Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Writer's Lesson Learned

My wife Geri, 100th Bomb Group Pilot Herb Alf, and I back in 2002 in Roseburg, Oregon, with fragments of Herbs memoirs, written on both sides of sheets of Prison Camp toilet paper. Herb passed away a few years after this photo. His book, 'Petals of Fire', is perhaps the greatest novel of the air war over Europe and the POW experience.

In the past week, I have had a lesson driven home to me not once, but twice, concerning my vocation as a writer of World War Two military aviation history. I have been reminded, not once but twice, to refocus on the Big Picture. It has also humbled me, brought me new insight, and made me a better human being.

By nature, I am a very busy person. I rarely let up. Till recently, I juggled four jobs. I taught school, I taught night classes, I operated on online sales business, and I wrote books and articles. I went from one job to the next, rarely resting, and weekends were just another word for grading, planning lessons, and writing or editing projects. This past summer, I spent 12 hour days, seven days a week, writing the unit history of the 95th Bomb Group. I only made one trip to my beloved Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks all summer, and when the school year began, I felt like I was working less, not more.

Twice this week, members of our Greatest Generation have basically taken me out behind the woodshed and reminded me that I need to focus on my commitments as a writer. It has not been an easy thing to hear. But it was needed. Members of the Greatest Generation expect that when you commit to something, you will follow through, and without delay. That's the way they were brought up, that's what made them successful, and that's what they expect of others.

As a result of my encounters this week with two men I very highly respect, I have come to the realization that I need to prioritize better. I am therefore, as of today, no longer working night school, and am shutting down my online business. Hopefully, these moves will free me up to spend more time doing what I really should be doing---and that is telling the stories of World War Two airmen.

Life is full of lessons learned, some of them painful. The lessons I learn pale in contrast to those learned by the men I admire and for whom I write. I will not let them down again.

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