Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Simpler Time

I’ve reached that age where, with a certain chauvinism and privilege, the memory of youth and childhood appear to me “a simpler time.” This isn’t couched in the presumption that my childhood was better than YOUR childhood, if you are of a different age – nor that my childhood could beat up your childhood on the playground. It’s not even a reflection of technology and so on. It probably IS the result of responsibility; we all think in those terms, I think. And (assuming I have gained any), there is the influence of increased knowledge, and emotional experience, always mucking up the works in life.

My kid-dom in the seventies, and teen years in the eighties, weren’t an exceptionally halcyon period. I didn’t like either stage of life very much at the time, and have zero yearning to return. Yet it wasn’t bad stuff, my youth and childhood. There were bullies, but they never physically harmed me, and if they scarred me much emotionally – well, it still led to who I am now, and I like that person pretty well, so though I can remember them it’s not with feeling.

Much was forbidden, especially in the very much younger years, and I was one of those kids always griping of boredom. I didn’t love going outside to play, and though I did love reading, when I read about agents and other writers’ PASSIONS for it, devouring Proust and so on from the earliest ages – I won’t lie, a lot of what I read for a good long stretch was MAD magazine anthology books, and as much as I liked The Secret Garden and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories, I couldn’t say with any accuracy that they changed my life or have a tearfully cherished place in my heart. My reaction when given the first NOVEL I ever read, was resentment that there were no damned pictures. Seriously – it didn’t mean maturation and getting older (that attainment that meant finally gaining every privilege denied to the very young), it meant my parents were trying to bore me to death.

Then, of course, I read the book (a blue hardback with dustcover I am fairly certain I still have, and in mighty good condition – unless I gave it to my elder niece …). It was called “War Work”, which was an extremely unfortunate title to proffer to young-me. I found the very word War a complete drag (reasons I am a Trek nerd and not Star Wars – seriously), and where my parents, especially my mom, undoubtedly associated the WWII story with certain halcyon days of their own, all I heard was “this is a story about war, something that interests me precisely not at all.”

Of course, the novel was about a bunch of kids many thousands of miles and nicely protected continents removed from actual wartime, and involved playing games and the small hurts and so on of the characters and the times.

As I’ve said before here– the fact is, I generally feel like I fall short in the “passionate reader” aspect which is pretty strongly emphasized in the industry I aspire to. I don’t have moist stories to share about the first time I ever heard Charlotte’s Web read to us in school, though it certainly affected me, at least at the time. (My readerliness falls short in so many ways.) I can’t pretend I was outlining my own career nor plans as an authoress, indeed, before my mid-thirties. And we see how I have progressed there … ahem.

Back when things (and my brain) were simpler, the prevailing assumption was still that a girl child grows up and gets married, and husbands provide the breadwinning function. Yet even by the time I got to middle school and high school, that was changing. For a while, it was, “women CAN work” … and I was all, “Well, who needs THAT!?” – and then it pretty much became apparent that we were all going to have to work, aspirations or no. I was not excited by this aspect of social change, but let it be said I was never really into the whole wife-and-mother thing either. It’s just that I was an underachiever, I did LIKE boys, figured for (perhaps too long) sooner or later I’d find one who could feed me well enough, and nothing much shone forth in the firmament, leading me toward some magical calling.

Once high school had worn on for a couple of years, I began to realize the inevitable – not only that I was probably going to have to work for a living, but that the likelihood of being able to do so by simply being admired by millions and made independently wealthy thanks to my beauty and (acting) talent was vanishingly slim. I still majored in theater (or Theatre/Dance, as the also vanishingly slim department at the school I unfortunately chose as a non-launch-pad for this career) in a ditch effort to get some program to do that work for me, but knew well enough that I’d probably have to get a job.

Job, for me, meant “secretary” – and still does, though my level of commitment has arisen somewhat.

I took typing at age seventeen, in a horrible room at the back of the school filled with Selectrics and a punctilious teacher with little use for my brains and creativity (ask me about the jobs where that was the case too! not.), and managed to get out of there with the necessary skill set to feed myself if the right rockstar didn’t come along.

Of course, he did, but he ended his rock starring career in support of our marriage, which I promptly discarded. There were conversations during our bliss, as to whether we could afford toilet paper or not. I can’t even say “we were rich in love” because I was a nasty little vain shrew (back then), and money wasn’t even my problem.

Things, already, weren’t very simple anymore. And didn’t get moreso from there.

One of the biggest ways life is no longer simple lies in the fact that there is only one soul to manage the whole thing. From kitty litter scoops to mortgage payments and some sort of social life, there’s nobody to share it with. Nor, as when my childhood was so *delightfully* simple, to depend upon without thinking. Anything gets put off? That’s me without gas in the car or a slipping credit rating, or no heat because – no oil. Or hungry cute furbabies, subtly bonking around metal bowls, because mommy’s distracted. Aww. My life’s not actually all that complex, Batman – but heck if even the smallest detail can be left to somebody else.

It scarcely leaves time for the dazzling gorgeousness of Authoressial glamour, I tellya. And I am nothing if not heart-stoppingly glamorous. Just ask the cat.

So of course there’s a fantasy, that publication will somehow change things around here.

I don’t want to be Rowling, or King. Yet I’m well aware the old dreams I joked about, of “midlist glory” are frankly kind of dangerous, second-career-wise.

Yeah, I’ve always got typing. But typing isn’t paying for refinishing my kitchen floors, or vapor-sealing the basement. The joke about glamour – look, I picture myself talking at colleges and JRW_____ events and even churches and doing signings, hopefully. I like the idea of my bespectacled, turtlenecked nerd-chic portrait, and working to support my books. I *love* the idea of some fourteen-year-old kid falling for the story, and studying the history, then maybe turning around and telling more stories of their own – because they read me, once upon a time (har). I can’t wait to get scared that nobody showed up at that bookstore where I’m shilling, and even more scared because lots of people did.

I can’t wait for things to get MORE complicated. Unexpected. Unusual. Even frustrating, whatever the frustrations may be between advance and paying-out, another novel, and royalties. I can’t wait to cross the ocean, even if only vicariously flying on the leaves of my book, as it’s sold in Europe – and, hopefully, maybe even beyond. If I ever got to GO where I write about – Istanbul, Ravenna, the Channel Islands (oh yes, I have a third book in mind, once Ax and the WIP are out) … dang, that’ll be something neat.

And I hate flying, y’all.

Lay on the complications; childhood gave me much to be grateful for, but life’s not done yet, and I’m not persuaded my simple, safe youth and childhood are the be-all and there’s nothing left to seek. Let’s find out what sort of kinks this second job will bring on once it’s PAYING, at last.

Simple was so seventies. Show me the coming years. Show me the future …


TCW said...

The Channel Islands??!!!

Yes, they're nice - but not many people will fly the hop over from Southampton, let alone cross the Atlantic to see them.

DLM said...

Hee. There *are* a couple of other places on that list. Plus - welp, that's where my characters for Novel #3 were. So that.

I can assure you, if I got that far, that would hardly be my ONLY stop!