WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

For the last decade I’ve written a poem just before my birthday. It’s been insightful to look back on these and see how I’ve grown or not (sometimes I’ve slipped backwards.) This year it’s not quite a poem but, nevertheless, the tradition continues.

So here it goes…WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

There are no such thing as, “golden years.” Enjoy today.

Life is fragile.

The largest obstacle is my own mind.

Experiences are always better than things.

Two glasses of wine can indeed give you a hangover.

Happiness in life is 98% perception.

Vintage or artisan are just synonyms for “expensive.”

Being busy doesn’t equate to being productive.

A writer’s work is never done. Ever.

The sooner you remove toxic people from your life the better.

Most everybody has an angle (and that’s okay, people have to make a living).

Absinthe is a powerful laxative.

Talk less, listen more.

People can be fickle.

Things happen in their own time, you can’t rush fate.

White Castles taste better than 90% of gourmet meals.

The US political system is far more corrupt than I suspected.

Simple is almost always best.

There are more productive hours in a day than I thought.

I care less about what people think than I used to.

Meditation is more important now than ever.

Say what you mean.

Never sacrifice what is important to you.

Excuses create regret.

Be yourself, always, no matter what.

Dreams must be made a priority. Now.

Success never happens without risk.

I need at least seven and half hours of sleep to be my best self.

When you think you can’t go on, you’ve only just begun.

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For more of my writing check out my website at www.ericvancewalton.net and please sign up for my newsletter for upcoming projects and events.

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I’m Sorry Dad But I Don’t Want To Be A Welder

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I was eighteen years old, had absolutely no life plan, and I was sweating it. I was just weeks out of High School and working as a busboy/dishwasher at The Grill and Skillet diner. This place was gritty, like a diner out of some obscure Hollywood film. Walter, the cook, looked exactly like James Brown. Roaches would drop from inside the range hood right onto the grill. Walter would nonchalantly scrape the roaches away from the home fries into the grease trap without missing a beat.

This was extremely hard work, paid nearly nothing but I liked the people there and it was fun when I was still in school. Now that I had my diploma this job lost it’s luster and it was time to move on to something better. All of a sudden I felt like my life was going nowhere and, even scarier, I had no idea what my next move was going to be.

I had two things that interested me, writing and architecture but didn’t know how to make a living at either of them. I was also the first in my family to graduate High School and college didn’t seem within my grasp. With each day that passed I sank deeper into this abyss of terror and confusion at the realization that I was now an adult and I had to make my way in the world. My father must’ve keenly noticed the state I was in.

One morning, as he was getting ready to leave for work dressed in his chambray work shirt with his first name, “Verlo” stitched in navy blue cursive across the white patch on his chest pocket, he asked what I was planning to do with my future. My father’s question was met only by my blank stare accompanied by an orchestra of imaginary crickets.

“I could get you on at the shop.” he said.

His offer immediately filled me with a sense of trepidation. My father had been a welder in a fabrication shop as long as I could remember. He worked extremely long days, came home tired, dirty, and smelling like metal. Some nights he would walk the floors unable to sleep due to the pain of flash burns and metal shavings in his eyes. Despite all of this his job was honorable, it took great skill, and it provided our family with everything we needed and a little extra. His job as a welder allowed my mom not to have to work outside of the home while raising my brother and I.

Even at the age of eighteen I knew I was at a major crossroad.  This was a point in which, depending on my choice, a course would be set that would be difficult to veer from. Even though I wasn’t sure what my dreams even were then I knew if I accepted this offer to become a welder it would mean a future with little time or energy to pursue any endeavors outside of this job.

I quickly responded with, “I’m sorry, dad, but I don’t want to be a welder.”

My heart was pounding so hard as he silently left for work that morning. I don’t even remember his response but I do remember being concerned that my answer hurt my father’s feelings. I was worried that he would think I was ashamed of him, that he would view me as ungrateful. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I just knew in my heart his path wasn’t my path. I was destined for something else, not something better but just something different.

I am extremely proud of my father. His dad passed away when he was three years old. His mother (my grandmother) was poor and, although she did the best she could, my father found himself being raised off and on in a succession of foster homes throughout the 1940’s. In these foster homes he was subjected to abuse that he rarely talks about. As a result of this he had a difficult time adjusting in school and he eventually dropped out in the eighth grade. Despite all of the hardship life threw at him my father retained an extremely kind heart and a sense of selflessness. His childhood could have left him a bitter man, with a closed heart but it didn’t.

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To this day I know he would do anything he could for anyone he cares about, this alone is a monumental accomplishment given his upbringing. There’s much more. Even with no paternal example to follow he has been a great father to my brother and I.  He was always willing to be the first one to go down the biggest sledding hills, ride bikes the fastest, and fly kites the highest. I remember one afternoon we were flying a kite in the field of our neighborhood elementary school, Fairmoor. We had the kite up so high that we could barely see it and ran out of string. What did he do? He went to the store to get two more packages of kite string and we flew it even higher.

I was a very sickly, asthmatic child and he pushed me to my limits and beyond by taking me on twenty mile bike rides, long walks, and hikes when I was not more than nine or ten years old. As a result of this I became strong and fit and eventually rarely needed to use my asthma inhaler.  Still today I have a love of bike rides and physical activity. When my brother and I were growing up dad was the first to rush towards anything that had a hint of danger and fun. Naturally, my brother and I eagerly followed his example. Ours was the antithesis of today’s, “everybody wears helmets and knee pads and everybody gets an award” kind of childhood. Looking back now I see that our childhood was my father’s second chance to enjoy all the fun he missed out on when he was younger. He certainly made up for a lot of lost time with us.

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My father was very strict when he had to be. He wasn’t the kind of dad that taught me how to get into an Ivy League University or the best mutual funds to pick for my 401k. However, his words, more often his actions, taught me everything in life that matters. He taught me to work extremely hard, to jump into challenges with both feet, and to never be afraid to take chances. Dad raised me to always do my best and more importantly to never give up. He also taught us how to be creative, frugal, and how to survive without a safety net because he sure as hell never had one.

My father’s lessons of dedication, strength, and determination have served my brother and I well in life. As I look back throughout my twenty years of struggling as an author, the fire that kept me going when every single door was slammed in my face was largely stoked by my dad’s lessons. I often think if fate were just a little different and I would’ve had a different kind of father I would’ve given up decades ago. If I would’ve given up I would now be living the worst kind of life, a life of regret and I would always have wondered…what if? Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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Thank you for being the man that you are. You were and are the perfect father for me.

Never forget that you are loved, you are respected, and you are appreciated. I promise, just like that kite we flew all those years ago I will keep this life of mine flying higher and higher, no matter what.

http://www.ericvancewalton.net/

 

 

Indentured Solitude

Indentured Solitude

It was four-thirty in the morning and Ernest stared blankly through the fog that clung to the window of the black cab. He found himself lost in the lights of London shimmering on the Thames. He realized how close he was to getting the one thing he most desired.

“How far away are we?” Ernest asked the cab driver.

The cabbie glanced up and their eyes met briefly in the rearview mirror.

“Six more blocks, Sir, roughly,” answered with a strong Hindi accent.

Ernie reached into the inside pocket of his wool pea coat for a wad of Pound notes and started thumbing through them.

“You can drop me off right here.”

The driver pulled to the curb, draping his thin arm across the back of the passenger seat, “That’ll be an even fifty-five quid, please.”

“Keep the change,” Ernest nodded as he slipped two carefully folded fifty pound notes in the driver’s ashy palm.

The driver quickly jerked his hand away.

“Ouch! Nothing starts off a shift like a paper cut! Paper cuts are like annoying little f*cking barking Chihuahuas only you can hear,” the cabbie said.

Ernie laughed to himself and immediately repeated the line under his breath so he wouldn’t forget it. Life sometimes handed you these glorious lines, words that deserve to live forever in fiction and this was just such a gem.

“Thanks, mate. Enjoy your stay.”

One more act of kindness can’t hurt he thought closing the cab door and watching the taillights of the taxi as they disappeared into the darkness.

Despite how unfair the world seemed Ernie still believed in karma. Besides, money would be of no use to him where he was going now. Taking in a few deep breaths of the cool, fresh air he almost forgot for a moment why he was here.

Ernie had been extremely shy as a child and life was easier when he lived it inside his head. He spent most of his childhood within the confines of his own imagination. Solitude was Ernest’s cocoon, the shield that protected him from the world’s harshness, and over time solitude grew to be his best friend. Back then, if he wasn’t scribbling in his bedroom you could find him lying on the shag carpeting in front of his parent’s console T.V. engrossed in some British sitcom on PBS.

Ernie had always felt an unexplainable familiarity with British culture. He loved their dry wit and even the gloomy weather. It didn’t surprise him when he discovered later in life that his ancestors had immigrated to America from Warwickshire in the late 1600’s. He’d always suspected he’d lived a past life as a Brit but now his theory leaned more towards genetic memory.

Ernest sighed heavily and made his way against the biting November wind. He tried to focus on the rhythm of his footsteps instead of his fears but he was failing miserably at it. It didn’t help that his brain still buzzed from too many cups of coffee during the flight. He could never sleep on planes so any trip over four hours was pure torture.

As he turned the corner he realized that this would be the last block he would walk as a free man. As charming as this neighborhood was, each step brought with it a greater feeling of dread.

This is my own green mile, he thought.

He wasn’t literally losing his life but it felt like it.

Ernie’s eyes scanned the addresses of the Victorian row houses as he walked. When he spotted 1356 Tenley Place the gray canvas duffle bag he was holding slid from his fingers and fell to the sidewalk with a dull thud. He felt a sharp stab of pain in the pit of his stomach followed by the urge to retch up the remains of the disgusting breakfast sandwich he devoured on the plane.

“Just what in the bloody ‘ell ‘ave you done now, mate?” he whispered in the best Cockney accent he could muster.

Thank God I still have my sense of humor, he chuckled nervously to himself.

A few months after he received the advance for his first novel, Ernest bought a condo in the very building F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. He thought the place would be inspirational, and it was for a while. In the quiet hours, just before dawn, there was a perfect stillness and it was as though he could hear Fitzgerald’s ghost whispering words and ideas into his ear. For almost three months last winter he rarely left the condo and wrote the best fiction of his life. This gave him such confidence that he felt his second novel could be the next Great Gatsby. One morning, about halfway through the first draft of his second novel, the ghost didn’t pay him a visit and the whispers stopped.

Ernest didn’t overlook the irony in the fact that his literary agent chose London for this scheme. The city now considered so civilized was built on a foundation of suffering and barbarism. Ernest knew that nearly everything of any value was born of suffering, if he didn’t he would never have agreed to this plan.

Ernie remembered so vividly the afternoon this insane idea was born. He was alone, cooking dinner in his condo, streaming Tito Puente a little too loudly from his phone. He was already two glasses into a bottle of a nice cabernet and feeling the comfort of its cozy warmth. A cool breeze blew in from the open window and the scent of pepper beef stir-fry filled the air when the music stopped and his phone began to ring. He almost didn’t answer the call when he saw it was Harold, his literary agent. He knew what it was about but decided he had avoided the conversation too long already.

“How’s my favorite author?” Harold said.

Ernie rolled his eyes dramatically.

“Hey Harry, I’m doing okay,” Ernie answered.

“You don’t sound okay, Bud. We’re only six months away from the publisher’s deadline. How’s the progress coming?”

Ernest didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t written a word of substance in months and was beginning to fear his debut novel was a freak thing he couldn’t repeat. Every time he sat down to write his mind went blank. He was desperate to get his mojo back.

“Honestly, Harry, I’m petrified. I have the worst goddamn writer’s block of my whole life. These past few months have been a roller coaster. Between the book tour and the media interviews, I feel like time is rushing by too fast. Everybody wants a piece of me. All I need is solitude, some time away…from everything.”

During the flight’s excruciating hours he had questioned a thousand times if he would’ve agreed to this Harry’s plan if it hadn’t been for those two glasses of cabernet. He always came up with the same answer; no. The wine was the rickety bridge that had temporarily merged his world with Harry’s.

The line went quiet for a moment. “Gosh, Ernie. You know if you don’t give them something Doubleday can terminate your contract and we have to pay back a substantial part of the advance.”

Harold Cincotti thrived in the alternate universe that was Manhattan. A person who didn’t know his backstory would never guess he fought his way up from poverty in the streets of the Bronx. Ernest didn’t see the other side of Harry until the final days of the contract negotiations with Doubleday when Harry’s demeanor went from polished executive to a Soprano’s cast member in under three seconds. Witnessing that kind of explosive fury scared the hell out of Ernie. However blunt they were, Harry’s negotiation skills secured a record-breaking three book deal from one of New York’s most respected publishers and made Ernie a rich man.

“I have an idea, I know this guy who owes me a favor in London…” This was the exact point where Ernie couldn’t bear to replay any more of the conversation in his head, it made him feel too foolish.

So, instead of taking in the sights of Britain here he stood, before the heavy wooden double doors of a fancy Victorian row house. This is the first moment it all felt real. This place would be his prison and the length of the sentence would be totally up to him.

“You are a desperate and a very stupid man,” Ernest muttered.

The creaking brass hinges of the heavy wooden double doors broke him from his self-loathing.

“Please come in, Mr. Solomon. Mr. Jacobs has been expecting you,” the butler said with nothing but emptiness in his eyes. He looked more like a linebacker than a butler; this man weighed three hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce.

As hard as he tried Ernest could conjure no words. His head was spinning and the salt crunched under his feet as he climbed the stairs to the front door. By the third step he realized he left his bag on the sidewalk behind him but he knew if he turned back the urge would be too strong to try to make a break for it. As he crossed the threshold, the air inside held a different kind of gravity, it was heavier somehow. He knew he was entering a world in which he didn’t belong. The scent of the place was just as he expected a proper English house to smell, the subtle fragrance of fine leather, expensive candles, and generational wealth.

“This way, Sir,” the butler said as Ernie followed him towards the back of the house. Ernie felt the man’s heat signature as he walked three feet behind him.

Ernest’s breath quickened. Beads of cool sweat began to form on his forehead as they approached another doorway leading to a flight of stairs down to the basement. The old wooden stairs groaned, protesting each of the butler’s footsteps as they descended.

“Watch your ‘ead, please. I believe you’ll need it,” the butler whispered, smirking over his shoulder.

The bottom of the staircase opened to the limestone walls of the damp, windowless cellar. Two leather wingback chairs were facing one another on a faded red Oriental rug. In one of the chairs sat a dapper man with a perfectly shaped bald head. His legs were crossed at the knee and he wore an impeccably tailored gray suit with brown saddle leather boots polished to a mirror shine. As the man stood to shake Ernie’s hand he noticed a deep and jagged scar that ran from just above his ear to his chin.

“Welcome to London, Mr. Soloman, I’m Peter Jacobs. Before we begin I must tell you how much I admire your work. I can tell from your writing that you’re an honorable man. I told Mr. Cincotti that after I read your book I saw the world in a completely different way. Do you know how rare that is for someone like me? When Harry told me of your troubles I couldn’t bear it because I recognize such an immense greatness in you.”

Mr. Jacobs stood so close that could Ernie feel his warm breath on his face. Ernie’s body tensed as Mr. Jacobs rested both hands heavily on Ernie’s shoulders and gave them a firm squeeze, staring him straight in the eyes.

“I’ve developed a great instinct for people. It’s a talent that has served me well in my business. We’re rooting for you.”

As he smiled slightly, the light caught the flash of a gold-capped tooth as he turned on his heel and began to pace back and forth in front of Ernie.

“Anyway, I digress. I’ll be administering the process here today,” he said.

“Let’s run through the terms of our agreement, shall we?”

“Well, umm, Mr. Jacobs you see…I think I’ve changed my mind,” Ernie pleaded as his eyes dropped to the floor.

“Come now, Mr. Solomon, relax. Shall I remind you that I made our friend Mr. Cincotti a promise? In our world our word is all we have and we live and die by it,” he said, staring at Ernest intensely with his piercing blue eyes.

“First, we ask that you turn in your mobile phone and empty your pockets of all personal belongings and place them into this plastic tub.”

Ernie tried to find comfort in Harry’s words as they kept echoing through his head, Let me tell you two things I’ve learned, Number one, in this world the hero and villain can possess the same kind of greatness, and Number two, everything in this life, good or bad, comes with a price.

He didn’t have the life experience it took to understand what Harry meant until this very moment.

Back in Manhattan Harry was probably already two whiskeys into the night, getting his ego stroked by an attractive waitress in some swanky Manhattan restaurant. This plan was easy for Harry because he wasn’t the one standing in this dank basement, alone with a powerful British crime boss who happened to be Ernest’s biggest fan.

Ernie tried his best to swallow but his throat was far too parched. He began to accept his fate as he started to empty the contents of his pockets into the clear plastic tub.

“The terms of our agreement are as follows,” Mr. Jacobs said as he walked a few feet towards a gray steel door, rapping it two times with this knuckles as it rang like a bell.

“This is your new home. You will be housed in this secured room, eight feet by ten feet in diameter including one writer’s desk with a chair, a bed, a lavatory, and a shower until such a time as a draft of your new novel, deemed worthy of publication by Mr. Cincotti, is produced.”

Mr. Jacobs’ face took on a more serious expression and he started pacing back and forth again as he continued, “You will be issued a laptop computer and access to reading material of your choosing. A chef will be at your disposal from 6am to 9pm to prepare anything you desire. There will be no internet access, radio, or television to distract you. There is an intercom system in the chamber to communicate to my staff but you shall have absolutely no contact with the outside world save for one call per week to a single party of your choosing. These calls will be monitored closely and I promise you that there will be a severe penalty if there is an attempt to breach any of these terms. A press release has been prepared by our staff informing the public that you are taking a hiatus from public life for an undetermined amount of time until your task is complete.”

Ernie twitched as the large stainless steel lock on the gray door buzzed loudly. Mr. Jacobs swung open the thick door to reveal a sparse vault-like room.

“Smith, show Mr. Solomon into the chamber, please.”

“Of course, Sir,” Smith quickly complied, he rested his enormous hand in the middle of Ernie’s back and pushed him six feet into the middle of the room.

“Hey!” Ernie screamed as spun around to see the steel door slam shut behind him.

This last outburst was like the final whimper of a baby before surrendering to sleep. After a few seconds Ernie’s tightly clenched jaw relaxed and his shoulders slumped forward. Everything was instantly quiet and still. Instead of feeling confined by the tight space he felt his imagination expanding, this gave him hope.

In a moment of desperation Ernest had agreed to pay a price far greater than money for what he desired. He willingly agreed to pay with his freedom and his time but now that he understood his predicament on a deeper level, he realized he might even pay with his life.

Ernest slid the simple wooden chair away from the desk and sat down. As he opened the laptop and rested his hands lightly on its keys he felt a shiver run down his spine. Ernie realized that for all of Harry’s wisdom there was one thing a person like him couldn’t begin to understand and that one thing was how complex an author’s creativity could be.

Muse was magic, like a beautiful monarch butterfly that decides to land on you when you’re standing all alone in a garden, perfectly still. Muse could never be forced or even willed. Ernie closed his eyes and prayed that this locked chamber, in the basement of this Victorian row house in London might possess the kind of perfect stillness that would welcome the fickle whispers of Fitzgerald’s ghost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERFECTING OUR STORIES

It’s astonishing is how fast it happened. One day I was young and then I blinked my eyes and somehow landed in the unchartered territory of my middle years.This June I turned the double quatro, forty-four years old, and have started to notice some interesting very things going on.

There are the well known physical changes of middle age, decreased muscle tone, laugh lines starting to form, higher forehead and gray hair. As we approach the autumn of our years, no matter how hard we try to hide it, our faces truly reveal the kind of lives we’ve lived.

The psychological changes are even more interesting. Before middle age I thought the repetition of stories was just something seniors did along with complaining about whippersnappers and eating dinner at three-thirty in the afternoon. I was wrong. Yes, my friends and I are now beginning to tell the same stories over and over again.

This could easily be attributed to some natural age-related cognitive decline, stress, or maybe the accumulative effects of too many beer bongs in the 80’s and 90’s but I don’t think this is totally it. It’s as though we are retelling the stories that comprise the mosaic of who we are because a small part of us are afraid we’ll be forgotten. On some level we want our stories to be forever etched into the collective consciousness of humanity. We want our brief blip of existence on this planet to be remembered.

The middle years usher in wave after wave of profound realizations or “Oh $h!t” moments as I call them. I think Generation X, like every generation who came before us, are experiencing, “Oh $h!t” moments on an epic scale. I see it in mass media, social media and face-to-face, we are waking up to the fact that we’re not going to live forever. When you have an Oh $h!t moment it can’t be denied and isn’t easily forgotten. It’s a realization that can be felt on a deep cellular level.

Because of this, Gen Xers are discovering how valuable time is and are figuring out how we can best spend the time we have left more wisely. I’m concerning myself much less about what others think of me or the balance of my investment portfolio. Lately, I’m focusing more on happiness, facing fears, and making awesome new memories. Most importantly, I’m thinking about how I will be remembered by those I leave behind. Lately, I’ve been making a conscious attempt to shed anything or anybody who doesn’t bring a spark of joy to my life. Time is just too short to spend what you have left of it mired in drama and negativity.

I’ll admit this year I’ve given a lot of thought about my legacy. To get to the bottom of it I asked, what do I love greater than myself? After a little contemplation I decided that the legacy I wish to leave the world with will be small, often anonymous, acts of kindness and my words. I hope the many words I’ve written and the words I’ve yet to write will spark some joy in others. I hope my words make someone think, or smile, or even know that they’re not alone in this world. If my words accomplish this my life will have been complete.

Thinking about legacy can be uncomfortable. It can even border on morose but it doesn’t have to be that way. Contemplating and then consciously creating a legacy can provide an extra boost of octane to those of us in middle age who are beginning to feel a bit weary and worn around the edges. I tend think it as a little red button on the steering wheel of life that, once pressed, propels me through mires of the middle years, soreness, fatigue, and at times, the worry that my life will never quite measure up to the one I wished for in my dreams.

Time can teach, time can heal, and time eventually always reveals the truth…IF a person is awake enough to notice. Sometimes we simply must take a deep breath, have faith and take comfort that the universe is unfolding exactly as it was meant to. One thing’s for certain, there’s no fighting age or time. There’s such a profound beauty in learning from our missteps, gathering wisdom, and surrendering to time gracefully.

I would like to leave you with a three things I’d like you to ask yourself. What do you love greater than yourself? What will be your legacy? How would you like the world remember you? When you answer these questions your life changes in some pretty amazing ways. What once seemed so important starts to seem trivial and some things that seemed trivial all of a sudden pretty damned important.

Shakespeare penned the following lines in his play, As You Like It nearly five hundred years ago,

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Here the Bard sums life up with his typical genius. Yes, life can hard and it is short but it is also the most amazing ride. Not a minute of it should be taken for granted. We are put on this Earth to love, to learn, to grow, and perhaps to help make life a little easier for others. Each of us have the chance to leave our own unique stamp on the world. What will yours be?

~Eric Vance Walton~
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Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric’s new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook. Article © 2015 Eric Vance Walton

Soul’s Breath

Soul’s Breath
The sun’s twisted spires

warm all but those who

are huddled deep within

the solemn shadow’s grasp
even then some find solace

by the mere sight

of its golden glow
muse for me is like the sun

once it rises it heals,

shining in all the right places,
fear and doubt huddle and squint,

nestled in their dark nooks, 

blinded by brightness
this great internal sunrise

creates such lasting Peace

and contentment that you 

can no longer feel smothered by life

muse is the soul’s breath,

nothing more, nothing less.
~Eric Vance Walton~

Embrace the Wobble

At this point most of you are already aware of my origin story so I won’t delve into the details. For those of you who don’t, the short version is I’ve been writing for twenty years while working a full time job with the

goal of someday making my writing my full time gig. For my plan to be successful each day I need to provide value at my day job, produce new writing, promote my writing, try to be the best husband/uncle/son/beagle-papa/friend that I can be, and deal with all of the other responsibilities life thrusts upon me.
To make it all work I’ve honed a juggling act over the years that maximizes the productivity of nearly every minute of every day. I envision each aspect of my life to be like the spoke of a wheel. Most of the time the wheel rolls wonderfully well, that is, until a spoke gets out of balance. When even one spoke is unbalanced the wheel of life begins to wobble. Sometimes the wobble is caused by circumstances beyond our control.
I’ll provide a little backstory, my wife and I bought our craftsman-style bungalow at the worst possible time in the Fall of 2007. It just happened to be at the eve of the Housing Crisis of 2008, when real estate prices were at their peak. Lucky us. Like millions of others we were duped to believe the myth concocted by the banks that you would never lose money on real estate. We all have witnessed how that worked out. Two years after the crisis began we owed $60,000 more than the market value of our home but we continued to make the payments.
Fast forward to 2015 and the market has come back with a vengeance and we want to get out while the getting’s good. We’ll break even if we’re lucky. For the past few months my wife and I have been working hard to get our house ready to sell and are looking for a new place to live. We want to downsize and find a condo that will be much less expensive and require less time and effort to maintain. These two life events have created such a wobble that the progress in writing my second novel, Truth Is Stranger, has completely ground to a halt. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
I’m not whining… okay maybe I am whining just a little, but I know I’m not alone. Many creative people find themselves in this same predicament but it can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing way to live. After all, you have this wonderfully creative outlet that fills you with such positive energy and joy but it doesn’t yet pay the bills. You have to eat and you don’t want to be homeless so as a result your creative endeavor is usually the first thing to suffer when life becomes overly demanding.
As a writer, I understand how easy it is to become frustrated and depressed when the demands of life make it so there’s no time to write. Being stuck in the wobble makes me feel as though the dream of writing full time gets further out of reach with every revolution of the clock. This is especially true since everyone says it’s not a good idea to wait more than eighteen to twenty-four months between the publishing of your first and second novels.
I’m no stranger to the wobble. I’ve been here before and have learned a few things about it that I’d like to share. Following are some tips that I’ve discovered to survive the wobble unscathed:
1. Be gentle with yourself and with others. During demanding times it’s easy to be hard on yourself and those around you. Take a deep breath and release any feelings of guilt for not reaching your goals as fast as you planned. Also, it’s important to never become too busy to express gratitude to those in your life who make you happy.
2. Continue to create something every day, even if it’s something small. When times are particularly demanding I write haiku on my phone while I’m walking the dog. I’ve found that whether I’m working on a poem, a blog post, or a novel, the joy that comes from the spark of creation is just as great.
3. Take care of you (both body and mind). Eat right, exercise and get adequate sleep. Your health is your greatest asset. If you have a healthy body it’s much easier to have a healthy mind. You need to keep your wits about you during times of wobble. Keep your body in the best shape you can and you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish during demanding times. Remember, often times the untrained mind is the weakest link, it will cry “surrender” long before the body does.
4. Meditate. This will help to keep you calm and grounded despite what life throws at you. Meditation also fosters feelings of compassion and altruism even if these feelings are not in your nature. One quick way to forget about your challenges is to help someone else. I’ve been meditating regularly for over twenty years and even a few minutes of meditation per day will cause lasting positive effects in more ways than you can imagine.
5. Trust that the universe is unfolding as it’s meant to and look for lessons and opportunities everywhere. Life rarely plays out the way we’ve planned but we must remember that the journey is half the fun. It’s surprising what great lessons the journey has to teach us. We must be flexible and always remain aware to the lessons that are being presented to us.
6. Don’t worry that ideas or opportunities will stop. When you truly believe ideas and opportunities come from a limitless place inside of you it helps stifle a lot of the anxiety that comes from the wobble.
7. Continue to promote. Promotion is the one thing you can’t stop doing as a writer. Even if this means you need to occasionally recycle old content or post quotes or memes. You have to regularly stay in front of your audience to keep them engaged and coming back.
8. Harvest ideas from everything in your life, even your struggles. Write down ideas, even if you can’t immediately act on them. This post is a good example. I reaped a blog post from my the depths of my current wobble.
9. Give yourself permission to say no to those who demand your time. I learned this important lesson from James Altucher, a mentor of mine. He says if requests for your time don’t immediately spark a “Hell Yes!” response from you learn how to politely decline them. This holds true especially during times of wobble when your time is even more precious.
10. Make time for joy and laughter. Both of these things reduce stress and increase your quality of life tremendously.
11. Keep in mind challenging times never last forever, the wobble will end at some point. In my experience challenging times rarely last long. In fact, the wobble seems to end just after you get to a point where you feel as if it never will. As the saying goes, it’s always the darkest just before the dawn.
12. No matter what, never stop taking steps toward and believing in your dreams. I’ve lived long enough to realize there’s nothing in life worse than regret and as long as you’re advancing towards your goal each day, even if it’s just a little bit, there is nothing to regret.
Be one with the wobble. Learn from it what you can and you will come out stronger on the other side. Stay strong and wobble on!
~Eric Vance Walton~

Copywriting: The Key To Selling Self-Published Books

I’ve seen indie authors who’ve done nearly everything right except for one thing. These authors have poured their hearts and souls into their book projects. Their prose sings. They have an amazing book cover and interior design. They have good editing. Yet too many of these books will never reach their sales potential…[read more]

I’m Sorry Dad, I Don’t Want To Be a Welder

I was eighteen years old, had absolutely no life plan, and I was sweating it. I was just weeks out of High School and working as a busboy/dishwasher at The Grill and Skillet diner. This place was gritty, like a diner out of some obscure Hollywood film. Walter, the cook, looked exactly like James Brown. Roaches would drop from inside the range hood right onto the grill. Walter would nonchalantly scrape the roaches away from the home fries into the grease trap without missing a beat.

This was extremely hard work, paid nearly nothing but I liked the people there and it was fun when I was still in school. Now that I had my diploma this job lost its luster and it was time to move on to something better. All of a sudden I felt like my life was going nowhere and, even scarier, I had no idea what my next move was going to be. I had two things that interested me, writing and architecture but didn’t know how to make a living at either of them.

I was also the first in my family to graduate High School and college didn’t seem within my grasp. With each day that passed I sank deeper into this abyss of terror and confusion at the realization that I was now an adult and I had to make my way in the world. My father must’ve keenly noticed the state I was in. One morning, as he was getting ready to leave for work dressed in his chambray work shirt with his first name, “Verlo” stitched in navy blue cursive across the white patch on his chest pocket, he asked what I was planning to do with my future.

My father’s question was met only by my blank stare accompanied by an orchestra of imaginary crickets.

“I could get you on at the shop.” he said.

His offer immediately filled me with a sense of trepidation. My father had been a welder in a machine shop as long as I could remember. He worked extremely long days, came home tired, dirty, and smelling like metal. Some nights he would walk the floors unable to sleep due to the pain of flash burns and metal shavings in his eyes. Despite all of this his job was honorable, it took great skill, and it provided our family with everything we needed and a little extra. His job as a welder allowed my mom not to have to work outside of the home while raising my brother and I.

Even at the age of eighteen I knew I was at a major crossroad. This was a point in which, depending on my choice, a course would be set that would be difficult to veer from. Even though I wasn’t sure what my dreams even were then I knew if I accepted this offer to become a welder it would mean a future with little time or energy to pursue any endeavors outside of this job.

I quickly responded with, “I’m sorry, dad, but I don’t want to be a welder.”

My heart was pounding so hard as he silently left for work that morning. I don’t even remember his response but I do remember being concerned that my answer hurt my father’s feelings. I was worried that he would think I was ashamed of him, that he would view me as ungrateful. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I just knew in my heart his path wasn’t my path. I was destined for something else, not something better but something different.

I am extremely proud of my father. His dad passed away when he was three years old. His mother (my grandmother) was poor and, although she did the best she could, my father found himself being raised off and on in a succession of foster homes throughout the 1940’s. In these foster homes he was subjected to abuse that he’s only briefly talked about. As a result of this he had a difficult time adjusting in school and he eventually dropped out in the eighth grade.

Despite all of the hardship life threw at him my father retained an extremely kind heart and a sense of selflessness. His childhood could have left him a bitter man, with a closed heart but it didn’t. To this day I know he would do anything he could for anyone he cares about, this alone is a monumental accomplishment given his upbringing. There’s much more.

Even with no paternal example to follow he has been a great father to my brother and I. He was always willing to be the first one to go down the biggest sledding hills, ride bikes the fastest, and fly kites the highest. I remember one afternoon we were flying a kite in the field of our neighborhood elementary school, Fairmoor. We had the kite up so high that we could barely see it and ran out of string. What did he do? He went to the store to get two more packages of kite string and we flew it even higher.

I was a very sickly, asthmatic child and he pushed me to my limits and beyond by taking me on twenty mile bike rides, long walks, and hikes when I was not more than nine or ten years old. As a result of this I became strong and fit and eventually rarely needed to use my asthma inhaler. Still today I have a love of bike rides and physical activity.

When my brother and I were growing up dad was the first to rush towards anything that had a hint of danger and fun. Naturally, my brother and I eagerly followed his example. Looking back now I see that our childhood was his second chance to enjoy all the fun he missed out on when he was younger. He made up for a lot of lost time with us.

My father was very strict when he had to be. He wasn’t the kind of dad that taught me how to get into an Ivy League University or the best mutual funds to pick for my 401k. However, his words, more often his actions, taught me everything in life that matters. He taught me to jump into challenges with both feet and to never be afraid to take chances. Dad raised me to always do my best and more importantly to never give up. He also taught us how to be creative, frugal, and how to survive without a safety net because he surely never had one.

My father’s lessons of dedication, strength, and determination have served my brother and I well in life. As I look back throughout my twenty years of struggling as an author, the fire that kept me going was largely stoked by my dad’s lessons. I often think if fate were just a little different and I would’ve had a different kind of father I would’ve given up decades ago. By doing so I would now be living the worst kind of life, a life of regret and I would always have wondered…what if?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for the man that you are. You were and are the perfect father for me. Never forget you are loved, you are respected, and you are appreciated.

I promise, just like that kite we flew all those years ago, I will keep this life of mine flying higher and higher, no matter what.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Madison Avenue Marionettes

So spellbound

we count

dollars in

our dreams

we chase dollars

while wearing

invisible collars and

strings from our limbs,

dance, dance

Madison Avenue

marionettes

marching to

someone else’s tune,

an ear worm

so cunning

that we swear and

be damned it’s

our own

follow the piper

right into

a self-imposed

prison cell

while all we really have,

this singular moment,

passes forever

from our distracted eyes

not enjoying nearly as

much as we oughta be

while the most

precious commodity

evaporates,

time, our time

become fluent in truth

an incongruent sleuth

you won’t fit their plan

but you’ll be a (wo)man

who still has time…

your time.

~ Eric Vance Walton ~

Walk Your Worries

When you’re feeling down,
so worn and wound,
walk your worries
through the rhythm
of this city

surrender deeply
to its symphony,
the whir of tires
skimming across
rough pavement,
the piercing horns
of hurried cabs

let the music
of the city’s many murmurs
swallow you so completely
that you lay down your burdens

swim in the soup of
a million strangers,
their soulful cries,
lascivious laughs
intermingled with the ghosts
of countless dreams,
painfully beautiful

let the city carry you
on its broad shoulders
through the coolness of this night
and it will cleanse you
by the time your feet tire
your troubles will be few

this night seems
to stretch on forever
but in the end morning
always comes too soon.

~Eric Vance Walton~