Keeping Calm and Writing On… Even While in the Midst of War

So you say you just can’t find the time to write?  I’ll take your whine and add some cheese.  J.R.R. Tolkien did some of his best work in a war-torn France.  Or so the legend goes.  Apparently, much of Middle Earth and the Hobbit were developed in the throes of World War I, while a young Private James hunkered down with his fellow British troops and “Left-tennants”, waiting for the order to move or fire or break out the tea for second breakfasts.  Hemingway found himself in WW I a.k.a. “The Great War” as well, performing duties as a medic.  I don’t know if he did any real writing while trying to keep the troops alive, but he kept calm and bandaged on even after taking some schrapnel.  He received an award for his heroism, and later published a book a few folks might have heard of: A Farewell to Arms.  C.S. Lewis fought in the Great War and was wounded during his tour as well.  F. Scott Fitzgerald served.  So did E. E. Cummings.  A. A. Milne, the creator of Pooh.  R. A. Galindo (that’s me).  Yes, the famous/infamous-in-my-own-mind Rod “Gilly/Galiano/Galiendo” Galindo has packed up and flown off to war three times now, and each time I found a way to carve out time to record my creative side on one medium or another.

In Operation Desert Storm, one Private Galindo sat on his tank during the lonnnnng borrrring days (if not weeks) between moments of sheer panic and wrote a silly alternate-reality of my own life, “Yaj and Dor in the Johnson County Empire.”  Which, I’m sad to admit, still sits unfinished even after a quarter century.  I also started a comic called “The School Daze of Suzi Shelton”, which follows the misadventures of a girl with an over-active imagination who tends towards bad decisions, but is the moral compass for an angst-ful group of misfits in their senior year at Helivius High, Class of 2032.  I should really take a ninth look at those sometime.  One last thing I did was paint giant, mean-looking eyes on either side of the long, 155 mm gun tube on my M-1A1.  It got partially blown up a couple of months later.  Unfortunately my crew and I were still inside when it happened.  Fortunately, three of the four of us escaped with not even a scratch; those tanks are frickin’ tough.  Our driver got back to his old joke-cracking self in short order, after being evacuated to Germany for flash-burns to his eyes.  He was closest to the point of impact so he took the worst of it.  He was a fighter, that one.  And the tank’s eyes survived as well, which I was happy about.  The government then hauled it off for study in a secret location, it being the only modern tank to take a direct hit from another modern tank and survive (Private Galindo drove it off the battlefield the next day because we no longer had a driver, remember).  We sat with it for a week in a boneyard awaiting repair parts when finally a civilian crew came by, took radiation readings, and promptly told us to get off that tank like yesterday.  Then another civilian dude stopped by and told us the entire event never happened like we remembered it, and gave us another story to relay to anyone who asked.  It was then that I realized all those silly T.V. shows and movies where the government covers up stuff weren’t so far-fetched after all.  You might not have noticed, but I left out most of the intricate details of the story.  That’s for your own good and my legal protection, just in case.  Anyway, we were issued another tank, assigned another driver (we’re all nicely replaceable by design), and then told to catch up with our unit which was a whole bundle of kilometers away by that point.  Luckily the 100-hour war was over by that time and there were no more instances of sheer panic, so I was able to get a lot more writing and drawing done.  Win-win.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, Captain Galindo worked on various short stories and drew a few pretty pictures before I foolishly listened to a fellow soldier and was soon very deeply distracted by an international, online, fantasy MMORPG.  If you don’t have a clue what that is, don’t look into it.  If you do know, don’t do it.  Don’t let yourself fall into such reindeer games, it’s an absolutely unnecessary distraction.  You don’t have that many hours to waste.  I’d go into how I became the leader of my own alliance, stacked my band of merry men (and women) with a bunch of military officers, and was soon hated by pretty much the entire compliment of young players on that particular server because “we were obviously cheating” due to our age and experience, but you don’t have time for that.  And that, likely because of us, the game’s rules and overall scheme was reworked to discourage such evil, grown-up shennanigans from ever happening again, but you don’t have time for that either.  Heck, I would steal away at lunchtime, leaving behind an actual REAL war going on all around me just to make sure I stayed on top of a silly FAKE war going on inside a friggin’ computer.  I just couldn’t let my team down!  But you don’t have the time nor likely the patience to listen to that nonsense, either.  Just stay away from games, that’s the Lesson Learned here.

Now, in Operation Inherent Resolve, Major Galindo is, well, let me illustrate a typical day for me.  Each morning, waaaay too early, I pour my ass out of my bunk, SHAVE (which I hate more than just about anything), walk to a high-stress job because I’m not allowed to have a car, stay at said job 12 to 14 hours a day, all the while praying I don’t end up responsible for an international incident and/or walk by a television and see myself on CNN with the word “Dumbass Gun Bunny” splayed across the bottom of the screen (gun bunny is what they call Artillerymen).  I then mope back to my barracks, shower the daily nasty off, catch up with my friends and kids and extended family on social media until oh, about 11 p.m. or midnight (which is 3 or 4 p.m. back home), then stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. pounding on little plastic letters to get just a teeny bit farther in one of my short stories or novels.  Often, day and night, gunfire roars just outside my window.  It’s only training; no one is actually throwing lead at each other in anger (not at the moment, anyway), but it sure does sound like a war zone.  No, I’m not cooking, I’m not taking care of little kids, I’m not having to stay up on laundry or keep the jungle at bay (mowing and weed eating), but I’m still just as exhausted as single moms usually are.  When you put most Americans’ lives up against the daily struggles of a mom or a soldier (and sometimes those two people are one and the same!), perspective tends to change.  In my humble opinion, the majority of Americans (and most citizens of the “Western” World), have ample time in their day to be creative if they really give a rat’s ass about being so.  When I’m not at war (and there have always been a good 10 to 15 years between each of my tours), I’ll readily admit I don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to not finding time to write.  So I tend to kick my own ass on a daily basis to knock out that next short story or novel.  Just ask my kids or my girlfriend or even my ex-wife, they see it.  Or my amazing writing group back home, the Wordwraiths.  We keep each other highly motivated on quite literally a daily basis.  We give each other a direction to head in, and fill each other with purpose.  That’s what it takes.

And speaking of writing groups, an amazing thing has very recently happened here on this deployment.  With the help of a fellow soldier, I have recently carved out one night a week to gather up like-minded writerly types in one spot and encourage them to find their creative side.  I hope that together, they will keep each other motivated.   We’ll see how it goes, but if the energy and excitement that I saw at our first meeting carries over week to week, we’ll really have a story to share!  I’ve already had a handful of other soldiers stop me in the halls and on the streets of our little post this week and ask, “Are you going to meet again next week?  I want to come, too!”  It’s spreading.  The creative energy.  Can you feel it?  I can.  It surrounds us.  Penetrates us.  Binds us.  Okay, I’ll stop channeling Jedi Masters if everyone who happens to read this chucks off his or her excuses for not throwing down words, and consciously sets a goal to scribble out at least a single paragraph on a blank screen or a piece of paper EACH AND EVERY DAY.  Just do it.  You’ll look back and be happy you did, rather than feel that tug in your gut every time you think about that cool, creative project you always wanted to work on.  That’s remorse, by the way.  All that you are inside longs to pour itself out whenever it can.  Let it do so NOT on social media, that’s fleeting.  Pour it out into a story or poem.  A blog.  A diary.  A drawing.  A painting.  Anything.

Do it for yourself if not your family or friends.  Ignore the T.V.  Ignore Facebook.  Ignore all those adorable kittehs.  For those back home, tuck in the kids, shut the door, and let the world go to hell.  For those of you in uniform caught up in the Middle East or Southeast Asia or on a battleship at sea, tuck in your General or Admiral, shut the door, and let the mess all around you go to hell.  Then delve into your world, just for a little while.  Every day is just the beginning of your amazing creative adventure!

Good hunting.  And remember, I’m always here if you need a little additional purpose, direction, and motivation. 🙂
-Rod and the Wordwraiths

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