights to those parts (Example: A report writes for a newspaper under a byline.  Anything under that byline they can lay independent claim to).  If the work of one specific writer can not be reasonable separated from the whole, then that writer cannot claim independent rights to the work. (Example: Brian Sanderson took the mountains of source material, dictated tapes, partially written scenes, and other sundry and miscellany that Robert Jordan left behind after his death and finished the Wheel of Time for us.  In those books, it is mostly impossible for the reader to figure out where Jordan’s work ends and Sanderson’s begins.  Those books must show both writers in the credits.  You should already have an idea of what a partnership will bring you.  Set the terms at the beginning and stick to them.  That aside, make sure you know what your rights to the project and any future work will be after the project ends.  Do set these details down before you get started and make sure its in writing.

As far as dealing with a project partner that stops being active, or worse, dies, is where you need to get real legal advice based on the laws of the State(s) and terms involved in your specific situation.

About giving creative feedback

Last week I spoke on an writer’s need for feedback, and I was speaking to the writer needing the feedback. If you missed it, I invite you to take a look.

This week, let me speak on giving that feedback to a writer, and this time I’m speaking to those wonderful individuals that are entrusted as Beta Readers.

First off, please oh please, never accept a manuscript you have no intention of reading. This might seem really basic, but let me say it again. NEVER ACCEPT A MANUSCRIPT YOU HAVE NO INTENTION OF READING. It does an artist no good — and some harm — if you just accept a manuscript just to make them happy. It is better to tell them you can’t help them this time, far better in the long run.  Writers understand that when they send their manuscripts off to Editors and Publishers that their work will languish in a slushpile of other manuscripts waiting to be read.  Having a good close friend slushpile their work can be a devastating blow to their ego.  It can also have a chilling effect on your relationship with the writer too…

Second, and this is even more important, if after accepting a manuscript you intended to read, you discover that you just can’t finish it, return it with apologies. Do this as soon as you realize you will be of no help to the writer.  While its likely to sting the writer some, it will hurt far less than wondering why you quit answering their emails, IMs, phone calls, text messages, carrier pigeons, stone tablets, dispatches, pony express…  I digress, but the point is hopefully made.  While I’m talking about it, let me stress that it is equally important to keep those lines of communication — however arcane — open to help feed the fragile writer ego that has intrusted their baby to you.  Even if the best you can do is something simple like: ‘Been really busy lately and haven’t been able to finish yet, but I’ve gotten to the 4th chapter.  Hope to finish it soon.’  Whatever you decide to say, be honest.

Last week I urged the writer to be patient with the Reader.  The writer spent long hours into the manuscript and needs to give you a reasonable time to read it.  You should honor that trust by giving the manuscript the attention it deserves, not dribbles and the dregs of your otherwise busy life.  Try to finish sections if you cannot finish the whole manuscript in a single sitting.

Alright, you’ve cleared your schedule, put a do-not-disturb tag on your door, turned off the internet, set your iPhone to airplane mode, fobbed the kids off on an unsuspecting relative and have sat down to read the bloody thing…  Now what?  Take notes!  Record your thoughts and any questions you have that the piece that doesn’t address.  In fact, try to read it through at least twice.  On your first pass, skim and look mainly for glaring errors and questions and confusions.  On the second pass, take your time and try to find the answers to the questions you had on the first read through.  Any questions left need to be part of your report.  Don’t let that word scare you, this is not an elementary school ‘Book Report’.

Why two passes?  Why a skim before a careful read?  On that first pass look for points where you stop reading to scratch your head and wonder what you missed.  Quasi-interested readers will stumble on these points too.  On your second pass, you will be familiar with the work.  Perhaps you can answer your own questions.  If you do find answers to first-read questions, record them to discuss with the writer, they might not be the right answers.  Even if you can’t you need to be looking for problems and unanswered questions you missed the first time around.

A Beta Reader needs to know what the writer is looking for in feedback…   If they just need a sanity check before sending it out for editorial review or submission to a publisher, they need a fine-tooth-comb sweep.  Typos, misused punctuation, sequence errors (chapters/scenes out-of-order), missing sections, in other words, EVERYTHING YOU CAN FIND THATS SCREWED UP!  This is not really a proper task for a Beta Reader, but something a little more.  “First Reader” or “Ideal Reader” are terms thrown about in various circles.  A Beta Reader usually gets asked to do this but by that time the Beta Reader is more familiar with the manuscript.  In any case, it’s a little beyond the scope of this article however.

Most of the time when writers send manuscripts out to Beta Readers, they are looking for feedback because they have a story that is on life-support.  At this critical stage in the creation process, they are trying to find out if the story that lives in their head and imperfectly transcribed into a manuscript is really as great as they think.  Ok, maybe not quite that grandiose.  The writer has hit a level of their work where they need to know if they are actually doing something worthwhile or just wasting their time.  What is most helpful at this stage is an honest review of what works and what doesn’t.  What is really interesting and what is boring.  What is overdone and what is cliche.  What questions aren’t answered, and where scenes or characters don’t work.  While pointing out typos and grammatical errors is of some limited value, it really doesn’t help at this stage.  Here are some comparative examples.

“John doesn’t really seem to care about Martha at all, the relationship is wooden and cliche, it just doesn’t work.”   This is good.  It gives rather pointed advice on what is at fault.

“I hated the way John treats Martha.”  This is ok.  Not great, not really helpful, but at least its honest feedback.

“This sucked.”  Is not good at all.  I know it sucked, thats why I sent it out on a Beta Read.   Tell me why it sucks if you can.

“I found that you kept shifting tenses in the verbs when you get into the action sequences.”  This is really useful grammatical advice.  Shifting between Present and Past tense in your verb forms confuses readers and can lead to other errors getting overlooked by the eye being drawn to the non-standard usage.

“Pick a tense and stick with it.”  This is not useful.  Its more of a complaint than a constructive feedback.  It’s also an example of a flippant backhand quip that reflects that you didn’t read enough to show more respect for the esteem the writer holds you in.

“I do not think that word means what you think it means.”  Great line from Princess Bride, but not such a good thing to hear from a Beta Reader.  Humor is a great defuser, but follow it up with what word you’re referring to.  Consider if the next example were to follow this one…

“You have been using ordinance — i.e. Laws — when I think you mean ordnance — i.e. weapons and ammunition.”   Much better advice, because it outlines the error.  It’s actually it’s a two-fer in that you get the proper term and its meaning and the improper terms meaning as well.   Writers are not perfect — thats why Editors exist — so help your patron writer out by showing them why the word they use is probably a poor fit.  But tell them what their imperfect fit means to, that way if they were being obtuse you have covered both bases.

Alright, you’ve finished your two read thorough, taken lots of notes, and are ready to report your feedback.  How do you do this?  There is no hard and fast way.  Sometimes marking up a copy of what you were sent in different colored text is one way.  If your dealing with a physical printout, marginalia is good too(and one of my favorite obscure words).  Typing up a separate document with page/section/Chapter&Scene references is also good.   Be as complete as you can.  Be as honest as you can.  Your writer does not need a sycophant, they need honest feedback, even if it means you have to tell them the story is no good…  Especially when you have to tell them the story is no good.  You can be gentle if you feel the need to.  You can be brutal as long as your writer knows your not just ripping him to shreds for sport.  But it is paramount that you give honest feedback.   Being available for real-time discussion is a great bonus, and if your able to do so in person, its considered polite to bring the beverages to drown the sorrow or celebrate the good news.  After all, its the least you can do for the writer after put their story — and maybe even their soul — under your microscope.

Remember, as a Beta Reader you have a special role in the development of the story.  The writer has turned to you  for help in figuring out where their head-cannon and manuscript don’t line up.  And in the end you can have an impact on the final product.  You can help find plot holes, fix problem characters, and even drive the parts of the plot the writer has problems with.  Or you can do nothing, and encourage the writer to give up.  No pressure.

About seeking creative feedback…

I’ve been writing creatively for a rather long time.  I’ve not however found a lot of solid feedback from most of my work.   Sure love ones can be emotionally guilt-tripped into reading, but more often than not the feedback is lackluster.  Your loved ones want you to be happy, and they don’t want to be the one that makes you unhappy.

As a writer, I spend a long time crafting in secret.  All those little story ideas (a good friend calls them plot bunnies) bouncing around inside my head until the total chaos of all those plot bunnies flood into my Muse’s apartment.  This makes him cranky and he gets out the big guns to settle the problem.  And thus, words come streaming out of my head as my Muse tries to recover his space and his peace and quiet.

I’ll gather all of these words up and — if I’m lucky — record them all in a story.  When the plot bunnies are quiet and there are no new holes in my Muse’s apartment, I review what I’ve written.  Since the story already lives in my head, the missing pieces are fit together magically and I see the wonderful new story before me that if it doesn’t hit the best seller’s lists, then I have indisputable proof those metrics are all faked!

I simply can’t believe just how great I am and so I seek feedback.  I gather up the story, clean it up for presentation, and submit it out to a few trusted souls and wait…   And wait…  And wait…   (taps hooves)  No, really, I’m waiting here with baited breath…  Yes, the internet is up…    And here comes a new email….  Oh, rats!  No, I don’t need pills for that…

Its so very hard to remember at times like this, that writing is a -inside the skull- art.  It starts inside, it transmits inside, and it is received inside.  Its not like drawn art where you can look at it and take it in quickly.   It takes time for all of those words to go from the book to the Reader.  And dear friends, I capitalize the Reader because he or she is very important.  The Reader is the reason writers exist.  So here I am, waiting with my soul exposed to the harsh elements, waiting for the Reader to finish their job and get back to me.  I just know they are going to love it, tell me I’m great and out will come the superlative…   And…   Still waiting.

You might think I would become angry at this point.   Actually, I understand quite well what’s going on.   I drop an unfinished manuscript section on someone and they see at once that its thirty thousand words, prints about to about 90 pages and is likely to eat several hours they could better spend grinding on World of WarCrack in hopes that one particular shield finally drops.  And why should they put my ego above their own leisure pursuits?

The short answer is that they are not an ideal ‘Beta Reader’.  They may be people who’s opinion you value, or who’s approval you crave, but unless they are willing to give you the time it takes to read your stuff, they won’t give you good feedback.  And even if they do, they will almost never give effective feedback.

Such kinds of ineffective feedback can be really upsetting.  Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

“I can’t wait to see where you take the story.”

“I liked it, but you keep making [insert grammatical/spelling error here] mistake.”

“Wow that’s just great!”

As you can see there is no meat in the message there.  Even the second one isn’t really helpful because its just picking nits and not actually commenting on the content of your story.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to pick on every nit you can find, but this isn’t it.

Beta Readers are worth their weight in gold, but don’t waste their time.  They are willing to give to you their attention and deserve a little in return.  If your section requires more than just a cautionary paragraph about its raw, work-in-progress nature, then perhaps its not really ready to share yet.  Yes, I’m rather guilty of this, I’ll send a section out, get back a bunch of constructive feedback (if it hurts, but also helps your story, it was constructive) I have a hard time not firing off an updated copy as soon as I’ve addressed all of the things that were pointed out.   Don’t do that, trust me, it doesn’t work out well.

So you have found a willing ear, what should you send them?  Well, at best send them a finished DRAFT.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be complete.  If its only part of the whole, send a complete part, and save off where the edges are still showing.

How should you format what you send?  Take a little effort to assist in readability.   Start new paragraphs off with an indent.  Use a scene separator of some kind [---], [***], or something similar.  Use a page break between Chapters.  Use a blank page between sections.  The first page should be a title page.   While the title page you might use to submit the work to a publisher will do, lets add a few items on the front page: Word count, the name and info of the person your offering this copy to, the date it was put together for them, a brief statement of what sort of feedback your looking for (or not looking for), and your gratitude for their read.  While it might be a wee-bit rude to include a date to return it by, adding “Please reply with your comments no later than…” is ok.

Now, I’ve formatted my story, found a real good Beta Reader, and sent it on its way; now what?  You wait, and wait as patiently as you can.  Your Reader will get back to you after they have read it, had time to digest it, and write up their comments.   It took you three months to write those 90k words, you can give your Reader more than 30 minutes to read and reply.

TLDR: While you might be a needy artist, acting like one does not help you at all.  Chill out, and help your Reader like what you’ve written.

Wanderlust…

When I started on this career in 2008, I wanted to keep traveling.   I wanted to keep moving.   I wanted to have that little slice of the dynamic in my life.  The feeling like at the end of the day that things were accomplished.  It was something that was often lacking in my jobs up to that point in my life.

I’m approaching the Five Year mark with this job.  I have already put in more time in this job than any other single position before.  And so I guess it would be natural that I start seeing more of the sharp edges and less of the green fields.  Maintenance headaches.  Equipment headaches.  Health headaches…   It just seems to get worse and worse.   The micromanagement from both my Employer and the US Dept of Transportation (Yes, I know I’m posting this from Calgary, Alberta, more on that in a minute) has changed for the worse the job that I fell in love with in 2008.

I sit reflecting on these things while in a Denny’s inside the Flying J Truckstop on the South side of Calgary.  This one truckstop is deep in my heart  as almost a second home, though not for anything in particular to the place itself.  In August 2009, I spent more than a third of the month here, waiting for loads or to deliver loads on fixed appointments.  Things are different now.  The Flying J in-house restaurant is gone, the lot is smaller in part due to changing the scale and the LNG fueling station, but for the most part, I know this little corner of a FOREIGN COUNTRY almost as well as I know my home.

This city is on my list of places I want to travel in my own car, in my own time, on walkabout.  I want to bring family here to experience what I have.  There are all sorts of little out-of-the-way nooks that I want to share.  Its this one part of my job that starts to weigh the heaviest on me.  The changing of the regulations and additional micromanagement is a pain, but it’s just ‘Giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’.  The weight is that of having these things to share, and not having the energy or chance to blog about them, to tweet about it, or even just snap a photo to consider later.

Wanderlust was considered a curse not a blessing in the middle ages.  I can see why.  Never spending much time in any one place makes it hard for any one place to be a refuge of tradition.  But that’s just not so, I’ve put down little roots in so many places…  Places I want others to see.

I suffer from future-shock more than any ill effect of my wanderings.  Little things form a slice of life, still in time, and I keep that close and dear.  I’ll return to visit friends, family, or a place of strong emotions (like here), and things just seem like they are just like I left.  Except when they are not, then the changes are a harsh reminder that while things seem to feel like they are on hold while I’m on the road, they never really are.

But, in the mean time, the Gypsy Winds fill my sails and send me off on journeys unknown.  Life is the journey, not the distance or destination.