Category Archives: Faith

One eMail and Everything Changes

Okay, I’m going to admit something. I haven’t been straight with you all, because at the time a lot of this went down, it didn’t matter. Now, all of a sudden, it does.

At the end of last year, I was dropped by my agent. I can’t say that I blame him. I pretty much hadn’t written a word of use to him for at least three years, the time during which my mother lived with us. And for the two years before that, when my wife and I were checking on her at least twice a week. Add to that the fact that in the years before that, he was looking for thrillers to market at around 100k words, and I was wanting to genre bend a little, and the project I did it with, which he told me not to write, came in at 170k. Nothing personal, it was just business.

Now he was a good agent at a time when I needed one who did the kinds of things he did. And he got me into some good things. The ghostwriting gig that I still can’t talk about. The sale of the Pembroke Hall books to the Canadian film company that made my worst-selling novels my biggest moneymakers, even though nothing ever got filmed. The sales to Russia. But we had growing creative differences over the fact that he was trying to streamline the sales process by asking me to turn in 100,000 word thrillers and I was wanting to push myself as a writer and stretch out, poking and tweaking the conventions of genre.

I suppose if I have any regret about our nearly two-decade relationship is that I should have been the one to end it since I knew I was no longer of use to him. But in the context of taking care of my mother, it didn’t seem all that important.

So the end of 2008 was the end of an era, and frankly, I couldn’t have cared less. Over the last couple of years, writing had come to mean less to me than at any point in my adult life, and probably most of my adolescent life, too. I had other avenues of expression – writing and singing songs, which is confined mostly to my bedroom, and The Home World, the weekly webcomic I started in September of last year, and the plays I have been writing and directing for our church’s Vacation Bible School. I was too busy serving God to write much more than that.

Basically, writing career dead, stick a fork in it, it’s done. And I couldn’t have cared less. I had moved on. Other things in life were more important.

And then, two weeks ago, everything changed.

I opened my Gmail account to find a communique there with the subject line touching base re Film/TV rights. It was from a woman in Los Angeles, the sister of the woman who had bought the Pembroke Hall rights all those many years ago. She was looking for exciting new properties to represent, and her sister told her she ought to look into this guy named Joe Clifford Faust (okay, so his properties weren’t exactly new – but they were clever and innovative and unused).

This nice lady asked me about the Pembroke Hall novels and – surprise! – The Company Man, which hadn’t seen a movie nibble since my first agent tried to put a copy into the hands of Sir Ridley (only he wasn’t Sir back then, and he also didn’t want to get typed as an SF director, so his advance man took a pass on the book).

The next day we talked on the phone for 55 minutes. I mentioned A Death of Honor, along with a screenplay I’m starting to develop as a favor to a friend, and when the conversation was over, I had a new agent.

I also came away with an assignment: to write a bunch of synopses for the books she is going to try to convert to movies or TV series. Yeah, you read that right. She, like her sister, seems to think that the Pembroke Hall novels would make a good TV series.

While I was writing, I got on a roll and decided to send her a synopsis of the 170,000 word novel that my ex-agent didn’t want me to write that I need to whip into a final draft, just as a surprise bonus. To see what happens.

Funny thing. Reading the manuscript for that novel by way of getting the plot line in my head makes me realize that it’s my best novel ever, even a quantum leap over Pembroke Hall, which my ex-agent once said was a magnum opus for me.

Suddenly I want to finish that neglected manuscript.

Interestingly enough, all of this comes at a time when I can actually do it now, with my mother safe in God’s hands and the children having mostly flown the coop for college and points beyond.

When things like this happen, I prick up my ears and see if I can hear God laughing, because I know from events like this that he has a sense of humor. I’m reminded that his boy told us something about losing our life to gain it. Well, I gave up my writing life to essentially serve him, and now I seem to have gotten it back with a vengeance. I should also note that his boy could raise the dead, among other things. So resurrection of a career is a piece of cake.

Yeah, I got some work to do (on top of this year’s VBS play, a sci-fi extravaganza of sorts).

And that’s not the whole story, either.

Because yesterday I had a pretty remarkable day, too. But it’s late now (early, actually) – making that a story for another day.

Hopefully soon.

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About An Unpleasantness at Lonesome Gulch

I didn’t blog a word about this one. I just got caught up in what was going on, and by the time I recovered, it had been over for a couple of weeks. And unless you’re connected to me via Facebook, you had no idea what was going on.

So here’s what went down. I wrote another VBS play between January and May of this year, directed it between June and July, and ended up taking a part when I ran out of actors and performed in it during the first week of August.

And it, namely a wild-west themed production called An Unpleasantness At Lonesome Gulch, was worlds better than my first VBS show, The Terrible Misfortune.

Not that Misfortune was bad. It was a hoot and people loved it. But when I wrote it, I just put it together, trying to put little Biblical lessons in each episode that hopefully the teachers could use as object lessons. Not to mention that our associate minister built a pirate ship out of a haywagon that included masts and rigging and a working wheel and rudder. Lots of things for the extras to do when the main characters were busy onstage.

But I was determined to do things righter with Lonesome Gulch. We had a VBS planning meeting in either late December or early January, can’t recall which, and I told the crew my master plan. I wanted to write a VBS play that would directly mesh with the lessons being taught so the teachers could use it to draw a direct parallel from the play to the Bible lesson if they wanted. All I knew was that I was going with a wild west theme for the play, and I needed the overall theme and the daily lessons.

They rewarded me with those very things at the meeting, and while it was a challenge to fit The Creation, Jesus’ Ministry and Miracles, The Crucifixion, and The Resurrection into an Old West town, I think I pulled it off. And some of the actors were thrilled to find out that there was more to their parts than simply The Good Guy or The Doctor. For example, The Mayor of the town represented the Pharisees – devoted to the law but wanting to put his own spin on things. The Bad Guy represented the Roman Empire, and the slimy sidekick who kept whispering bad ideas into his ear was none other than Satan. The Doctor represented non-believers, and the guy in the white hat was you-know-who, the son of the man who built the town. And the guy named Pete was… well, you can probably figure that one out.

Like any production, it had its ups and downs, but in the end it all came together much like Geoffrey Rush’s character in Shakespeare In Love said it would. “It’s a mystery!” It’s the magic of theater, that’s what it is.

Directing these plays the last three years (we did “The Terrible Misfortune” two years) has really put a bug in my ear to direct something at the local community theater. I really enjoy doing it, moreso than acting, I think. And in my last role, as Bob Ewell in To Kill A Mockingbird, I gave a performance that I don’t think can be topped. At this point, I’m not sure I want to even try. But we’ll see what the next season brings… and there is the prospect of being in a Shakespeare play at some point in the future, something I have long wanted to do.

So I’m slowly looking at scripts to see if there’s something I’d like to direct. Probably a farce, since both VBS shows bordered on farce. I’ve also flirted with the idea of writing my own farce. Yeah, I did try to write a Christmas show, and it turned out so bad that I have it under lock and key until I can operate on it and make it better. There’s less decorum in a farce, and it is a lot more forgiving since the audience applies extra dollops of Suspension of Disbelief to the nonsensical goings-on. I don’t know I’ll actually do it… but it could be loads of fun. Hey, maybe I should do a Shakespears play…

Anyway, the immediate plan is for me to whip the two existing VBS shows into shape, put them into book form, and make them available through Lulu.com to other congregations looking for an unusual show without having to buy the same package everyone else in town is using. Following that, it’ll be time to start working on the 2009 production, which is going to have an outer space theme with the working title “The Incredible Adventure of the Frozen Man.” Yeah, I’m starting earlier this year.

And in between that and the launch of something else coming up soon, maybe I will have the time to start moving ahead on directing a play at the local community theater. We’ll see.

What’s News at Home is News on the Other Side of the World, and That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing

So my wife and I called our daughter on The Other Side of the World this morning. We timed it so our early morning call would arrive there in mid-evening, and I was armed with a cheat sheet I made of Tour Guide Russian, just enough to introduce myself to Host Mother and ask for Daughter.

Well, Host Mother was a sharp sort, and my Tour Guide Russian was just good enough that she figured out who I was, and Daughter was on the line before I could finish asking for her.

We chatted about many things – what was supposed to be a 10 minute call came close to 40. Almost one of the first things that she said was, “I heard about the school shooting in Cleveland this morning.”

Not literally as we were talking to her – news of the shooting was splashed all over the Cleveland news when I got home for last night’s 6 pm broadcast. That would have been 8 am this morning Far East Russia time. She was just settling down with her bowl of Snow Flakes – The Russian answer to Frosted Flakes – and the Russian morning news started talking about Cleveland, Ohio.

So Vladimir Putin’s state controlled media once again paints the United States in a flattering light. Of course, this was his directive to them just a few months ago, so they’re just doing what they’re told their job.

My daughter wanted to be in Russia for their election. She will, but I’m glad that she’s out in the boonies as opposed to a more metropolitan place like Moscow or St. Petersburg. Things run a little slow out there – they still have a statue of Lenin in the town square, although I hear that he’s hailing a taxi now instead of pointing the way to the future. If there’s any excitement, it’ll likely happen in the west – and she can observe.

(Reasons I’m glad I believe in God #6,437 – I can’t take care of my daughter where she is now, but there’s no doubt in my mind that God will. So the Faust genetic tendency to worry about The Russians is effectively suppressed.)

In the meantime, Daughter is being treated very well. As a rare Native Speaker in that part of the world, she’s the hit of the English class. And the Rotary club there is being extraordinarily generous in arranging for her to soak up as much of the culture as she wants (which, knowing her, is an enormous amount.)

I was thinking after talking to her this morning that it was a good thing I was never an exchange student. If I’d gone to any foreign country and been treated like she has been thus far, I wouldn’t have wanted to return. Not that I didn’t love my parents. What I hated was high school. And going back to mine would have been a huge come-down from wherever I would have been.

On the other hand, maybe the peers in my country of choice would have seen me for the pathetic, geeky proto-nerd I was back then. Ah, well, I never had the interest or the opportunity, so I shan’t lament.

Meantime, at the end of our phone call with Daughter, I had her thank her Host Mother for taking such good care of her. Daughter did it while we were still on the line, and it was neat to hear the Host Mother’s reaction.

Afterward, I started thinking that we should do something nice for the Host Mother. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to send her something she couldn’t find there, something that was quintessentially American, something that represented this country on a number of levels, something that shouted out U.S.A. the instant you saw it.

It didn’t take long for me to come up with a something that worked on all those levels. This is it. Think she’ll like it?

Pirates of the Church of Christ

Sidelined again, only this time I’m being drawn away from inaction.

Instead of having a Vacation Bible School this year, our congregation is having a family fun day – kind of like a VBS all scrunched into one day, with the added attraction of bouncy inflatables and… oh, I don’t know. Whatever else you do at one-day VBS-type events.

So one day a couple of weeks ago, my wife was asking me a rather odd series of pointed questions. “Have you ever wanted to write, oh, say, a pirate adventure? Or something set in the old west?”

Naturally, that set off my Spider Sense – or perhaps I should say, my Writer’s Sense. So I said something like, “Okay, who wants what?”

Our church, as it turns out. They want an episodic melodrama to run between classes and they thought that the resident novelist and playwright at the congregation would be the perfect person to write it.

I agreed.

And I instinctively jumped at the chance to write a Pirate tale.

(Yes, I know that in real-life pirates were not the fun-loving Johnny Depp or Errol Flynn types that we know and revere – they were outright scum of the earth who deserved the hell that the law-abiding navies of the world sent them to – so let’s just put that objection aside and turn on the Suspension of Disbelief, shall we?)

What’s interesting is that I have pretty much free rein to do what I want. The folks in charge of the project said that if I just wrote the melodrama, they would find a way to connect it to their Bible lessons. So I guess I could write a piratical booze, blood, and babes epic and they would relate to it by saying, “Oh, don’t those poor people need Jesus?”

Okay, I’m exaggerating there. I need to write six 10 – 15 minute episodes, and I have the first three and the sixth in my head. I don’t have to put in an overt religious message, but I think it would help the people writing the curriculum out immensely if I managed to put some subtle and not-so-subtle examples of old fashioned virtues, Christian living, or Biblical allusion into the script. Which is what I’m planning on doing (in Episode One, for example, the young man who is the hero agrees to take the place of his father, who is about to be conscripted onto one of ‘er Majesty’s ships that is going to chase down a marauding pirate).

Otherwise, I have the run of my imagination to do what I want. Wait, I take that back. I have to have one bit where a guy swings in on a rope because our minister wants to swing in on a rope during the adventure. Hey, at least it’s not rewriting a script to give Shatner all the best lines.

The working title is The Terrible Misfortune, which is the name of a ship – although I haven’t decided if it’s the Pirate ship or the naval ship chasing them down. I’ll probably start work on it tonight. It should be a fairly short write, and I’ll no doubt be doing goofy things to stay in a piratical mood, like watching Master and Commander yet again (not pirates, I know, but there’s no better film about shipboard life) and buying packs of Pirates of the Spanish Main cards and building a little fleet on my desktop.

And yes, I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

Meantime, I’m really bummed about not getting the Christmas play finished for the 2006- 07 season. When things went haywire, I thought, “No problem, there’s always 07 – 08.” What I hadn’t figured, though, is that my daughter, who was going to be my Stage Manager/Assistant Director will be gone off by then, either to college or to a foreign land. And I was really looking forward to working with her on the production.

Oh, well. Once again, welcome to life.

Listening:
If all the people in the world lost their reason
What would we see, where would we be
If all the entertainers in the world lost their music
What would they play, what could they say
To pacify the crowd, to justify themselves

(via iPod Shuffle)

Collecting Tears

So mom is in the hospital – again – and may or may not be released within the next 24 hours or so, depending on which doctor gets to do which tests and when.

My wife and I have an odd tradition that started as a result of this. After mom gets admitted to the hospital, we take our leave and stop on the way home and have dinner at Applebee’s.

It started innocently enough. A couple of times we got out of the hospital late – 11 pm, midnight – and neither of us had eaten since lunch. Applebee’s was the only place open at that hour where we could get a hot, plentiful meal in a fairly benign setting. We’ve done that a number of times now. Last night we were relatively early: 8:30 pm or so.

Now on the way there, my wife, who had a longer day than I did, asks me, “Would you do it all again, having your mom come to stay with us, if you knew what we’d go through?”

And I said without hesitating, “Yes.” And not just because our daughter was sitting in the back seat.

See, it’s not just my mother’s blessing that she lives with us. It’s a blessing for us, too. It’s been a blessing to be able to serve God this way, but it’s also been a blessing because when mom’s time comes, we’re not going to have any regrets about not having spent more time with her.

I’ve had the chance to talk to her and enjoy her company. My daughter has had the chance to talk to her and learn about what life was like growing up in the depression and during World War II, and we’ve all picked up a few words in Norwegian. It’s been a blessing because my queasiness about going into a hospital – a building full of sick people – has pretty much vanished. It’s been a blessing when mom says she’s sorry I have to take care of her to be able to say, “Hey, you took care of me for all those years – now it’s my turn.” It’s been a blessing to see that she gets to church when she’s able, and I’m sure it’s a blessing for our church family to have her there.

The person I feel bad for is my brother. He’s doing what he can to help – but he lives 12 hours from here and his wife is seriously ill, and to be honest, I don’t know that his emotional constitution is up to taking what my family has been through, probably 6 hospital stays in the last twelve months. Because of these circumstances, he’s going to miss out on all of these blessings. And he’s going to miss out on all of these little moments that mom is sharing with us, from family history to chatting while she helps with the dishes or her peculiar sense of humor (which I inherited and passed on to my children). My brother is missing out on the moments that some day will be lost in time…

I could say I drew the short straw on this one, but I refuse to look at it that way. I always wanted to be the right person in the right place at the right time for something. And when it came to caring for mom, that’s exactly what I am. That’s a blessing, too.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer)
Blade Runner

Listening:
I think these hands have felt a lot
I don’t know, what have I touched
I think these eyes have seen a lot
I don’t know, maybe they’ve seen too much

(via iPod Shuffle)

In Search of the Perfect Day

On an August day in 1988, my wife (who was eight months pregnant with our second child) and son left Dearborn, Michigan after a few days visiting with her brother, who at the time was an intern at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. On the way home the three-and-a-half of us stopped at the Toledo Zoo, which at the time was having a rare exhibit of Pandas from China.

It was a wonderful day. The visit had been good and the Zoo visit was excellent. As we drove home I thought about what a perfect day it had been.

As we walked in the door the phone was ringing. It was the phone call that I knew would be coming. I just hadn’t expected it today.

My father had passed away.

The feeling was odd. First, Dad’s death was tempered by my religious faith. Second, based on that event alone, it should have been a terrible day. But until I picked up the telephone, it wasn’t. It had been a perfect day.

I haven’t forgotten that odd combination of feelings. I wanted to write something that combined this range of emotions, but haven’t yet found the right vehicle for it. Instead, I kept watching, observing. In doing so, it led me to a fascinating discovery:

There is no such thing as a perfect day.

That is, there will always be something to take the wind out of it’s sails. The closer to perfection you get, the bigger the imperfection. But take comfort, for this rule has a corollary:

There is no such thing as a perfectly bad day, either.

No matter how bad the day is, there will always be one thing that will buffer it and keep it from being a complete failure.

Fast-forward to recent history. It turned out that my recent allergy attack/flu symptom/broken toe experience was the end of the tunnel for a recent nadir I’d experienced. For weeks I’d been chronically tired and out-of-sorts about everything. I was a walking one-man pity party, but I kept it bottled up because I didn’t want to bore anyone with my own personal angst; the kind of I wish I’d been the kind of guy who would have been perfectly happy as a plumber, never having the ambition to wildly succeed at something or the talent to do it, only to have it dangle just out of my grasp… stuff that populates blogs whose titles usually begin with the words “The So-Called Life of…”

It turned out that all the sleep I got on Tuesday and Wednesday was wonderfully therapeutic. I woke up this morning with no problem. I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed. And on the way to work, I thought, “Wow! I feel great! In fact, I haven’t felt this good in a weeks.”

I should have known (c.f. John Wayne’s last line in The Sands of Iwo Jima; “I feel great. In fact, I never felt better in my life”; at which point he is killed by a Japanese sniper) that I was headed for a Perfect Day.

I didn’t even get depressed at work. I made a well-timed reference to the movie The Jerk that made our bookkeeper stop what she was doing because she was laughing so hard. I spoke with many people, including a few who usually manage to destroy any little sprig of hope that I carry to the office with me every day. then I came home to face a minor financial problem and got everything straightened out (it was their fault for a change). Everything was spinning in a greased groove.

And then, and then…

At 7:50 the phone rang. My wife’s grandmother – the one who was more of a grandmother to me than the two I had – passed away an hour before. They had transferred her to a nursing home to finish recovering from the myriad of ills that was recently compounded by her broken hip of two weeks ago. She didn’t want to be in a nursing home. She told our minister, “I’m going to die today, but I have to wait until my family is here.” And that’s exactly what happened.

She died peacefully, with a prayer on her lips. And there’s no doubt in my mind that she ran the race and won, and is out of her pain now, celebrating with the husband and two sons who left much too early. It’s hard to be sad about things like that, but it still hurts when they have to leave.

We returned later in the evening after going up to the nursing home to help my wife’s family make initial arrangements. I checked the call waiting box to see if our daughter called from the church event she had gone to. One of the numbers on the box was an aunt in Arizona that I hadn’t heard from in quite a while. We’d exchanged e-mail, but it had been ages since getting a phone calls.

And again, I knew what this call was.

The aunt for whom I am named (Jo > Joe) passed away yesterday.

Again, I am assured that I will see her again because of her faith, but… well, you get the idea by now.

I guess I didn’t know how good of a day I was actually having. And if there are any bad days ahead – ones worse than Tuesday/Wednesday, anyway – well, I know they won’t be all that bad.

But I’m sure you’ll understand if I take a break from the Foundry for a few days. The weekend and the days that follow will no doubt be busy, and I don’t want to clog up any more bandwidth with discussions of what kept me from writing on this or that particular day. So I’ll see you all in, say, a week.

And I wish you all a not-quite-perfect day.

NP – Joseph Arthur, Redemption’s Son

Fear of Success

What’s with the fear of success?

I can’t say that I understand it. Success is something I’ve been striving toward for years with my writing. Maybe that’s why the thought is so alien to me. I know lots of people who would say I’m already a successful writer – however, I’m not yet a success in my own mind. I’ve set the bar higher than that.

Apparently there are many who fear success – to the point where, when it comes knocking at the door, they cower in the closet, hoping the visitor gives up and leaves.

I have a friend, a musician who is a 20-year veteran of the Holiday Inn circuit. He started out in the 70’s in a rock band, determined to make it to the top.

So what happened? Was there an album that was ill-promoted, a tragic post-breakthrough concert overdose, or a manager who absconded with the bankroll?

None of the above.

My friend says, “We got our chance at the big time, and half the members left. It was like they couldn’t deal with the idea of success.”

That boggled my mind. I couldn’t imagine all of that preparation for something, only to walk away from it.

“I can’t figure it out, either,” said my friend. “But in the music business, it’s common enough to be a cliche. The band members who quit the day they make the big time.”

Thing is, this isn’t the exclusive territory of musicians. Now that I know what to look for, I see it all the time.

Our agency had a client that designed something innovative and wonderful. They sank a lot of money into R & D, and into having us help with research and come up with marketing tactics. We had all of the machinery in place to do a blitz with their innovation, to launch it into the forefront of their industry’s (and the public’s) consciousness.

And they backed off. They introduced the product with a whimper, and within a year they let us go and took their media in-house. The original version of their product seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.

The sad thing is, this company was ahead of the curve with their innovation. In the years since this thing withered, nobody else has done anything like it… but one aspect of their innovation is now slowly becoming a standard in the industry.

This company was two years ahead of everyone else with just that one aspect, and they blew it. I wrote scripts for TV and radio and print for it and they did nothing. They could have been visionaries. They chose to become sheep; they’re still ignoring this one innovation, and continue for the most part to do things the way they always have.

I don’t know how many clients I’ve seen come to our meeting room with a vision, have us put a plan together, and on the eve of implementation, back away.

They might even say, “We don’t want to spend the money.”

Personally, I think they’re scared. Of success. Just like my friend’s band-mates and other acquaintances.

Why are they scared of success? I don’t think there’s any one single element. It could be any one of a number of things:

1) They are comfortable where they are. Comfort is safe. If you’re only opening for a big name act night after night, you go out, you do your 30-minute set, you walk off. What could be easier? If you know your traditional widget will sell a million units a year, year in and year out, why rock the boat with innovation? If you step out and start publishing, there might be people out there who… *gasp…* might not like your work.

2) Success requires self-defense. It’s hard to be an original these days. If your band comprised of lipstick lesbians is a hit (see Tatu), watch for hordes of imitators (yes, that is a prediction). If your little company comes up with a modified, improved widget, all of the major widgeteers out there are going to come up with their answer to same. In either case, you’re going to have to work even harder to stay at the top of your game. Just ask Tom Clancy and John Grisham, who spawned their own sub-genres, and with them a host of imitators.

3) Success brings responsibility. If you become that big name act, you are suddenly responsible for the outcome of your career. You have to put together a successful concert, an album of hits, and you are put under the microscope of public scrutiny. The next improvement on your widget had better live up to customer expectations. And if your new novel comes out sounding an awful lot like your previous one? Well, sorry, but we’ve already got John Irving.

4) Success is hard work. Touring may have sounded fun, but after spending a year making the round of Holiday Inns, perhaps you’re thinking differently. And now the label that wants you is talking about sending you around the world? People love your widget – and now your customers want more options? It took you three years to write that first book – and now the publisher would like one a year? Hey, this is hard! Forget it!

5) The taste of success may not be the flavor you expected. As I said, from the viewpoint of a lot of people, I’m a successful writer. Likely their criteria for defining success are: published, foreign editions, e-books, movie rights sold. That’s not the flavor I asked for at the counter – it was writing novels full time and supporting myself and family with same. With frequent sojourns on bestseller lists. I could have said, “that’s it, I didn’t make it, I quit.” But I didn’t. I’m still working on getting served the flavor I asked for. Ani DiFranco took a different approach. When a major label wanted to turn her into a ToriAmosPaulaColeAlanisMorissette angry chick or a diva, she bailed and started her own label, determined to do her music on her terms. Other people, when they encounter things they didn’t expect, simply bail.

6) Success means that everything changes. I’m beginning to think that the spectre of change is a bigger fear, a nastier ogre than that of public speaking. What does change entail? Look at the first five items on this list. Then add to that: everything else. Change equals stress. Having a change in employment status can bring just as much (if not more) stress than a death in the family. It’s not just me saying this – it’s the research of people who study such things. And if finding your mug on the cover of Fortune magazine because of your prowess with widgets isn’t an indicator of change, I don’t know what is. Apply to the music and writing analogies as needed.

What to do about it? I’m no expert, but I’m thinking this could be the big brother of something I touched on earlier, namely my contention that a writer’s support group may cease to function once they reach the goal of publication.

After all, we go to school and pay for higher education so we can all learn how to be a success. But what is there to prepare us for success? Anthony Robbins leads people to the brink, but does he tell people to do once they get there? Hmmm, once you’re hypnotized in the elevator, you’re on your own.

The only thing I can think of is Biblical principles, which are only accepted by a few, but which form the backbone of our notions of morality. The New Testament is a model of what it takes to lead yourself to change (in this instance, the initiation of a relationship with Christ and turning your life over to Him), and how to apply the principles that got you there to the rest of your life. Considering that the book of Acts shows how the Gospel touched the lives of everyone from humble fishermen to career soldiers to successful businesswomen (!), it’s a short leap to apply those same principles to dealing with success.

It’s all a matter of keeping things in perspective, really. With God at the center of it all (of course, God isn’t accepted by everyone, so he wouldn’t be seen as being much help in situations like that.)

No matter where you stand on the Biblical perspective, I think the answer is to prepare yourself (although it’s interesting to note here that one of the key concepts of Christianity is self-accountability – imagine that). This is something I’ve been trying to do over the years – think through the changes that success would bring on a number of different levels, from spirituality to privacy, and trying to put plans into place now that will make the transition easier when success comes. Whether or not this work is yet to be seen (as are things I no doubt have failed to take into account).

On the other hand, it could be that I’ve simply overanalyzed the whole concept of fear of success. Perhaps it’s a simple mechanism to keep the field from getting too crowded so those of us who are ready, willing and able can meet up with our responsibility.

Nobody ever complains about how crowded it is at the top.

NP – iTSP (Phil Manzanera & 801, “Listen Now”)