Every day, we face decisions. Writers face them on a minute by minute basis; is that the right word, should this be before or after that, can I just cut this, is this working and so on.
Every decision we make in life has knock on effects, and we call these effects consequences.
Consequences can be large or small, depending on the decision and its weight. They can be good or bad, although mostly they yield varying degrees of both, it all depends.
The impact of bad consequences can sometimes last for years, or even decades, and affect many more people than just the one who makes the decision.
Indeed, those who undertake roles of leadership can bring good or bad consequences upon countless numbers of individuals and those consequences can ring down through history.
For us as individuals, making too many poor decisions can develop within us a fear of making any decisions at all, and in this I am a good example.
My family now lives with the consequences of some decisions I made earlier in my life, ones I made with both pride and arrogance; paths chosen for the furtherance of my own wont and desires that it would have been much wiser to have avoided.
When it was first suggested to me that I should take up writing as a career, my initial reaction was to steer clear of that idea and nurture within myself a complete loathing of any such concept.
The mere thought of dedicating countless hours in the pursuit of yet another art form that I happened to have some talent for filled me with dread.
I thought of my long-suffering wife and children; the wife working to provide for us all and the children trying their best to adjust to a father figure who appeared, at least on the surface, to be completely useless; sitting in front of a computer and wincing every time he moves.
Over a year later I still keep making veiled searches for reassurance, asking if I am not wasting my time, is the book any good, and so on.
This is fear, I know, because I can feel it and I know it well.
If this turns out to be a waste of time yet again, can I survive it?
The Road Out, not surprisingly, is centered around a decision.
It is a life changing decision for both the decision maker and his family.
I have plenty of experience in this area, I have made many such decisions in the past, which is why I sit here now instead of driving home from a well-paying job, quite a few of which I have had in the past and every one of which I have walked away from.
As I developed the story, it grew from quite a benign tale of a young family finding happiness, to a tale littered with wreckage strewn around a man after deciding to forsake what was laid out to him as his future.
How it got there is through my own examination of the decision he makes and asking myself, “What could possibly go wrong here?” and then making that stuff happen.
I think, in a way, I inflicted the kind of consequences I have experienced myself upon our hapless character, and then left him to work his way through it.
I did not leave him to flounder through on his own, though.
I gave him a couple of things I have had to do without for most of my life; an older mentor with a kind heart and a wealth of experience and a way out of his situation that promises long-term gain in this world.
I think, in a way, the mentor is me, as I am now, and the protagonist is me as I was, much earlier in my life.
I’ve spent some time lately reviewing the way life has turned out for me and mine, and it has caused me to stop and think a little more positively toward my past blunders.
They’re still mistakes, no two ways about it, but they have yielded not only bad consequences, but some benefits, too, which aren’t apparent when you are too busy remonstrating with yourself to take proper note.
For one thing, I have learned much; lessons can be taken wherever we find them and in the shattered remains of things we once valued there are lessons aplenty.
For another, my immediate family is still with me, their love and devotion has been made evident to me over the years of hard times that lay behind us.
Whatever road we choose in the future will be chosen and taken together and I know I need not check to see if they are still with me, as I know they always will be.
Yet another thing I have is a wealth of experience in so many different things in life that I am never without material for my writing.
I still play music at a level that brings me great satisfaction, even though my injuries preclude me from any kind of career in something I still love dearly.
I titled this post with a deliberate misnomer, a falsehood that is obvious to anyone who has lived with the consequences of what some would label as a ‘Wrong’ decision.
Bad decisions are something that are real; but right and wrong decisions, in my experience, are fictional constructs made by those who fail, or even refuse, to look close enough at all the consequences of the decisions they have made.
There is always some good to be found, some nugget of wisdom we can take away from any experience we may suffer.
Maybe I’m not a good writer, but I’m having a ton of fun doing it and learning more every day.
I may never see success from this, or any other venture I try, but there is no way I could ever say I came away from trying something without learning a damn thing.
If I did, I would only have myself to blame for that.
One mistake I have made in the past, one ‘Bad’ decision I have made many times that I am determined never to repeat again, is that I am so weak-willed I allow someone else to make a decision for me.
Sales people tend to give me a wide berth these days, as do those who have taken it upon themselves to decide for me in the past; mainly because these days my initial reaction to a person like that is to fire a broadside first and ask questions second, if they’re still standing.
I will end this with a quote from The Road Out, which sums it up quite well, I think. The speaker is our heroes mentor, Sigmund “Ziggy” Schwarz:
Ziggy pointed a finger at Arthur. “Never is a strong word, Artie; but remember, I have seen certainties crumble overnight. Patience is the key, as is never giving up on your dreams. What do you think I would have said at the start of 1934, if someone had told me that in six months’ time I would abandon Team Mercedes overnight, hmm?”
He smiled at the sheepish grin on Arthur’s face. “Exactly, my young friend,” he thumped his fist on the table, “Exactly.”
“Times change, opportunities present themselves and we either grab hold of them or we let them pass. Nobody can make that choice for us, though. It’s something I learned many years ago; there are no right or wrong decisions in life. There are only decisions, with varying consequences. Some turn out to be good decisions, some not so good, and some bad.
“We must decide these things for ourselves, Arthur,” he said, leaning forward to emphasize his point, “because we are the ones who reap the consequences of them. If we allow others to choose for us, it is still us who have to live with the results of those choices, and that is not right.”