In college I did a lot better in English than math. Adding some credit hours one summer, I took a writing course. For the major assignment, the one which would count toward fifty percent of the grade, I wrote a piece describing an unsuccessful job interview. I had some experience to draw on and the piece almost wrote itself. How pleasant that was compared to the mechanics of bi- and trinomials of advanced Algebra. Critiquing our efforts, the professor praised my piece, copied it and handed it out to the rest of the class. I had an epiphany then and I needed the A to balance my grade average.
But I buried the epiphany because I went to law school and learned an entirely new English language called legalese: tort feasors, fee simple estates, parties of the first part, bailments and liens, among the multitude of others. It was all put to good use in a thirty-year career of legal writing with a Government agency. After twenty-nine years of sometimes mind-numbing formulaic writing and editing by committee, where the wordsmiths in power could spend an afternoon debating whether 'which' or 'that' was the appropriate word in a specific instance, I suddenly remembered my epiphany back in college. I also remembered that I had been a fairly prolific letter writer to family members and friends (this was an ice age before email) attempting to be humorously inventive with whatever event I was relating so as to strike a spark of elation in my pen pal. On top of that, Martin Luther, an old hero of mine came to me one restless night and wondered whether I would drift into a retirement fixated on the eloquence of my legal opinions, or whether I had the wherewithal to try something new. I didn't need to nail up any theses about the world being round on any church door, he said, but God I needed to do something to keep the brain from going to oatmeal. "After all, man," Luther said, his cassock whirling as he left the room (my wife swears he wasn't there) "you've got a word processor and a three-finger typing skill; glue yourself down and knock out a few pages every morning."
So a book-length manuscript became my transition-into-retirement project. It took over two years of sitting down most days, writing words, sentences and paragraphs. Getting stuck and rewriting. Rereading, expunging and often wondering whether there was any merit in what I was engaged upon. But I know that regardless of the value of my manuscript, my routine of plugging away at it was good, kept me out of trouble. And one day, a year into my retirement, I was finished. Now my wife took up the manuscript and edited it for another year. Thank you and bless your heart, Carol.