I learned to fly by learning to fly. Back in the seventies--about two decades too early to have the uber-cool moniker "slacker" attached to my aimless butt--I had a problem.
I started everything. Finished nothing. I had a few years of college, no degree. I had a succession of girlfriends, no wife. I had enough half-finished projects, sketchily-filled collections and fragmentary hobbies to stock the game room of a Senior Center. In Boca.
We didn't call it self-esteem yet, but mine was in the dumper. I got so tired of my wet-fuse enthusiasms I gave up. The one way not to quit on something was not to start on anything. If you want to save face without facing who you are, that's a heck of a strategy. It worked for me and it'll work for you, and I'd recommend it highly if I wasn't a changed man.
San Diego in the Seventies was a dumping ground for war surplus warriors. I worked with one of them, an ex-hotshot Navy pilot, now reduced to selling stereos for a living. His name was Jim, and he had a little sidelight. He owned small flying club, just a couple of old Cessnas, based at Montgomery Field. Would I like to come out and take a look?
Now, Jim couldn't sell stereos any better than I could fly jets, but I was moving so much product on commission the money was starting to back up on me. It was either find an expensive hobby or get a drug habit. And I liked the guy; I figured I could drop a few bucks in his club and everybody's happy.
But I was scared to death. Not of flying, but of failing. The statistics weren't comforting. Of every five student pilots, only one ever earned a ticket. The rest washed out or quit. I knew, I just knew, that if I started this journey and didn't finish, I was done. I'd spend my life as the guy who started everything and finished nothing.
There was no inspirational moment, no sudden clarity of vision, no epiphany, there was only a small decision. I am going to do this thing and I'm going to see it through to the end or die trying. I am going to learn to fly.
And that's what I did. I bored holes through the sky above Southern California weekly, studied my FAA regs and charts and drove my instructor crazy, but I never missed a lesson. And on an August day that was almost too foggy to take my test, a crusty, old, WWII fighter jock of an inspector told me, "Well, you don't know what the effing rudder is for, but you fly pretty good," and he signed my license. I was a pilot.
Once I learned to fly, I learned to fly. I began to use my trick in other commitments. I needed to get into shape. I joined a gym and went, and went, and kept on going. I found a girlfriend who was much too good to stay a girlfriend. We got married, our eighteenth anniversary is this September. And in 1994, I decided to write. Every day. I still do.
A newspaper column followed in 1999. "Caught off Base," has appeared in every issue of San Francisco's "West Portal Monthly," since. I published articles, reviews, a little fiction. My first novel was an ungodly long, quarter million word jumble of grand ideas and insufficient restraint. I tried again.
"The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie," is the happy result. Out for a couple of months on Amazon and already doing pretty well. A few blogs have picked it up, a few nice reviews have appeared, here and there. And later this month, Cat Fancy Magazine will be covering it in their books section. Cat Fancy Magazine has a circulation of 273,000. With a little luck, I think my book can fly.
I sure hope so. But I learned how to fly thirty-six years ago, in a Cessna 150. And I'm already twenty chapters into my third book.