Once on a plane to Frankfurt am Main, my husband David, who should've been stowed away safely in the seat next to me, leaned over to ask what I was reading. "Another dumb book about Ignatius of Loyola," I relplied. "What else!" "So write a better one," he casually suggested. "You know you could."
I didn't remember that the nearest exit might be behind me.
Now two years later, I'm a self-published author with my very own not-dumb book about Ignatius (and me). It's currently #1,031,088 on the Amazon bestseller list! I've received almost $20 in royalties, along with insults, criticism, and requests for money, favors, and sex.
At college in the late 1970's, I dreamed about being a writer. I had it all planned. I'd get up late, make a pot of strong coffee, then pound out a pile of prize-winning prose on my Selectric. If ever I needed a break, I'd go for a jog or watch Hollywood Squares. Evenings would be spent talking shop and drinking with James Michener, Gore Vidal, and John Hersey.
But in reality I struggle to scribble even a few pitiful paragraphs a day. I'm kept crazy busy working my "other" job as an HR manager and trying to be a good spouse, citizen, and human being. I carry my Surface everywhere and sometimes skip meals to get another thirty minutes worth of words on Word. I don't jog as much as I could and drink more than I should.
Wait, insults and criticism?
(But I was joking about the requests for sex.)
Ignatius of Loyola believed that we can find God in all things.
Even insults and criticism.
Especially, in fact.
Care to tag along as I test his theory?
(Please be advised that we may experience some turbulence ahead.)
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of Ad Majorem: A Gay Man's Spiritual Testament; but that ain't no matter. I wrote that book, and I told the truth, mainly.
(Okay, I stole my opening from Mark Twain, but if he intends to sue, he'll have to wait his turn. Bring it, Riverboat!)
In the interest of full disclosure, let me warn you that I'm a fag, fairy, queer, pervert, devil, demon, liar, coward, fool, idiot, and moron.
Or so I've been told.
Let me add that I'm also honest, open, brave, insightful, inspiring, clever, wise, blessed, graced, and visionary.
Or so I've been told.
But it can't possibly all be true.
Or can it?
Write an autobiography and you might discover how little you know about your chosen subject--if you are willing to go deeper than your "Hello, My Name Is" badge. And even that almost always appears upside down and backwards to your own gaze.
But he sounds like a jerk.
Other people don't necessarily know any more about you than you do, of course. But it can be telling when those who have read your life story tell you how they've lived your life. What they thought as you shared your thoughts, what they felt as you bared your feelings. After all, you've let them in close enough to smell your breath, to see themselves reflected in your eyes.
So what if they occasionally step on your toes.
And you may start to wonder if there are some things you should re-think, re-do, and recycle.
(Wait for it!)
Oh, that Tom.
Yeah, he is a jerk.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Twain Responds
"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!"
--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
LETTING THE LETTERING LEAD
Did I mention that I hate to write?
With a passion.
But nothing else gets me through the day.
With a passion.
I started journaling in my teens. I'd spend a few minutes every now and then recounting and reflecting.
Awaking, overtaking, through-breaking.
Letting the lettering lead.
Now pushing sixty, I still journal. A few minutes seemingly every few minutes. Recounting and reflecting, sometimes about recounting and reflecting.
A memo to self.
Notice, question, realize!
And it can hurt.
But you mustn't let that stop you.
Tales are told about great Zen masters who taught without words. Those tales are usually told with words. And in my rare Zen moments when the silence speaks to me, I take notes. My mindfulness is a mind full of words!
So I'll go on writing.
"About Writing and Other Stuff."
(This may hurt you more than it does me.)
IF I'D A KNOWED
"If I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book, I wouldn't a tackled it."
--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Excerpted from "If I'd a Knowed" by Tom Beattie. Copyright © 2017 by Tom Beattie. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.