The Last Year Of A Minister’s Career

One of the things I noticed in my churchgoing time was a delightful change in the tone and content of the sermons during the last year of a minister’s career.

Understanding their time of delivering sermons was coming to an end seemed to bring out the best in them (imho) as they said exactly what they’d always wanted to say.

They didn’t have to worry about being fired (they were about to leave anyway). They didn’t have to worry about upsetting the congregation with their opinions and Mrs. Whatshername couldn’t do anything about their opinions. They didn’t have to stick to the list of “official sermons” or they could modify them to their heart’s content. This last year was the last kick at the can and the closer to the end, the better and more honest the words.

I note every church has a Mrs. Whatshername and if you go to church you can easily identify this individual. If you can’t – it might be you. But I digress.

That last year was the time I really paid attention in church (admit it, your mind wanders too) 😉

So What’s The Last Year Of A Minister’s Career Got To Do With Anything

I’ve adopted the idea this is my last year of writing before I retire.

To be honest, it may or may not be. But if I treat the words and ideas as if they were the last time I could say them… well…. I’m going to enjoy myself a whole lot more.

And for the record, I’m already retired or as retired as a writer ever gets.

I’m Now Writing For Me.

I’m not writing for Google rankings or using SEO (search engine optimization) techniques, I’m just writing the words that come out the ends of my fingers.

And from one morning to the next, I no longer know which words will decide to rise to the challenge. Or, even if they’ll come out. Or whether I’ll publish them.

It’s like having twenty years of writing ahead of me but with each day being my last.

The Questions

Two questions spring to my mind: 1) Why I didn’t do this sooner?

And, 2) whether you have the same problem and haven’t broken out of it yet as well?

or 3) have I misidentified what happens in the last year of a minister’s career?

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My Story Continues And Ends With Profanity

  • Garden writer starts with a small regional paper
  • Moves to a larger city paper
  • Writes a book
  • Gets an agent
  • Gets published several times.
  • Wins award for best writing in garden books
  • Starts writing online
  • Get several more print books published
  • Internet bubble takes out publishing companies. Advances shrink (really low if at all.)
  • Writer goes all in on Internet and advertising revenue
  • Create seven websites – a gardening empire
  • Facebook comes along
  • Intrepid writer continues
  • E-books arrive and writer begins publishing himself.
  • Welcomes Facebook.
  • Welcomes YouTube.
  • Welcomes e-books at Amazon.
  • Writer shuts down six of the time sucking, low-income websites.
  • Uploads multiple e-books.
  • Facebook, YouTube and Google search all have algorithms determining content value
  • Writer and garden-expert can’t compete with Facebook’s own internal content, forums etc. Shuts down his membership site and Q&A forums.
  • Keeps Amazon ebooks.
  • Pretty much stopped Facebook as he refuses to work for free for the biggest and richest content source in the world.
  • Youtube is being evaluated for value. (update: video at Facebook is being evaluated as you read this.)
  • Writer realizes his gardening experience won’t get passed down unless he gives it all away and finds another way to eat and pay the mortgage.
  • Writer takes a deep breath, says, “screw it” and retires from full time garden writing.
  • Writer realizes he’s a storyteller at heart, so he switches to fiction.

The story continues…

A few weeks after I wrote this draft, the data came out that video at both Youtube and Facebook were now the preferred way for delivering content on the Net. In other words, video was now more popular than text and the two largest Networks controlled video delivery.

As you might expect, I’ll have more on this in the near future.

(Insert “F” profanity), here we go again.

I’m Having A Mid-Life Crisis

I’ve probably said this a thousand times in the past year, “I never thought I’d retire.” Part of that is I’m a storyteller and I can’t see stopping telling stories. Just can’t.

Another part is I didn’t plan to retire. I have no idea how to retire. And I’m not totally convinced I want to retire.

Instead of retiring, I think I’m going to have yet-another mid-life crisis. Having one of those has always worked for me in the past. I’m probably up to ten or eleven of them.

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis?

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis? The answer to that is the same way his twenty-seven year old self did when he built his first small greenhouse on the back of his house. He simply looked at what he was doing in his civil-service, hospital job, tossed every option into the air and sees what catches his fancy as they all drifted down to crash onto the floor.

And yes, some of you may not consider your 70’s as “mid-life.” I have no idea either but if I decide I’m mid-life it gives me far more options than if I decide I’m “old-life.”

So everything – absolutely everything – has been tossed into the air.

The process is simple

The process is simple.

  1. Write out a list of the things I’d most like to do.
  2. Eliminate the impossibles.
  3. Consider what remains.

I’ve decided playing in the NHL is likely out of my reach. For the record, as a high-school aged athlete, I played goalie against a few players who went onto hockey careers. When their slap-shots were pinging off the posts and I’d never seen the puck coming, I knew it was time for two things: 1) get glasses and 2) never, ever get back between the pipes. Both of those things have been successfully accomplished.

Ditto driving for F1 or NASCAR. I don’t think I could afford the laundry bill I’d need after driving at those speeds surrounded by some totally crazy drivers intent of passing me one way or the other. I mean, have you ever seen what a car does when it’s going about 200 mph and somebody deliberately gives you a “push” with their bumper on the rear of your car?

I’ve either driven or been in a car in Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, France and Jordan in rush hour – those were all close enough.

FYI – the craziest, without a doubt, was Amman, Jordan. As an example, I was in a car on a regular city road – two lanes (one in each direction)- when rush-hour drivers morphed it into a three-lane road all going in one direction. Want to go in the other direction? Sorry you’re SOL.

Garden writing?

What about more garden writing? Well, let me tell you a true story. I had a small but specialized flower nursery with about 20,000 square feet of greenhouse growing space (plus some outdoor beds) along with an equal sized retail operation. We grew somewhere around 1900 species/varieties of perennials and 600-800 kinds of annuals and vegetables. It supported the family and it was pleasant enough work to support our decision to live in the country.

I gave a talk to a local group about starting seeds and one of the Harrowsmith magazine editors was also speaking. After the seminar, she asked me if I’d consider putting my talk into an article format. I said sure. (With 4 growing kids, you don’t refuse any gig.)

It took me about an hour to write up my notes into an article. Another hour or two editing it and it was shoved into mail and forgotten in the ongoing nursery work.
A while later, a package from the magazine arrived with my article nicely laid out between the covers and more importantly a rather large (for the time) cheque.

  • My response was to look at the size of the cheque.
  • Remember the number of hours I spent on it.
  • Decide this was far more profitable and pleasant than fixing balky furnaces at 2am when it’s 40F below and you have 10-15 minutes to get the furnace fixed or drop $20,000 of your gross income.

Over the next few years, I wrote more and more to become an award-winning garden writer and never regretted it for a second.

But then the Internet and “fake news” arrived. Sigh…

I’m not getting into a content production battle

Garden writing has changed with the rise of social media and content farms producing garden information. I once met the owner of one of these content farms at a wedding and we had a really interesting discussion over dinner about what his team did. But as a single writer, I can’t duplicate what they’re doing. I no longer even want to try.

And don’t get me going about fake gardeners who promote “solutions” like milk powder for tomato blossom end rot or Epsom salts for damn near every other garden problem.

Getting into a content production battle isn’t on my life list of things I want to do. I’m tired of that fight so while I’ll continue to post, I’ve cut back… way back.

And what about fiction?

I just finished putting both of my pen names on hold. Lots of fun to write but I’m retired and I’m putting damn near everything on hold to evaluate and decide what I want to do. I may bring them back and I may not.

Hence the mid-life crisis (again).

I have other stories I’d like to tell and some tech “stuff” I’d like to play with. I have personal gardens to build, tons of stone to pile creatively, friends to hang with, cool plants to find, books to read (oh, so many books and new ideas!) and a mid-life crisis to enjoy.

There’s a good chance I’ll return to storytelling and writing but…

What’s next? Who knows? I’ll have to get back to you.

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