Albany Journal – 8/12/12

I’m wondering if my avoidance of writing for quite some time will affect my overall writing skills.  I remember being told by many of my instructors at writing school that I should write everyday no matter what.  When I went to the coffee shop the other day, I met this homeless man who asked me for a cigarette.  I gave him one, and then he asked me what I did for a living.  This is sometimes a very tricky question, because writing doesn’t pay the bills at all, this is for sure.  Actually, I’m totally floored that on my last book tour through Albany people actually purchased copies of my latest work.  Writing is all I really do, and yet when this homeless man asked me what I did for living, I just had to tell him that I am a writer and that I am trying to do well in this profession, even though I know that writing will never pay the bills.  I’m very sad that it doesn’t pay the bills at all, although I didn’t tell the homeless man this.  I just said that I write for a living, and when he heard this admission from me, he said that I should write for two hours a day no matter what, because he too was once a writer.  I don’t think he had written something for quite some time, but he knew enough to tell me that I should be writing for a couple hours a day instead of trying to find women to date at the coffee shops and the bars.  And yet these days, I can only manage to write for a simple hour, and I haven’t read anything either, which is another activity that has fallen off the list of things to do this summer.  I don’t know if I’ll ever return to writing with so much passion where I’m doing it for several hours a day.  This is how things used to be for me.  I had a youthful passion for the written word, and now, because it doesn’t pay, I am somewhat afraid to be a part of the writing lifestyle.  Would I end up like the homeless man who had borrowed a cigarette from me? 

The homeless man seemed to know that he was a writer, even though he hadn’t written anything for quite some time.  And with my drinking history thrown into the mix, I can see how I could easily be a homeless man just like him in a few years, considering that I haven’t been writing as often as I should, that my biggest nemesis is not getting to my desk, and that I’ve been going out for drinks every now and then – which is really my own personal nemesis just waiting to destroy me.  But lately there’s a hip-hop tune that has been playing over and over again in my head.   The song is basically a hip-hop version of a well-worn adage that says, “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off, and try again.”  This is something that I’m definitely willing to do, even though I have been searching for my lost passion for several years now.  I pray to God every day to make me more passionate, and therefore, more motivated to continue along this terrible path.  So basically, for the rest of the summer, I have to reprioritize things – and that means no drinking, and I’ll have to start writing for two hours a day.  I’m no longer sure if this can be done, but I’m just waiting for things to turn around – like a big ship that needs to change direction in order to get that winnning attitude back, to find the reasons why it’s worth to be alive, and that life is worth writing about again.  I’m hoping that I’ve changed enough in the last few weeks to realize that I really should be writing for two hours a day, even though it is very painful for me to write.  Sometimes it becomes very hard to imagine that I would work for very little reward.  Who knows what may happen in the future, though, and the future is something that is hopeless as well, unless there is some sort of magic that sets me on the right path again. But enough of my tale of woe.  Life is looking up already.
The weekend was tough to get through, that’s for sure, and I definitely welcome the upcoming week when everything is open again, and I am able to function a little better, now that people will be back to work.  I just received an email from Sears that asks me if I would like to work in one of their stores.  The nearest store is in Rotterdam which is definitely a long commute from here.  One thing’s for certain, though – I will not go back to teaching writing at the college level any more.  I just can’t handle grading all the papers, and that usually entails working seven days a week for very little pay.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I really do have to give credit to Bergen Community College in New Jersey, SUNY Albany, and the College of St. Rose for letting me teach at these places.  It’s certainly quite a privilege to teach the young students.   I think I’m a good teacher, but I just can’t go the distance needed to do well at teaching.  I’m kind of old-fashioned in my methods, and while I believe my methods do get students to learn, it’s just something I can’t justify doing, especially with technology growing by leaps and bounds.  When it comes down to it, I’m really just a dolt these days, trying to find some hope or some sign that I am on the right path while remaining  totally unemployed, without many prospects, and yet still dedicated to the written word.

Thanks for reading this, dear reader, even though I know that this journal gives evidence that I’m way too involved with myself for the time being.  For some reason I am always in survival mode, but slowly, taking baby-steps, I know that good days are around the corner, thanks to the people who have saved my life thus far – many of them strangers.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.