Like many writers I know, I didn’t start out writing. We do what we have to, to keep up. There’s the mortgage, the tuition, the upgrade on the car. A slow crawl of years, to build a name in one’s profession, and achieve a measure of success.
Eventually, though, you look around… As I did, I saw the daily grind eating my existence. So, I asked myself the question— how long can this go on? The answer frightened me. It could have gone on my whole life, and completely consumed my soul.
How did I get swept up in the grind? I went to law school. Actually, I went because of a double-dare with my dad. But at the root of it was the worry that I might not make money doing the things I loved. For I was a creative soul, into painting, drawing and poems. It was a highly rational concern, and it might’ve saved my ass. But the cost was great, for in law school I soon discovered my ambition. I wanted to be general counsel. (Of what? That didn’t matter)! I wanted to carry a big briefcase and manage a legal team. And I did do those things. The only catch was, they soon took over my life.
In all the lawyering years, I never found time for any creative endeavor. My brain was taken over by cases and documents (think of the brain-eating parasite in Star Trek, the one that goes in through the ear… cringe). Success as a lawyer came at the expense of my life as an artist.
So, the old saying is TRUE! The law is, indeed, a jealous mistress! Actually, the law is a jealous, greedy, aura-depleting black hole. And that’s putting it nicely. For twenty-eight years, all I did was negotiate, draft, advise and litigate. The last 13 years of it, I settled into a niche, lawyering for advertising agencies. Some of it was fun, but mostly, it was a long string of business days, marked mostly by contract signings.
But it wasn’t exactly a loss. It gave me fodder for stories. Especially the early days, when I handled ALL kinds of cases. Seriously. Everything from arguments over the swirl design on a bowling ball, to wrongful death caused by a stampeding elephant. It was a colorful life. I got to negotiate, cajole, persuade… and sometimes huff and puff and threaten to blow someone’s house down. At such times, I’d pick up the litigation case and head off to court, where I got good at schmoozing court administrators and bailiffs. For a time, I knew every county court judge in Tarrant County and some in Dallas County, too. Oh man. Those were good days and bad days, but mostly I was young and life was long, and it seemed there would be plenty of time, eventually, for all that I wanted to do.
Except, there never was! All those years, to live a submerged existence, a half-life, with the poetry yearning to get out. I longed to sit barefoot on the grass. Not to have a schedule, but to shop and take naps. To travel—yes! Beyond the allotted two weeks…to go somewhere and really dig in. To be frivolous! To say yes to improbable requests, like to go tromping through a real castle, to take the kids fishing, or have a snowball fight.
Well, eventually, I don’t have to tell you, but it was bound to happen. Every minute of all those twenty-eight years, my creative spirit sweltered, crushed down like a genie in a lamp, waiting, waiting, waiting…till one day…WHOOSH! It happened in broad daylight in the middle of a work day. (You just never know when your inner genie may emerge). An ad came on the radio for a class where you could learn how to write a novel. So, on that day, I made the first of my three wishes. To write this book! (Ok, so it’s taking a while. Some wishes are granted slowly). But, I promise you, it IS coming. I know, because my second wish is to get it published. And lest ye doubt my faith or perseverance, let me reassure you that I have used only two of my three wishes, so all the power and mystical force of that creative genie is still behind me.