Reciting Greek Epics, or a Fork In The Eye

First, a couple of announcements – the winner of last week’s Imaginary Jesus contest is Andy McCollough.  Congratulations Andy!  Just let me know where you would like your copy of Imaginary Jesus sent (em me at

Secondly, Tuesday’s are normally reserved for Tuesday’s Top Ten, but we’re switching things up a little this week.  I’m going to continue with the story I started yesterday, and Bryan Allain is going to take over the Top Ten as a guest post on Friday.  Rumor has it, he is doing a Top 10 Reasons TV is Good (or some impossible rubbish along those lines) – as some of you know, my wife and I have given up TV for the year, so I find this particularly vexing (but not as vexing as his constant bashing of Sweet Tarts).

Anyway, thanks for reading.  On with the story.


“Hey, how’s it going?” the guy in the suit asked.  The guy with too much cologne on.  The guy that looked like a lawyer from the early 1900s.

“Pretty good,” I said, pushing my headphone earbuds in tighter, turning up the music.  He didn’t get the hint.

“What are you doing?”

“Just writing.”

“Yeah, I hear you think you can make a living doing that?” he said, not in a mocking voice, but more the voice of a concerned, responsible counselor.

“I’ve got a couple deals lined up,” I said, shrugging.  “Should get us started, anyway.”

“Huh,” he said, but I could tell his wheels were turning.

“What do you mean, ‘huh’?”

“Do you really?  A couple of deals?”

“Well, there’s one,” I said defensively.

“Is there?”

“Well, kind of.  Almost for sure.  I’ll find out soon.”

“But what if that one doesn’t come through?”


“Are you sure this is responsible?” he asked.  “Doesn’t your family deserve more than this?  I mean, you can always write on the side, right?”

I didn’t know what to say, but decided to continue with my mumbling defense.

“It’ll work out,” I said.  “We’ve got a few months of income left.  I’ll find more work before then.”

He raised his eyebrows.  I stared hard at my computer.  I couldn’t write with this guy over there, chattering like a cricket.

“Can you just shut up so I can concentrate?  You’re driving me crazy!”

“Pardon me?”

I looked up.  It was the waitress.  The guy in the suit was gone.

“Sorry,” I said.  “I’m okay.  I mean, I don’t need anything.”

She looked a little worried, as if I might stand up on one of the tables and start reciting Greek epics.  Or stick a fork in my own eye.

But even though that guy had left, I could still feel him there, peering over my shoulder. Suddenly the whole idea that I could live my life doing something fun and exciting and meaningful felt stupid, and naive, and irresponsible.  I started walking around like a foreign spy, my neck shortened, my eyes darting from side to side.  When we first moved to Pennsylvania I was happy to tell people what I was doing.  Trying to make a living by writing.  But the more time passed, the more this guy in the suit convinced me it was selfish, and unattainable.

I changed the way I interacted with people:

“Hey, Shawn,” they’d say, “welcome back to Lancaster!” And at some point in the conversation: “So what are you up to?”

And instead of just saying, “I’m writing,” I’d say, “Oh, I’m writing for now, just for a few months, to see how it goes, you know, and if it doesn’t work out then I’ll look for something else.”

I started preparing myself for failure.  And soon, even though a few writing projects did come in, I started looking for a full time job.  I was losing faith.


To read the next post in this story, click HERE

To see the VERY beginning of this story, click HERE

7 Replies to “Reciting Greek Epics, or a Fork In The Eye”

  1. Don’t lose faith. My favorite story of all time is a scene in “the Chronicles of Narnia.” Peter, Susie and Lucy are trying to cross the almost thawed river. The enemy is closing in on both sides and all Peter has is fear and a sword. So, he takes the sword and jabs it into the ice and tells everyone to hold on. The ice breaks away and they were immediately swept under water. Then somewhere along the way they come up for air without Lucy. They make it to shore. Sometimes, that is what we need to do – cling to the word (sword) and hang on for dear life. We may go under, we may feel like we have been swept away but in the end, there is an end to the storm and what was lost to you will be returned.

  2. Haven’t we all been there, when the guy in the suit, the guy who seems respectable and reasonable, asks us the question we’ve been silently asking ourselves all along – is this the most responsible thing to do?

    Yes, of course it is. The only responsible thing to do is live into our full selves, the people we were created to do.

    But it is hard to keep our little men in suits quiet inside our own heads, huh?

  3. Are there not some answers to be had from weighing up priorities and whats actually important?

    Maybe the guy peering over your shoulder is giving some welcome guidance?
    Maybe its a feeling deep down of what the right strategy is for now?
    Does it have to be black and white?
    Just because you were looking for work, were you actually loosing faith or adapting to the current situation in the most logical way?

    Surely there can be a balance?

    1. Great points Ads. I think that, in response to your questions, I felt I had discovered what was really important for me (writing). And I had proven that I could make a living doing this, at least for a time. For me to stop writing simply because the lifestyle makes me uncomfortable or doesn’t provide me with traditional security, would be a sort of personal betrayal.

      I guess I believe that one thing that’s causing a lot of people unhappiness is that they are basing their vocation around how they can make the most money and buy the most stuff, and not necessarily around what brings them happiness or peace or satisfaction. I think this is a fundamentally flawed way of living, not necessarily just for any religious reasons, but because I think we will be happiest, and ironically most successful, engaging in activities that we are passionate about.

      “Surely there can be a balance?” you ask, and I think this is a great point. For many people the thing they most love to do cannot pay the bills. I would argue that the more time people spend doing these things they love, the more potential opportunities will arise for them to make money doing it. So for a while there does need to be a balance. The guest poster for Friday is a great example of that – Bryan Allain is very successful in his career, yet manages to devote a large amount of time to his writing. But the more that he has done that, the more opportunities open up for him in the writing field. I believe that one day he will be writing full time, b/c of the time he dedicates to it now.

      But I had reached a point where I needed to become unbalanced, at least for a time, and focus on writing 100%. We’ll see where it leads me.

      Does this make sense?

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