Minding my own business on this Labor Day, not irritating a single soul. Just thinking back on my own lifetime of labor. I've been a cotton picker, grape picker, beans and peach and strawberry picker, box stacker, stevedore in an ice plant, career military man......sprinkled in the off duty hours with jobs such as club bouncer, airport security agent, Kraft foods grocery stocker, then culminating my working life as a highly compensated logistics manager.
And my most difficult labor was none of those. For forty years I labored to become a great novelist. Not necessarily a best selling one, but one that would be admired for the quality of the written word. In these past forty years I've written dozens of poems and short stories, many of which were treasured and appreciated by family and friends. A few were published in small, obscure newspapers, one included in a treasury of military stories. I have also gone through no less than six keyboards while pounding out some 1,500 blog essays for my blog. And yet my greatest dream has been to turn out, if not the "great American novel", at least one that would be valued for longer than half a decade.
Oh I have come so close. Or at least I thought so at the time. I sat down and wrote for hours, revising as I went, rooting myself on for paragraphs that "sung", served as self-executioner for the rotten stuff.
In those thirty years I have murdered a dozen manuscripts; some as brief as a hundred single-spaced pages, some reaching opus stages with 300 pages or more. Were my "murder victims" bad? Not really. Many were better than some of the stuff that Krantz, or Grisham, or Patterson turn out with manufactured regularity. The problem I found with each of my efforts was that they weren't any better than the aforementioned, So why bother? That road is cluttered with a traffic jam of mediocrity. I simply did not want to commute or commune with literary hacks.
Oh, those manuscripts did not start out like that. Each one was started with great hope and expectations. Each plot, each story line as clean and fresh as morning laundry. Then, alas, at some point in my editing and review process, I found my work pedestrian........what I found brilliant yesterday was very tired and worn on the morrow, or in the next season.
Could I have published a dozen novels superior to what you now see on Amazon's To 100? You bet. Just look at the ".99 cent to $2.99" gruel Amazon is willing to pimp. Stuff with watery plots, overused story lines, cliche-riddled, badly edited, an insult to anyone literate enough to know garbage when they smell it. And even the decently written is just a repeat of a thousand others. So, given that I can't turn out something noble, I spare the reader an unlimited dose of "just okay". And that may ultimately be my greatest contribution to literature.
So, on this Labor Day, I confess that the toughest job I ever labored at was right here behind my keyboard. And I confess multiple murders most foul. Yet no one can say I didn't try.....and no once can say I wasn't merciful.
Happy Labor Day, friends!