Last month I wrote a very short piece to read at an Evergreen Writers Group meeting. I’m reproducing it here because it has relevance to both my participation in that writing group and the more general writing efforts that are the focus of this website. The novels I refer to in the little submission are A Body in the Sacristy and Tilting at Windmills, the two Barrettsport Mysteries I’ve published. I have pages for all of these on this website including links to Amazon for the two short story anthologies published by the Evergreen Writers Group and my two novels.
An Old Coffee Mug
One recent Wednesday morning, I discovered my long-suffering wife perched precariously on a kitchen stool. She was removing old coffee mugs from the poorly accessible over-the-fridge cupboard. She handed me two mugs and reached for more.
“What’s up?” I asked.
She proffered another two. “The church is collecting mugs for a new charity kitchen. We haven’t used these for decades, so I’m donating them.”
“Yeah, fine. But we should scan them and remove any with sentimental value.”
She laughed. “Since when did you attach sentimental value to anything?”
Several minutes later, we had eighteen mugs arrayed on the counter. She extracted a cracked one and threw it in the trash. I picked out one I wanted and returned it to the cupboard.
What encouraged me to keep the orange and black mug with a crudely drawn picture of a small sailboat and ‘KYC 1967 Regatta’ written on it? I’d had many experiences with some minor to middling achievements during my seventy-one years, but I’d kept few mementos. What encouraged me to retain this nondescript old mug?
The answer, an epiphany of sorts, occurred several days later. I remembered three times when I’d gone against form and chosen to undertake a major foolhardy task. In each case, others advised against my choice, and I knew my chances of success were virtually nil.
The first was my decision to build a racing sailboat, a sixteen-foot-long plywood dinghy whose sole purpose was competitive racing. The overly complicated beast was useless for anything else. I had no experience in competitive dingy racing, and neither the drive nor physical characteristics necessary for success in an athletic adventure. Family and friends recommended against this obviously foolish idea.
Nevertheless, I built the boat, a veritable work of art if I say so myself, and enjoyed the racing experience for several years. I even achieved modest success. My first foray into boat ownership led to decades of boat ownership.
Another milestone, one that may appeal to the members of any writing group, was my post-retirement decision to write a novel. I knew the idea was stupid because I’d no creative writing experience and no literary talents presaging success. Others were quick to enumerate these facts and predict a short, frustrating ordeal that was doomed to failure.
My writing experience has often been frustrating but not short. Ten years after, I’m the proud author of two published novels. I’ve had few readers outside of family, friends, and the members of the Evergreen Writing Group, and only one stranger I can honestly claim is a dedicated fan. But this endeavour sustained me through my first decade in retirement.
I don’t regret my decision to write a book or the one to build my first boat. For some perverse reason, I’ve found limited success at difficult tasks more satisfying than greater success at easier ones.