You can read David Bowie’s lyrics here and listen to his song here.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in my life. I’ve described this diabetes affliction as a ball and chain, an inhibitor of change. I’ve drug the thing around for nearly 37 years, and yes, it is a heavy burden. But I’ve moved forward. I no longer live with unknown blood sugars, hopelessness, 911 calls, constant late night hypos, or fear. Yes, those were the days prior to me pumping, prior to June 26, 2006. I’ve made major changes in my own health care. I’m now my doctors’ best patient. They shake their heads when I leave the room. I still carry the ball and chain, but I swing it like a grandfather watch. I look at it and ask it what time it is, and I slide it in my pocket as the master of a business empire might.
No, things are not now perfect, but they’re good. I have much more focus and much more confidence. I now call myself one of Canada’s best read authors based on my correspondence in various diabetes forums. I’ve made well over 15,000 posts, some of them quite lengthy. Even a mere 100 words each comes out to 1,500,000 words. Some have been read tens of thousands of times, some over a hundred thousand. That many posts times 1,000 reads each is 15 million reads. If this was my novel writing, I’d be rich and famous. I’m obscure at best. Many posts are fluff, but most are serious. I have fans. People have told me I’ve saved their life. I’ve told people they’ve saved my life, and they have. Their words have. The words they spoke when I asked the right questions. The questions I asked when I changed my attitude. The answers I finally heard when I began listening to others, the real experts, the other diabetics out there seeking help, seeking change.
I’ve learned to write, at least that’s what I tell myself. I am a type B personality. I am the furthest person on the scale my university organizational behavior professor had ever seen. I wish I could remember her name. She was hot. She wasn’t hot in the entertainment sense; she was hot as a person. She was strong, confident, yes she was good looking, but she moved forward with power and grace. She was not a woman young men ogled over. She was a woman young men feared. When she walked through the halls full of students, she didn’t fit in. She stood out gracefully. She never smiled in the halls. In class I could feel her words, her message: learn your own strengths; learn to change. I nearly failed that course. I found it distasteful to surgically categorize people, yet I loved it. It’s the one course in business school I use almost all the time when writing fiction: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Dual-Factor Theory, and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation stay with me. Dr. Stuart-Koetze’s textbook is the only one left on my shelf. Oh how that shelf has changed over the years too [blog idea alert]. I learned that I need to communicate. I love working on teams with people. I hate sitting alone working on a project — that didn’t sound right for a writer. I also learned I don’t lead by talking. My ideas come to the surface slowly. They perk like a good cup of Folgers, and my ideas are good to the clichéd last drop. Writing suits my soul. I love sitting alone working on a project when I’m tapped into my mind, when I’m free to let my ideas flow. I do think it’s my strength.
I have never looked negatively on change. I look negatively on stagnancy, even though I’m guilty of wearing boots unfit for trudging in mud. I’m a type B personality. I don’t create change for the sake of change; I simply ride the waves and enjoy the ride, trying to steer my board to a beach rather than rocks. I’m good at riding waves, not at finding new, better waves.
And now I’m faced with a new change in my life. I am no longer employed with the firm that employed me yesterday. Technically I still am, but I’m free to stay home and write blogs, drink rum, and play computer games. It’s not a change I’m upset about. It was expected. We used to be a shop of 150 and now about 30. I’m one of the last to go. I’m happy to be moving forward. I admit I needed a push. I have no idea what I want the new wave to look like or go, no, yes I do know. But that approach, that stretch of sand is filled with big, scary sharks and sharp rocks. It’s almost assured I will crash and be swept out to see, a casualty of this wave called life. I want to write. I want to be a writer. I remind myself it’s not the beach that’s important but the wave. It’s the words and ideas and self expression that matter, nothing else.
I can carry this attitude for a while; then I will have to find new employment. Joy. It’s tough writing these words; because, well, I am not a writer. I have no training, no experience, no supporters. When I tell people I’m writing a novel I get the standard “that’s nice John, but what are you really doing with your life” look. My wife is afraid to read it. She’s afraid of breaking John’s heart. My writing group nods passively — I don’t know if they really like it or if they don’t want to upset me with criticism. My friends think I’m just crazy. Novelists don’t make money; they don’t support their family; they have no hope for success. I admit I’m no Stephen King or Ken Follett. I have an impossible task in front of me.
This writing business is a real ball and chain. It’s not the same burden as diabetes. It’s a load I choose to carry. This is not a culmination of a life of experience; it’s merely another fad hobby in John’s life. It’s not hockey [midget AAA]; it’s not chess [CFC 1900 class A]; and it’s not photography. My infatuation will end like all my other diversions have ended. I no longer play hockey or chess. I no longer photograph much. I could drop writing just like that, couldn’t I? I have said over the years that I have a peculiar strength: I can see patterns others can’t. Playing hockey I could see the whole ice and the movement of every player. I had hands of stone, though. In chess I saw more forces at work than most players could see. I’ve surprised masters with my analysis. I’ve beaten a master. Yet I couldn’t easily see the straight route to the king. I find photography a natural fit. I let the lines and shapes fall into position on their own, yet photographing people posing for the shot is a completely mind-boggling task. I really think my strengths are suited to writing: I can see the plots, themes, motivations, tensions, etc. I am also not suited to writing. My focus on the complex story often leaves good writing technique drowning in a riptide as I walk along looking for shells and lost coins.
I wrote last night, and I think I wrote well. I now have 92,201 first draft quality words with 15,492 left to work through. I am planning on making the time over the next weeks to finish a draft of this thing ahead of schedule, get my wife to read it, then if she doesn’t die from embarrassment, get someone qualified in vetting stories to read it. I have two people in mind, both have suggested they are willing to help. But I need some feedback soon, and I need to get this weight off my shoulders. I also need cup of coffee number two and a shower.
*One of the drivers of wanting to complete this story is its potential commercial viability. I’ll be honest here: such thinking is wrong. I’m writing these words largely to expel them from my head; because they do not belong in a writer’s head. But it’s a big, attractive story. It’s a story any adult in Canada would turn their head at, and I can’t find any equivalents in my head. It’s not a fluffy character-based story where the plot needs to be extracted and can only be seen at the end. My story is not on the level of Harry Potter or Lord Of The Rings. I’m not that pretentious. The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind: it’s a national story, a story everybody will immediately recognize, but it’s a story with attractive bling not dusty destitution. I won’t claim the writing matches the story. I will need an expensive editor. I may need a new author.