Veteran iUniverse novelist and experienced self-marketer Douglas Gardham tells us why “It’s Never Too Late”. Gardham is the author of The Actor and The Drive In.
I was asked the other day whether I was thinking of going back to the engineering world I’d left prior to publishing The Actor and The Drive In. I said ‘no’ quickly; maybe even a little tersely. It was a question I couldn’t remember having been asked. I never think of doing such a thing. The past finds its way into my work but I never think of returning to it.
But it made me think about how I’d come to be at this place.
My engineering world began many years ago following what turned out to be something of a monumental decision in my life. I’d been writing; mainly lyrics and some poetry, never thinking it would one day become as large as it has. Music was my thing and what I wanted to do but my band had broken up, and likewise my dream. I was left disappointed and scared. What was I going to do? I could put my decision down to trading dreams for a paycheck but that wouldn’t really be fair as that dream was more fantasy than something I was really willing to make real. With the good fortune of math and science on my side I went off to university to become an engineer. Today I know I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t confident or bold enough for what it takes to chase a dream or even to know what it was.
Though writing had found me already and knew it, I didn’t. It never let me go throughout my corporate work life. I was fortunate that it was writing. I could write and read anywhere—early morning, late at night or any spare minute or two—and at the same time experience the wonderful joy of marrying my best friend, becoming a father and watching my son and daughter grow up while I did too. I am beyond grateful every day for these wonders as it is doubtful they would have happened were I to have chosen to take the path of the artist back then.
What is incredible today is I am getting to live that dream. I do my best not to forget my good fortune. The Henry David Thoreau quote at the beginning of The Drive In has resonated with me for years, “Most men live their lives in quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” It’s a theme of The Drive In. I’m thankful daily that I’m not six feet under having never realized that song.
I’m now at the point where I don’t want to do anything as much as I want to write. The feeling is ever present like now as I write this piece. It’s not something on my bucket list to experience. It’s not a wonderful accomplishment to be proud of (though I am) but instead, more simply, it’s what I get to do. It’s what I’ve always done in a way since I was a young teenager (and if you include reading, even longer). There is a plan for my life. There is for everyone’s, but being mere mortals, it’s not ours to understand or even control despite many years of thinking to the contrary (remember math and science are my strong suits as an engineer). It is ours to live, however.
I’ll close with an interview I heard recently where Tom Petty was being interviewed promoting The Heartbreakers’ 40th Anniversary Tour. He was answering a question about his career and shared with the audience a question he’d been asked recently by a young musician. The young man had explained that he loved music and wanted to make a career out of it but something else had come up; an opportunity that looked pretty good, what should he do? Mr. Petty in his usual down-to-earth drawl told the young man that he should take the opportunity. The person interviewing Mr. Petty sounded surprised by his answer wondering why he would not encourage the young man to follow his dream. Petty explained that he’d been extremely fortunate as a young teenager, after seeing The Beatles and Elvis on television, of never wanting to do anything but make and perform music. He said that a life in the arts tests a person in ways that if there is anything else even remotely attractive or more interesting, experience had showed him that a person would eventually go there. It was a great piece of advice. If it’s supposed to happen, your time will come, and with it a chance to pursue it. You’ll know it when it does; it’ll be in your heart and you won’t want to do anything else.
It’s never too late.
If you haven’t yet read The Actor or The Drive In you can get them at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Chapters-Indigo or pretty much wherever you find books.