Jack-of-Many-Trades

jack of all trades2

There’s an old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s been on my mind frequently as of late. I use the word ‘many’ in the title since I am not a Jack-of-ALL-trades but rather a person of many talents who has not bothered to master any of my talents. I’m a dabbler; I like to dip my toes in here and there, testing different waters and enjoying different experiences to enrich myself and my life. Or so I’ve told myself over the years. Perhaps I’m just unwilling to go the distance in one area – no, that would be boring. Maybe it’s why writing (still) appeals to me. I can test different waters again and again without it feeling repetitious. There’s so much to explore in both fiction and nonfiction realms. Unlike Hollywood, which seems to be running out of (good and original) ideas, the people who live the stories will continue to have stories to tell. And write.

Even when feeling lost (as I am this week, for some reason), we are still living our stories, they are around us and in us. We must draw from our well of jack-of-many-trades when our stories need help. I’m having a crisis of confidence this week so I’m having difficulty drawing from other areas of my life to get busy writing beyond this blog (which I avoided for over a week). I’m also avoiding a crucial re-write of segments of one of my fiction novels; to be honest, I feel like I’ve failed the story by getting those segments wrong. As a dabbler, it’s sometimes difficult for me to fully invest the time and energy and focus because I’m convinced I need to be elsewhere in my life. Truth is, I’m avoiding the one thing I want most – to finish the novel and publish it. Not sure why.

The down side of being a jack-of-all-trades is that boredom sets in quickly; we are fast learners who get what we need from a situation/job/story/etc., then move on. We tend to have multiple things on our plate (job/s, hobbies, etc.) so our attention is often drawn away from where we need to be in our stories. At the moment, I do have some more important tasks at hand but I add more tasks rather than go back to finish what remains incomplete. Aspects of the novel ramble about in my mind yet I avoid updating the manuscript.

The upside of a jack-of-all-trades is we can draw from many corners of our lives because we have experienced life spherically – in all directions. We can use our ‘dabbling’ as a force that pulls pieces of a story together like the many colors of yarn that weave a beautiful tapestry or rug.

I’m trying to find a way to use what I have learned as a jack-of-all-trades in my stories and in my life. Are you?

jack of all trades

Bad Choices = Good Stories

This week’s blog was inspired by a t-shirt worn by a man who strolled by me the other day. It read: Bad Choices Make Good Stories. I laughed to myself as I fondly remembered some instances where that was most certainly true in my life. Like the time I “hijacked” a limo with a friend…that one always gets a good laugh and a “I can’t believe you weren’t arrested!” response. We were young (and very drunk) and, many of you would agree, almost obligated to make bad decisions at that age (the ripe ol’ age of 23). Or the time the police paddy wagon showed up at our overly-raucous beach house party, headlights beaming on the idiot standing in the driveway with a bottle of Stoli’s in her hand (yep, that was me; and no, I wasn’t arrested that time, either, cuz I ran like a jackrabbit).

Artists paint/draw from painful experiences, as do poets and writers in general. We draw upon those bad choices and negative experiences that life throws our way. In other words, as writers/artists, when we’re given lemons, we make lemonade. The badder the choice, it seems, the saucier the story (probably why I made so many; keeps the stories interesting). Those bad choices add color to our lives, not to mention bragging rights with the grandkids and anyone else who’ll listen.

My point is this: don’t be afraid to make bad choices. They make life more interesting, create the tall tales of adventure and hi-jinks, and carry us into old age with a certain wisdom and appreciation – which can only be gained by making those bad choices – preferably in our youth. (Although I admit I still like a little naughty in my life. At my age, it keeps the blood circulating!)

The Write to Roam

I want to learn more about how to live life on the road and write while I’m on it. I want to upgrade my car to an RV. That way wherever I roam, I’m already home. No more spending hard-earned money on a storage unit to keep my life in and no more wasting money on rent. Or trying to prove I’m a good person so some management company will rent an over-priced apartment to me; or a roommate who doesn’t fear I’ll sneak into her room late one night and stab her 150 times just for the helluva it.

(A quick aside: I firmly believe credit checks are a new form of discrimination against people  who have fallen on hard times – once known as the middle class – and are scrambling to work their way up from the pit of poverty they’ve fallen into thanks to greedy politicians and corporations determined to serve their own purposes over our needs.)

I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time, and recent events have perhaps emboldened me to JUST DO IT (or at least begin to plan for it).

I want to roam North America and meet people from all walks of life, which I’ve already done on four brazen cross-country trips as I moved to some new location, having become bored with the last one, because it became stale and uninteresting. I enjoyed meeting people for those brief moments, while they allowed me a glimpse into their storied lives.

One of my favorite memories came on my first cross-country trip (on the move from CT to NM on a semester break from graduate school): Charlie and his two friends (shame on me, I didn’t note all their names and have since forgotten) were riding their Harleys to the Sturgis bike rally in August of 2005. We met while staying at a small motel in Kanorado, a spit of a town on the border of Kansas and Colorado, hence the name. If memory serves me, we met while checking in at the front desk. We chatted while checking in and exchanged reasons for needing rooms. They were pleasant fellows and invited me to have breakfast with them the following morning after checkout, at a nearby diner. We had great conversation and I remember laughing most of the time. They hailed from Alabama and had a slight drawl in their speech. Charlie (the fellow on the furthest right in the photo on the left) was just a big teddy bear and he’s the one who made me laugh the most. This is what I remember of these guys and always will. Funny how people who barely touch your life can become some of the most memorable recollections. And now I get to write about them, weaving them into my life’s story.

I’ve been doing some research into starting a podcast as another MPC and it seems awfully techie to me at this point, which has a tendency to deflate my enthusiasm. There are excellent tips on the Smart Passive Income site by Pat Flynn and on some other sites I found. Hope to build it up to a point where I can actually provide for myself from it and give myself the gift of life on the road. Wouldn’t it be grand to podcast from every corner of North America!

A nomadic lifestyle, once the cornerstone of life on this continent (thanks to the many Indigenous peoples who have lived here for eons), has once again become popular. Somewhere in between being strangled by a 30-year mortgage (where the house owns you, not the other way around, as most people proclaim) and working in a square-peg-round-hole, soul-sucking J-O-B, many folks have felt the need to escape a life of conformity and embrace adventure into the unknown. Like Charles Kuralt and his always interesting On the Road series and travel books, I wish to embrace the freedom, challenge, and all the details of a life on the road – so I can have the write to roam.

The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.

{Charles Kuralt}

It was so much fun to have the freedom to wander America, with no assignments. For 25 or 30 years I never had an assignment. These were all stories I wanted to do myself. 

A Feast of Words for Your Palette

I just finished reading a lovely little book titled “A Feast at the Beach” by Willaim Widmaier. In the book he shares childhood memories of his summers in Provence, France (what a terrible childhood he had) with his grandparents. What I enjoyed most was that he included some delicious, old-world, mouth-watering French recipes that his grandparents served in their cozy cottage in St. Tropez. The recipes made his story come more alive for me while I envisioned the smells, tastes, and colors of the delectable dishes. It’s the kind of book I’ve not read often but enjoy when I happen upon one. (This one was a freebie offered at a recent writer’s meetup, so of course I took advantage.)

Another book I discovered several years ago, titled “How to Cook a Dragon: Living, Loving, and Eating in China,” details the life and food adventures of a Japanese woman (who is also a journalist) living in China. It’s a poignant tale laced with the most scrumptious recipes for authentic Chinese cuisine not seen here in America, unless you’re Chinese and cook them at home. Aside from the food, the story is delightful and a highly recommended read.

I enjoy books like these because they bring together food, family, friends, and their stories. I love to eat good food, share it with family and friends, and write/tell stories. They are the parts of life that bind together families, friends, and occasionally strangers. Not to mention that the authors are generous enough to share fabulous recipes with the world – and I am more than happy to take what they have given and add them to my kitchen repertoire. Language, food, and family are fundamentally tied together and books like these remind me of that. Makes me want to plan a family picnic and have everyone bring a family recipe dish. 

The books I mentioned here also use language (names and ingredients of the recipes, conversations between characters in the books) as part of the story – in these cases, French and Mandarin respectively. Because I also love languages (and have studied/dabbled in several over the course of my life), I see how it connects food to culture and people. It has always fascinated me, the way culture/language develop around the various cuisines of the world. That’s why I like Anthony Bourdain’s shows (on CNN) – he connects food with people and their cultures, and makes the food seem all that much more delicious.

Do you have a story to share where food is the centerpiece? I started writing a draft for a cookbook/family photo album years ago and it’s still a work in progress. But I love that every time I work on it, I’m taken down memory lane and get to re-live so many of the delicious made-from-scratch recipes I grew up eating. If you have a story like that to tell, don’t keep it to yourself, share it. Share it and let the world revel in the smells, tastes, and colors of your life story.