The Call of the Master Craftsman


I find myself watching “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy again, from beginning to end. I’ve watched it countless times, and before they were films, I counted myself among the thousands of fans of the books. For me, the Trilogy stands as one of greatest set of books ever written, especially considering that it really was the foundation for an entire genre of literature.

I’m getting closer and closer myself to retirement, and the thing they keep telling you is to make sure you have a purpose before you retire. How are you going to spend your last few years? What will be important to you? It’s obvious to me that I want to write books. That’s a given. But in addition to the excitement of having all that free time to work on my projects, there is a degree of trepidation that I am feeling as well. Because when you take away all the excuses, then, well you have to deliver. I can’t say teaching is in the way of my writing anymore, can I? No excuses. If I fall on my face, there is no one and nothing to blame but myself.

But as I think about it, I think about my goal in all this. Why am I spending my last years writing, other than simply the fact that I enjoy writing? (The reality is that some days I actually hate it, but enjoy having done it.) Am I doing it to make money? To become famous? To get on the New York Times bestseller list? I heard today that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today. I will have to admit that all of these things were at one time or another a goal of mine. But if I’m being honest with myself, that’s not really what’s it’s about.

Watching “The Lord of the Rings,” I remember the feeling of anticipation as I looked forward to the next film coming out. I’ve felt that way with books too. There’s nothing I love more than to find a book series that I can love, that I can lose myself in and lose track of time. It doesn’t matter how long it is; in fact, the longer the better. That’s a mark of craftsmanship to me. When I find myself wondering if I can endure the last 200 pages of a book, that’s not a good sign. But when I sigh in regret because the book is ending too soon, that’s good. That’s what I want from my books.

It would be good for my books to outlast me. I would like that. That’s what I will try for.

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