On Writing

How I Found Inspiration In Baltimore

This repost from 2012 is an oldie but a goodie. It also serves as a nice companion piece to my recent post on writer’s block.

Enjoy!

What, no book? Then scram!
What, no book? Then scram!

Continue reading “How I Found Inspiration In Baltimore”

On Blogging, On Writing

A Second Resolution Solution!

A lovely parting gift
A lovely parting gift.

When I gave my two-weeks notice, I was not prepared for how busy those next two weeks would be.

I figured my last days at Lawrenceville would consist of wrapping up a few loose ends. I also figured that the occasional work friend or acquaintance would stroll into my office to chat and say his or her goodbyes. And this is largely what did happen – only more so.

It turned out there were a lot of loose ends that needed tying. It also turned out that a lot of people needed to say their goodbyes. And some of those goodbyes took a lot of time. (One work pal just stood in my office silently, not knowing what to say, but not wanting to leave until he could think of something appropriate. That appropriate something never arrived. For all I know, he might still be in there.)

This was all well and good — and quite lovely, really — but as the days ticked away and those loose ends remained loose, my patience for such visits began to ebb. This was especially true during the last half of my last week. By that time all of my work friends and acquaintances had said what they had to say. Now the stream of well-wishers consisted exclusively of obligated almost-strangers and jocular irritants. When one such irritant visited and attempted to generate some last minute bonhomie, I nodded and smiled and uttered banalities (I figured I might be able drive him out of my office by being boring). My brain, however, wanted to try a different strategy. A yelling strategy:

“What is this? I don’t even like you! I haven’t spoken to you since 2012. Why are you here? Why are you keeping me from my loose ends? And, oh, God, hold on! Are you sitting down? Why are you sitting down?!”

The loose ends in question were the particulars of the spring issue of the alumni magazine I edited. I was leaving in the middle of my production schedule and that is kind of an organizational nightmare.

To the uninitiated, the task of putting out a magazine appears to be one big, ginormous job. In reality it’s more like four jillion little jobs — and I couldn’t  in good conscience take my leave until every one of those little jobs was accounted for in some fashion. I wanted to make sure that whoever the school hired would be able to quickly and easily pick up where I left off.

But there was a non-magazine-related loose end I had to deal with, too. And this loose end was far more important than a magazine. It was New Year’s Resolution Number Two: I had to find a vaguely amusing way to get rid of my golf balls.

Too many.
Sometimes I scare myself.

My desire to collect golf balls began in spring 2014. On my lunch hour I would wander around a nearby golf course and fill my pockets with any lost or abandoned balls I found. I would then go back to my office and put my quarry in an empty file drawer.

By the time 2014 came to a close, this drawer held 376 golf balls. That is a lot of golf balls. In fact, I would argue that it is too many golf balls. So as I rang in 2015, I vowed to find a way to get rid of them in a vaguely amusing way. Since my days at the job were numbered (and I had no desire to lug home 50 pounds worth of balls for a game I do not play) I had to come up with something fast. In the end, I decided to leave the balls behind. But that would be a loose end. I don’t like loose ends, so I also left behind a note:

Hi Editor!

I did my best to tie up loose ends on the spring issue to make the transition as easy as possible, but I may have overlooked something. If you have any questions about the job or my organizational system, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

By now you have probably noticed that this drawer is filled with 376 golf balls. You are probably asking yourself, “Why?”

And I have an answer for you: Because this is what crazy looks like.

Such a gift is not without precedent, by the way. When I started this job 11 years ago, I discovered that my predecessor left behind a closet full of mayonnaise jars filled with urine. So, really, you should consider yourself lucky. Golf balls are nothing compared to that.

In short, quit complaining and get to work.

Your pal, Mike

I was amused. And so another resolution gets ticked off my list.

Family and/or Autobiography, On Writing

A Resolution Solution!

My office.
Will I be able to work in an office without glass walls? It’ll be tough, but I’ll try!

A couple of weeks ago I posted my first ever list of New Year’s resolutions. I am pleased to report that one of those resolutions is resolved!

I will do something bold yet well-planned.

What is the bold thing? I quit my job. Beginning in February, I will earn income solely through freelance and independent writing projects.

How long did I plan this? About three years.

The reason? Because my wife’s and my Mid-Life Crisis Clocks serendipitously synced up.

Up to this point, Ellen had been working out of the house earning an excellent supplementary income as an SAT tutor. As for me, I wrote for and edited The Lawrenceville School’s alumni magazine, earning a good salary and getting medical benefits. For quite a long time this worked out just fine.

But my wife was, slowly but surely, going stir crazy. Once Alex began attending school, Ellen, a former high school English teacher, longed to return to the classroom.

She also hated, hated, HATED doing housework. This is because Ellen is normal.

I like doing housework because I am not normal. (OCD, for all its negative connotations, does create excellent house husbands.) But my day job and it’s long, long commute didn’t give me many opportunities during the workweek to help out much.

Also, my job, for all its frequent awesomeness (I got to interview, Peter Gould, a writer and director for Breaking Bad! Woo!) was beginning to wear me down. I had been there 11 years. I thought my work was getting stale. No one else noticed, but I did.

Furthermore, the job was keeping me from the children’s book writing thing. It was also keeping me from expanding my freelance clientele. And, more crushingly, it was keeping me from spending much time with my boy.

So Ellen and I talked. We made a plan. And we implemented it.

Ellen spent the last couple of years getting certified in middle school math. She is now employed full time at our town’s middle school.

Meanwhile, for the past couple of years, I have been cultivating contacts and clients. I will now work out of my home office.

This change is exciting, to say the least.

It will also now allow me to accomplish two more of my New Year’s resolutions:

I shall write early and often

and

I shall become a Laundry Master.

Here’s to new adventures in 2015!