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Time to Get Back on Track
Sommer ist hier endlich da! Summer is finally here! After a somber winter and almost non-existent Spring, this past Saturday I strolled once again through the Haidhausen neighborhood to live that splendid European lifestyle. I was perched alone on a café terrace along Preysingerstraße where the trees filtered the morning sun. While reading the newspaper and sipping a coffee, the sounds of the clattering kitchen and a soothing jazz soundtrack poured through the windows. I smothered the flaky croissant before me in even more butter and topped it off with homemade chunky orange marmalade.
A sunny morning in Englischer Garten.
For such a relaxing setting, I was buzzing with energy after being relegated these past several months to park benches and walks in the park. There is really no room for complaining because I have been hiking in the mountains, shivering in the Alpine lakes, and made short excursions to Nuremburg and Bayreuth. All certainly noteworthy for this publication, but the reason for my absence is because of a swirling mind around topics and which platform to use. This all snowballed into a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, which I will generally spare you from, but please allow me to clear my throat a bit more.
I have had little fits this past month regarding the quality of my writing. If this drafting were done on paper the trash barrel next to me would be filled with crumpled up false starts. When I wrote for The Munich Times during my first year in Germany, I was just some guy keeping a journal for his family and friends. Rarely did I scratch my head wondering if my sentence and tense structure was correct. The resulting work probably made many of you early readers cringe, but at least I was pumping out stories and ruminations at a reliable rate.
Proclaiming myself as a writer though, has created internal expectations that I know what the hell I am doing. This is another example of needing to give myself a break since my last writing class was twenty-plus years ago. My dad recently mentioned the importance of good syntax. While nodding on the video screen and saying, "Of course," I looked up the definition of syntax. Clearly, I still need to work on the basics, but this old real estate dog can be taught new tricks.
These insecurities though pale to the bigger issue of lacking in time. School work has picked up recently and is requiring me to dedicate a portion of each day to either my master’s thesis or the latest assignment. I am on the home stretch for my MBA, but it is the most difficult part because the thesis must naturally be academic and technical. I am so not academic. Which was one of the questions in life I came here to answer: Could I become Professor Houts? Compared to my college years, there has been a slight negative correlation of beer intake to studying but more noticeable has been the positive correlation of beer intake to procrastination (i.e. no beer for me has equaled a little more studying in a timely manner). And the actual results? Not much difference is my sense. That is not necessarily a bad thing since I am quite proud of my undergrad performance, but I will again not be adorned with any special merits at graduation.
My lack of time is likely not engendering any sympathy from you, but I still need to vent on one last consternation: I cannot stand social media! There—I have said it. Unfortunately though as a writer, it has become abundantly clear that I must embrace this form of expression. My feelings on this subject over the last couple months have been on a roller coaster and totally convoluted. Just a year ago, I wished for its total demise and lighting would pass through me each time I thought about engaging on one these platforms.
I really must be going through a transformational time in my life, because I now see social media as a net positive to society. I will refrain from going on a rant specifically against Facebook, but social media actually brings me bits of joy. I know I'm about fifteen years late to the party, but it is nice to see what friends and family are up to. It also brings me laughter each day typically around golf jokes and Seinfeld; it gets me off my butt to exercise after being yelled at by @davidgoggins; or it introduces me to new music so I can give the Kenny Loggins playlist a break.
The issue though is engagement with others and what content to create on these platforms. Instagram seems to be the most natural fit for my personality and lifestyle. LinkedIn is also an appropriate place considering my business background. Twitter is a hotbed for writers, but my reading habits are not very well suited for it. My preference is to block out part of my day to read books and full-length articles rather than chase endless feeds that are too disorganized in my view. At least when you go to an actual newspaper or magazine website you can “work” a section and move through the publication. This all matters because I became a writer due to my love for reading. The grand idea is to transform everything I read (and experience) into some sort of prose that can be sold. As I see it, if my reading is sporadic, then so will be my writing.
And then there is TikTok. About a month ago I thought this was my answer to establishing a robust online presence. (The fact that I just described my desired goal of being “robust” probably means TikTok is not my domain. What am I trying to promote here? The latest CRM platform?) I think TikTok is phenomenal, but it is better suited for performing artists, which I use in the loosest of terms. I continually tell myself I will not dance in front of a camera to sell books, but if things get desperate…
So you can tell by now I am far from being at peace with my social media strategy. A wise old friend once told me that life is messy and that you will need to learn how to deal with it. There is nothing more messy than social media, but I will figure this out as well. Maybe I will post something that goes viral and launches me into TikTok stardom. Until then, it will simply be pretty pictures of Bavaria, commentary on buildings, or my latest reading about foreign policy measures.
Speaking of content, books and writing, my memoir is coming along nicely. I recently created a redline to see how it looks compared to a draft from three months ago and it is covered in red. Not one sentence has gone untouched. Actually, the whole book has been restructured and I am taking a much harder stance on chronology. Also, I am done listing off things about Kansas City, Munich and Germany. If I didn’t “experience” something related to the subject, then it gets axed. This should tighten up the story and leave room to delve deeper into important things like my feelings and why my dad changes his golf swing every year.
And now we swing and segue to my parents. (Look how good I am getting with my transitions, but is it “coherent”?) But seriously, I bring them up because Covid restrictions are easing in Germany and there might be a chance they can visit sooner than later. There is no order of operations where John and Martha must visit first, so if anybody else is yearning to jump the pond, let’s get something cooking. It’s changing daily and to my knowledge the border is still closed to U.S. tourists, but freedom of travel is coming!
This is all I have for the moment, but please do not hesitate to write back even if we have not spoken in a long-long time. Hearing from you and keeping these relationships alive is a major reason why I write. Take care und tschüss aus München!