I made this vow over the weekend, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who really knows me: Regardless of my diagnosis on Wednesday, I will fight this neurological disease with everything in me. It has no idea the mistake it made coming at me, son. And once I’m back to feeling like myself, I’m hitting the world like an emeffing tornado. Stand back and watch because the show will be entertaining!
If you are going to attempt to pass yourself off as a professional in a given field, you need to learn the ropes of your field before you feign a stance as an expert. We all go through growing pains as we find our footing in our careers, and we all make mistakes from time to time. However, if you are going to request to share your knowledge of a specific subject at a professional gathering, proceed to demonstrate zero knowledge of that specific subject, and then get called out publicly for not knowing what you are talking about, instead of acting pompous and superior, go back and do a little research into your profession. Furthermore, once you have revealed how little you know, just stop talking. Don’t proceed to paint yourself as an arrogant buffoon by attempting to explain your ignorance away. It’s better to save face by showing a modicum of humility than to keep saying ignorant things.
We live in a highly competitive country. Moreover, in this age, creative endeavors are some of the most difficult fields in which to establish one’s self. Fans who attend conventions tend to take things seriously and have high expectations for creative folks. Mediocrity will not last for long on the steep climb, and ignorant pomposity will be met harshly by fandom. It’s not a sin not to know something on the periphery of your specialty, but it is a sin to volunteer to share your knowledge specifically about that periphery and then show up empty-handed. In the information age, it is unpardonable to show up to a professional presentation and not even know the basic definitions of the topics you asked to discuss. If you are going to climb into the arena, you had best train for the fight ahead of time. If not, don’t be surprised by the ass-kicking you receive.
To all of my friends, readers, fellow writers, and former students, please know that I share these words of warning out of love because I want you to be successful in your endeavors. I’m not going to share details or name names, so please don’t ask, but the person who committed this particular blunder last weekend should be glad that it happened at a first year show with only a handful of audience members at the panel, and not at Dragon*Con with a packed room. The latter could be career suicide. The former will pass by mostly unnoticed, but it serves as a teachable moment. When you choose to represent yourself as a professional in any field and are in a public venue, please for the love of all that’s decent in this world, show up prepared.
It’s Dragon*Con weekend, the location of my greatest triumph and biggest humiliation of my writing career. In 2009, I was accepted to DC as a Guest — not a Pro or any other designation but a full-fledged Guest — as an independent author. It was quite an honor for an unknown hillbilly with no agent, publisher, or PR firm greasing the wheels on my behalf. On the other end of the spectrum, in 2013, I had to withdraw from the show because the crowd overwhelmed me too much. Despite that low point, DC will always have a special place in my heart because of what it signifies in terms of credibility in my career.
Right now, with my health deteriorating daily and the nightmare our healthcare system has become, I doubt I’ll ever top that accomplishment. Because I spent my life teaching instead of pillaging retirement funds, I cannot afford all the expenses to find out what is wrong with me, let alone receive treatment. I’m trying not to be bitter about that, but it gets harder every single day. I feel used up and discarded by a system too short-sighted for its own good. Any country that punishes its citizens for working and attempting to be productive deserves whatever misfortune it brings upon itself.
I’m still optimistic that I’ll be able to write book five and complete the Brotherhood series. The people who have stood by me and encouraged me over the years deserve to have the final installment, so I will do everything in my power to finish it. My fine motor skills are eroding, which makes typing difficult, but I ordered an oversized keyboard with 1″ buttons. It makes typing a little easier, even though I’m still having to retrain myself on the location of certain buttons because of the size. Concentration is also something of an issue, but I’ll have to find a way to overcome that. I will complete the rough draft or die trying. I mean that quite literally.
All things considered, I’m keeping as positive an attitude as I can. I refuse to feel sorry for myself over this illness. Even though I’m angry at our inane system, with or without treatment, the illness itself will not hinder me from striving for my goals. It may slow me, but it will not stop me. I may never make it back to Dragon*Con, may never be invited to ComicCon, and may never know that success in this life, but I will complete the Brotherhood series and produce a couple of novellas for the Outlaws.
I’ve learned from previous experience that people will reveal their true feelings for you when you endure real hardships. Those who truly love and care for you will offer support and encouragement in whatever form they can. Those who see you in terms of what benefit they can reap from association will stand back with indifference. They may occasionally utter a word or two of support, but that’s as far as they’re willing to go. Those who harbor malice towards you will kick you while you’re down. I’m blessed and grateful to have a handful of true friends who will have my back no matter what. They are the only ones who matter.
I have no idea where this post is going, but I feel the need to share something, though it doesn’t quite have shape in my brain yet. Today has been a rough day physically, and I need to formulate some words to make it into something positive.
After my accident in 1989, I had to redefine my life. All of my plans up to that point were toppled in that singular moment, which forced me to look at the world from a different perspective, and even though it took a few years for me to appreciate fully the lessons of nearly dying, it helped me mature faster than I would have otherwise. It also made me feel like my life needed to have a purpose beyond just crass materialism, and that sense of purpose has guided me for a quarter of a century. Because I’m human and fallible, I’ve often come up short of this desire, but even at my lowest and worst moments, I’ve tried to make my life mean something more than my own selfish desires.
I discovered writing as an outlet not long after the accident, within the first year at least. When I started college in the fall of 1990, I did so with the intent of becoming a writer. However, I concede that at that time I had no concept of what “being a writer” meant other than putting words down into some semi-coherent form. All I knew was that I loved language, loved dabbling with words and forms and ideas, and I gave everything I had to the pursuit of learning my craft.
Also because of the accident, I’ve lived my life in a manner so that I will not have many regrets. There are few experiences that appealed to me which I haven’t at least attempted. I’ve rarely left anything on the table, either, and even though I’ve failed at quite a few endeavors, I never have to wonder what if. My one real regret, however, is going to graduate school. If I could change one thing and still have my children, I would never have gone back to grad school because in terms of creativity and writing all it did was stifle my spirit.
That said, I don’t regret teaching. While I lament what has happened to education and the profession, teaching fulfilled that desire for my life to have purpose in a way that only the books can top. Despite every setback and heartache and difficulty, when I place my head on the pillow at night, I know in my heart that I did something more important than having a popular blog or a bestselling book or a viral video; I gave other people an opportunity to improve their lives. I shared a foundation for effective communication with a couple thousand students, and I did that job well. I may never have the level of commercial writing success I would like, and my books may vanish from history forever, but those lives I impacted will continue onward. I can live with that.
Even though this as yet undiagnosed disease is kicking my butt today, I have not lost my will to fight it. Even though I haven’t been able to work on book five the way I need to, I vow that one way or another I will finish it, even if I have to completely reinvent my writing process to do so. Even though I’m just a small voice in the wilderness, I promise to continue to live a life that has purpose beyond my own selfish needs whether I make any dent in the insanity and inhumanity consuming the world or not.
That’s all for now.
I’ve got a new release out, The Ramblings of D.A. Adams. Some of you will recognize that as the former name of my blog. This release is a collection of some of my favorite entries over the years, along with a few articles I’ve put together, and is available exclusively in ebook format. Please, go grab a copy so I can afford to get some work done to my awful teeth…
For several years now, I’ve seen multiple authors who compose writing “advice” pieces share something that disturbs me. The first time I saw it, which was about fifteen years ago, I shrugged it off as the musings of an incompetent hack, but now, as I’ve seen it several times in several places, I’m concerned that it’s indicative of a deeper erosion in the fundamentals of our language. This advice has to do with the use of the semicolon. Actually, to be more accurate, the writers advise not to use it, ever, because it’s a meaningless symbol. The writer and teacher in me bristle at the notion that a piece of punctuation is useless just because they themselves don’t know how to use it.
I don’t want to spend this whole entry on the proper uses of the semicolon because that would be pretty boring, but I feel like a basic explanation is necessary. The period represents a full stop. I’ve ended this thought and am moving on to another one. The comma represents a pause during the course of a thought, perhaps to distinguish between a group of three or more, to set off an appositive, or to illustrate a transitional clause. The semicolon is used when the writer doesn’t quite want a full stop; the two thoughts are somehow connected. It can also be used to separate a complex series such as when the writer needs to describe a place and a character; show deep, intricate emotions; or illustrate multiple actions occurring simultaneously. These uses of the semicolon are relatively simple but are important for conveying subtlety or precision of thought.
It baffles me that anyone would advise not using a tool in the chest, especially one that can offer so much flexibility in the expression of thought. I can’t imagine a master carpenter telling an apprentice not to learn how to use a reciprocating saw because they already know how to use a skill saw. Both tools are important for achieving different kinds of cuts, and knowing how to use each one allows the carpenter to do more on the job site. The semicolon is just a punctuation tool and a relatively simple one at that, so to me, the lack of understanding of how to use it points to a larger issue in our culture: a decline in subtlety of thought and nuance.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It could just be that the particular people who’ve offered this advice are crappy writers with delusions of grandeur. I don’t know. What I do know is that the semicolon isn’t that difficult a piece of punctuation to master, so to any young writers who stumble across this entry, please, learn how to use the tools of your trade, as many of them as you can. Otherwise, you’re just a jackleg carpenter who can’t properly build a house.
Book five, the final installment of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, has begun. My current goal is to complete the manuscript by the end of summer and release it near Thanksgiving. Please, stay tuned as I’ll try to post regular updates on here regarding the status of the manuscript. Some of you have been waiting for nine years for the culmination of this story, and hopefully, you’ll find the resolution satisfactory. Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement over the years. I’m blessed and grateful to have you behind me as I close out this series.
While you wait, if you haven’t done so already, please take a minute to leave reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Book one is only 11 reviews away from hitting 100 on Amazon, and the others still need more reviews, as well. As always, please leave honest critiques that you think will help other readers make an informed decision whether or not my series is for them. I can’t stress enough just how helpful customer reviews can be for books and authors, so please, when you have the time, take a moment and leave your feedback.
One last note, I’m down to two and a half weeks in my education career, so be on the lookout for a couple of posts as I close that chapter of my life and move forward into the next. Again, thank you all for your support. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.