Reinvent Your Way to a Headache

Reinvent Your Way to a Headache

I’ve had some ups and downs of late trying to “reinvent” myself.

And since we’re on that subject, I want to start by saying a huge “THANK YOU” to everyone who responded to last week’s call to spread the word about the Slaughterhouse. I appreciate your efforts in helping the sketches reach a wider audience. Remember to use the buttons at the end of every post to share via social media. And tell your friends who aren’t on social media (lucky them) that they can get weekly updates from the Slaughterhouse via email.

You might be asking “what the hell does Clark do all day, besides mope about the lack of traffic to his precious ‘blog?’” My wife asks that question frequently, too. I often try to answer poetically: “He drinks tea and stares wistfully at his computer screen, hoping the words will come.”

Here’s the truth. I’m trying to reinvent myself and my career at, as my daughter puts it, “a somewhat later stage in life.” It sounds exciting, right? And it is, except when it’s a complete pile of garbage.

Stay in your lane

I invested more than 20 years in learning how to do radio journalism well. I played the long game, and, on balance, I think it was worth the time and effort. Every success, though, carries the seeds of its own crippling failure. Be good at something, and people expect you to keep doing that one thing, especially if your competence is what’s keeping those people employed. Go outside their comfort zone, and you will likely hear “stay in your lane” or one of its many variants. 

Then, one day, I realized I wasn’t just sick of hearing “stay in your lane,” but that I felt the entire highway was nothing but a mere illusion. Or maybe a delusion. Or a giant traffic jam. Whatever the case, I was tired of driving, so I decided to get out of the car. Yes, I walked away and left it idling in the middle of the road, but at least I left the keys in it. I realized the prospects for even incremental personal change had vanished, and that meant it was time for a wholesale swap of scenery and purpose. Hence Holland, the Slaughterhouse, tea, and writing.

And how’s that working out?

Holland’s great, but the country’s marketers have decided it will only be called The Netherlands from now on. I have a loophole, though, because I live in the province of Noord-Holland. So, still Holland. As far as the tea goes, it’s strong and abundant. And the Slaughterhouse, despite its gruesome name, is a fine place to live, even for an “almost vegan” like myself.

Oh, and that small matter of trying to reinvent myself and my career? I spend many long, unsure days talking to a crazed kitten while squeezing the half-baked contents of my brain onto a computer screen. A screen that is too small for eyes, I might add. You might call the entire project a real “work in progress.”

Someone asked me recently how my writing was going. Here’s what I said: “Editors once assigned me stories about a real world that nobody wants to live in. Now, I create fictional worlds that different editors are pretty sure nobody wants to live in either.”

Did I mention I’m a bit of a cynic?

By the end of my journalism career, I was in the position of saying “no” to a lot of other people’s story ideas. Now, I’m the one who waits for weeks and gets the note that says “this just didn’t take off for me.” It’s humbling and it’s frustrating. But, I banged my head against one wall for 20 years, so why not do it again? After all, “50 is the new 30,” right? If I work hard, I can make my 60s feel like my 40s again.

I will probably need a lot more tea, or something a bit stronger, if this whole “reinvent yourself” thing is going to work.

Anyway, I have made a few small dents in that new wall. Here are a few of them:

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