Why I Write
Last night I passed the 25,000 word mark on the book I’m writing now – an adventure/thriller called OLDOGS. It’s the fourth book I’ve worked on during the past three years. In many ways, it’s the most enjoyable as well. The characters are really talking to me now. They’ve already bent the plot from the line I had envisioned when work started. Their direction is much better, I think.
As a newspaper man and a market researcher, I’ve been writing professionally for more than fifty years now – yet I never considered writing novels until very recently. The ideas and plot lines were always bubbling around in my mind. Still, the idea of applying the time and energy to put tens of thousands of rationally connected and congruent words together seemed overwhelming. If it hadn’t been for my wonderful life partner, Helen, nothing would have changed.
Helen found me on the downward arc of a faltering life. She came aboard a small, struggling business magazine I was editing as my PTSD ballooned and my marriage fell apart. She kept the magazine afloat, at least for a while (nothing would rescue it from the terrible management of its owners). She was one of the best media salespeople I ever met. Had she been a man during those times (the ‘80’s), I am sure she’d have been a high exec at a major newspaper company or magazine. She was that good.
We became good friends. A year later, when both of us had left bad marriages and moved to different states, I got word that she was within travelling distance. My life, which had been wounded by the breakup (two young kids were involved), was spinning in free fall. Somehow, we got together, moved from being friends to lovers, got married, and started a life together. She became my rock and my compass, guiding me back to the edges of sanity from PTSD, and helping me make good decisions instead of bad, self-destructive ones.
We had a great life together. I grew to love Helen even more as time went on, and she forgave me most of my shortcomings. We travelled a lot – around the world, really. We owned a lot of houses in interesting places. I never thought I would ever be without her. The idea of being alone in the world again was impossible to consider.
After I retired from full-time work, Helen pushed me to begin writing. She’d look over what I’d done each day, and lead me away from bad directions. My first book, The Narrow Man, could never have been realized without her guidance. She loved the second book, Buddies, even more – but never saw it finished. Like all angels, she was not allowed to remain on earth. She died last June, almost a year ago.
Afterward, my first inclination was to move somewhere far away – Wyoming, maybe, or Alaska – and just wait for my time to come. Helen’s spirit wouldn’t let that happen. I have moved (I could no longer bear the house we shared), but only to be near the youth and warmth of our grandchildren. There are a lot of the little guys, and some of them remind me a lot of her – as do their parents. I love them all, more because Helen really taught me how to love and care.
She left me with another incredible gift, as well. Because of my writing, I have purpose and direction in my life that will remain as long as I draw breath. Though I will always miss her guidance – those end of the day discussions over martinis were wonderful – I will continue putting words together.
Then, one day, if God is kind, my time here will be done, and I can begin my search for Helen. I wonder if she’ll like what I’ve written.