Friday, February 19, 2016

Great Expectations Ain’t no Carnival Ride, Harry!

Here is the latest from Brad Leach, my new contributor.  We decided on the blog's name of Mental Can Openers & Writer's Hash.  Onward, Brad....

I had a friend of mine ask me what are my writing expectations?  An excerpt from the movie, Beat the Devil sums it up rather nicely:
Billy Dannreuther: I've got to have money. Doctor's orders are that I must have a lot of money, otherwise I become dull, listless and have trouble with my complexion. 
Gwendolyn Chelm: But you're not like that now, and you haven't any money.
Billy Dannreuther: It's my expectations that hold me together.

Isn’t that true for all of us?  Money really does help with our complexion.  (I bet you thought I was going to say, ‘expectations hold us together.’)  Now, if money does impact complexion, I expect my first writing efforts to supply a face somewhere south of Freddie Kruger.  My own personal rendition of Nightmare on ‘Dell’ Street.

Nobody who has looked seriously at freelance writing proceeds because of the fantastic money.  Making money as a writer is akin to buying a Lottery ticket - a few make wads of money, a few scrape by in grottos and attics, most pay more than they get.   Of course, I would like to make enough to augment a sub-poverty retirement in a dying Kansas town.  You know the kind of place.  They’re still hoping to pave the streets, empty houses are given away as raffle prizes and the mayor is some truck driver who frequents the Interstate diner.  We’ll see.

But beyond money, do expectations really hold us together?  Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”  I imagine he was a perfectionist.  I know for me, unrealistic expectations are a plague.  I catch a great phrase on paper, a great idea, and I see the next Tolkien or Harry Potter happening.  Then I write a page, read it and see it isn’t Harry Potter.  It’s not even Harry Potter’s shadow in a London fog. 

I slink away from the keyboard like Charlie Brown when he killed the little Christmas tree.  Someone shot my expectations.  Now heartache’s got the car keys - (gads, another Country and Western classic in the making!  Buck Owens slide over a stool.)  Then I crawl back to the screen for another try.  A great sentence pops out and I see visions of....  I’ve been on this ride so often, the carnival barker pays me. 

I’m slowly learning to leave expectations to God.  (I’m currently leaving the money issues to God as well, hoping He’ll run a cattle drive to Dodge, with some o’ His cows on them thar hills.  Yes, Dad’s up there with His streets of gold, and I’m a shovel-ready project!) 

I also try to find the fun in the story and not worry it’s not at the level of Tolkien.  Why, you’d have to bury my manuscript six feet down to reach his current level. (Rim shot please)  I remember that for 25 years, I ‘9 to 5'ed it, skipping most vacations.  Now, my whole writing career feels like a vacation.  Sure money’s uncertain.  But the only place I know where three meals and a roof are guaranteed is called prison.  Freedom includes freedom to fail. 

Remember what Groucho Marx once said, “You’re never too old to fail.”  Well, move over New York!  If I can stumble there, I can stumble anywhere.  It’s all up to me.  That’s what the big gal in the harbor carries her torch for.  And if the books don’t pay, I might even condescend to be mayor of a dying town in Kansas.  I like truck stop food.

MORE OF BRAD'S BLURB: The Dragon’s Mist Chronicles: The Last Ride in the Moonlight:

First part can be found here

Fortunately Riddley can leave his troubles behind and take up a new home and career at Dragon’s Mist, an enclave of magic-wielding chandlers. He just needs a few sponsors. And they want a few simple tasks performed for the good of the castle. But fish wives say, "Simple is found in the hungry dragon’s eyes."


  1. Oh my goodness, Brad. You've got me snickering and bursting out in the occasional laugh...people in cubicles around me are starting to wonder about me, LOL!

    I love your sense of humor, but I also love the realism you've colored over the writing profession. Yes, you have freedom, which DOES include the freedom to fail. I hear you. Just because you put the ol' butt in the seat does not mean success. But, if you're willing to learn from your mistakes, there's always a chance you'll run through those New York streets rather than stumbling.

    I pray that kind of success for all of us.

    I'm shovel ready right beside you, Brad.

  2. Fun and informative, Brad. I may very well join you and the family in that tiny Kansas town. Does the mayor need a secretary? Cheers

  3. As always, you had me laughing, Brad, while at the same time I was nodding at the truth in your post. It's difficult when our expectations aren't met, but giving ourselves permission to fail and recognizing that failure is a learning experience are key steps on the path to achieving those expectations.

    As for the truck-driving mayor, in one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" stories, the mayor of the not-dying town where I used to live in New Jersey was -- drum roll, please -- a driver for UPS.

  4. Brad,

    You leave me speechless and breathless with your observations and conclusions. You manage to seamlessly combine humor, spirituality, and irreverence with your wit and insight. Thank you for sharing yourself with lesser mortals like myself.--Jane