After the end of one career as a scientist-manager at a premier Aerospace company, I lost my brain and thought I’d try another. Career, that is. An easier one, I imagined – Writing. Surely such a natural activity wouldn’t tax my cerebral remnants.
I’d penned reams of words inside the corporate womb. The outside would be a breeze. Big surprise. I landed in a typhoon that scattered my thoughts, swirled my words, and tossed me end for end. The contemporary publishing world blew me away. Different rules, standards and practices drowned me. Continuing Education stranded me at the bottom of the learning curve. Or very near the start.
The alphabet remained the same; my style manuals lagged by double-digit editions; some definitions caught me by surprise; grammar and punctuation sprang a few surprises among the cobwebs of my mind. The literary industry Pros had transformed from guides and mentors to a new phalanx in the Greek Pantheon, new Labors for Herakles.
Once a few articles had been published in minor organs, I launched myself onto the sea of the ‘novel’. The stories lurking in my mind pushed to get into the world, ready or not. In seven months, I had a draft. Inanity followed enthusiasm – pitching the ‘second’ draft to agents and editors at my first conference. The result? Zip, nada, zilch, nil. Three polite, ‘pro forma’ invitations for queries got me two ‘no’s and an irritating silence. Workshops, critique groups, writing organizations, hallway conversations, keynote talks and meal-time exchanges educated me quickly. I emerged a chastened, brash, egotistical tyro, a beginner who should relinquish my pen for a pencil with extra large eraser. The Instruction Manual encouraged me to use both ends liberally.
Years later, though on a laptop with keyboard and ‘Delete’ key, I still am.