The Business of a Mission

A writer who wants to be published needs a business plan.  I’ve been pondering “next steps” as I work to wrap up my 18 year career in the next two weeks and transition to the next career of full-time writing.  That’s actually a sentence laced with hefty meaning and depth, because my career thus far has not been the average eight or ten hour-a-day J-O-B.  It’s been a mission.  A rewarding CAUSE – with the added benefit of a paycheck.

I’m not leaving my job because I dislike it.  I’m not leaving my job because writing is more important.  On the contrary – writing books is absolutely overshadowed by the importance and impact of my current position.  So, why am I leaving my job to write?

A more apropos question is: “Why are you leaving your job and becoming a writer?”  I’m leaving my job for the following reasons.

  1. It’s emotionally and mentally fatiguing and I’m losing stamina.  In many careers that wouldn’t make much of a difference.  Experience trumps speed in many cases because it often results in a more accurate and quality product or outcome.  So even the most energetic and speedy folks need experienced co-workers or leaders they can seek with questions, advice, or to study the differences between “shiny” and “speedy.”  Youthwork, however, requires energy that lasts.
  2. I have reached a peak.  I feel like my contributions thus far have made a difference, will continue to make a difference, and any more I have to give would perhaps feel like punching the clock rather than changing the world.
  3. I’m away from my partner – my “One,” and although the plan to work this far away for a time was a mutual decision, the time has come and we want to be HOME.
  4. God has put me in a position (with laser accuracy as usual) where I have a supportive spouse, am relatively debt free, and we can financially meet our needs while living in a community that fosters writing and the arts.  It’s like He’s offering me that trip to Disneyland and all I have to do is put on my Mickey ears.
  5. Finally, I have confidence that others will be able, not only to carry my piece of the mission forward as well or better than I , and moreover they will carry it further, at this point, than I could manage.  That gives me cause for celebration.

I’m becoming a writer because I can finally enter into this new endeavor without the pressure of wanting to “leave my mark.”  I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to meaningful ventures.  Now, just knowing that I’ve been blessed to be able to make a difference thus far, I’m off the hook.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want to write meaningful things, but if I’m not the best at it for a very long time, I’ll be happy and content to just work on my craft daily, and strengthen my skills.

What does all this have to do with a business plan?  As I pondered my motives for writing in the coming years, I still waver between refining my craft and breaking all kinds of records for how quickly I can get published (traditionally) and start selling books.  It’s habit.  I regress to what I’ve always known – if you don’t know what to do next, just pick what needs done AND DO IT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.  I’m not a competitor at the expense of others.  But I’ve always relied on that edge to feel good at the end of the day/week/month about what I’ve accomplished.

Writing is going to be another thing entirely, and if I’m going to accomplish anything (refining or otherwise) I need to keep my head in the right place.  So I need a business plan, a set of goals, to stay focused on what it is I’m doing while “successfully unemployed” during the next two years.  So if you, like me, are a newly reborn writer and want to expand or clarify what it is you’re actually moving toward … if you ever ask yourself, “what the heck am I doing?” … stick around as I explore how to form a business plan when your first, most immediate goal isn’t profit.

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More Malone Snippets – Chance Meeting with a Friend

Child picking nose. Oh - and a Smart Crossblade. - Flickr - exfordy

At the gala she saw Kaylee with her son, Echo, tagging along beside her.  She could tell Kaylee was excited to finally introduce her boy – of whom crayon drawings and amusing stories had abounded up to this point.  Kaylee reached for the socially appropriate hug while Malone shrank clumsily into a simple shoulder tag.  Kaylee smiled, entertained at Malone’s usual social awkwardness.

Looking down at Echo, Malone realized Kaylee was completely unaware of his tiny little finger, deeply rooted in his nostril, and rummaging around.  Malone broke into a huge grin at the boy – sun painted curls adorned his tan, freckled face – pure innocence at its best.  “Hey Echo!  Save some for me, huh?  How about it?” she smiled.  He was instantly charmed as evidenced by his beaming return smile, finger still planted in his face.

Finally recognizing the situation and feeling the impulse to be embarrassed – Kylee dropped his free hand and gently removed his digging finger, wiping it on her jeans.  But the contrast of Malone’s own social anxiety in comparison with her genuine appreciation for her son’s youth caught her at the heart level and she giggled … almost like a school girl.  It was completely unlike most encounters when her son’s childish antics made other adults uncomfortable and led to her hasty apology which always felt like a betrayal to her love for Echo.

The Pine King

It is the wee small hours of the morning- a mulled wine sunrise with a splash of citrus is drawing the rippling water of the river.  Sugared pines sprinkle last night’s hail onto the banks as wolves, drunk from their most recent kill, stumble to their den for sleep.  The days have been hot and muggy, but last night a storm rolled cool, wet breezes across the parched grasses and hills.  It was not a good night for the boys to run away.

But youth knows no reason when emotions hold sway over decisions and actions.  Slaves to anger and hubris, the two pounced at the spontaneous thought of leaving; they ran from the place they had called a home for the past two weeks.  Gone before the sky darkened and the storm appeared, they left in nothing but shorts and T-shirt, cotton knee socks and tennis shoes.

The town below the orphanage was in full blown revelry last night.  The annual celebration of its historic origins soon developed into the usual drunken street dancing ritual.  The live band stirred the gyrating crowd, but as the music traveled into the pine skirted hills that surrounded the revelers, all that remained were the drums.

“Do you even know where we are?” This from Handel, or what appeared to be Handel.  It was difficult to make out the shivering, damp ball of lanky boy curled up at the base of a tree.

“Can you not hear the drums?  We’re not far from town, duh.”

“I think they cut your hair too close to whatever was left of your brain, B.”  Handel took his time unfolding himself, stretching different limbs and scratching what parts of his brown skin that weren’t already covered in scrapes, welts, or bug bites.  “I can’t believe I followed you out here.”

The boys heads both sported the characteristic crew cut – the traditional intake haircuts – done quickly with a number one guard on electric trimmers.  Both of their scalps were visible through the stubble, but Brad’s scalp was clearly sunburnt, as was the rest of his exposed body parts.  Brad preferred to be called “B” having struggled with the name’s stereotype in the multiple juvenile detentions and foster homes he’d traversed in his young life.  Handel, of  Kalispel tribal heritage, had never seen a foster home.  He had also never seen a sober parent, a brother that wasn’t in prison or an ex-con, or a school that hadn’t given up on him.

“What was that?” B interrupted Handel’s waking dance of unfurling.  The fear in his voice brought an involuntary crouch from Handel.

ChalleNGe (March 1999)

young and older
tolerably bolder
striving to touch
a piece of the gold
not asking for much
just a touch

grown down from the playground
clubs, streets, or hallways
built them up in other days
adult to child to adult again
ending to begin again
peeling egos and pride
not just here for the ride

momentary rebellions
commentary from hellions
morphed by boredom
strive for freedom
not from oppression
but from regression
forward always
open doorways
let them pass

they’ve seen nothing
they’ve seen everything
warrants pending
young lives ending
a little girl shamed
a little boy tamed
by the knuckles of the father
why should we bother
stepping in the shadows
of each one’s life blows?

if cycles recycle
the drug of the mother’s
the drug of the brother
the pain of the sister
is some other mister’s
chance

or maybe just self-esteem
or lack of a full home team
peer pressure?
fear measures
each new stone in the road
each new weight to the load
too much romance
can’t stay in their pants
filled with rap and rants
underage drinking
not enough thinking
lack of popularity
or too much hilarity
don’t play sports
’cause they don’t like the gym shorts

chance is the magic
to face off the tragic
burn down the failure
if you post the bail you’re
lending confidence
denting the offense
opening a window
to let fresh air flow
shaking the dust from
dreams that will come
out from the inside
where they were left to hide
not long ago

turning it around
boots pounding on the ground
beating out the cadence sound
efforts to become the crown
of their own new kingdom

making what’s theirs more
started from the ground floor
rocking with brilliance
shining self reliance
standing on their own two
what can they not do?

crossing the finish line
i give you class 1-99.

As a Splinter Goes

“Why not be content with love?” she asked,
And lingered as the silent pain returned.
Old poets might have found small grace and basked;
Not so in this, regret and training learned.

“If for my love she greets me thus with woes,
And if my reaching heart is all in vain –
I will remove it as a splinter goes,
And future stretch of hope I will disdain.”

Stehekin, Washington, and the north end of Lak...