Real Work

My father’s visiting, and I have essentially shut the office until next week.

He’s 84, but looks twenty years younger, and has more energy than I do. Dances twice a week, bowls in leagues, travels the world. (Last couple of trips: Australia, China, Alaska…)

Took him a while, back when I was struggling to find my place in the world, to understand what kind of son he was dealing with here. Pop worked hard his entire life — a foreman in a construction crew that put up most of the big buildings in and around Los Angeles from the 1940s through the early 1980s. He would grab a few hours sleep at night, leave before dawn, slam around hammers and machinery and materials for eight hours, and come home.

A true stud, but a dedicated father.

And then I came along — a kid who drew cartoons and logged hours writing stories. Hard physical labor just mortified me. I knew, as a small kid, that I did not want to work like that for a living. However, most of the jobs I had were exactly like that, until I busted into advertising as a color-blind commercial artist with minimal design skills.

Still, it was working at a desk, and taxing my brain. I enjoyed it.

Anyway, Pop always likes me to have a project for him and I to do when he visits. You know — reroof the house, dig out a basement, that sort of thing.

We’re futzing with the landscape irrigation, actually. And you know what? I love the physical part of the labor. I miss getting dirty, sometimes. (I do get dusty when I write, but that’s only because I never vacuum my office.)

I’ve purged a lot of anxiety these past two days, through sweat and real toil. Not working out in the gym, which is my usual method. But getting filthy in the yard, hauling pipe and finessing fittings.

Not sure what the lesson here is. I just feel… better for the work.

And there’s something pleasing in figuring out how to solve the problems — I was killing the grass because the watering system had broken down. Now, it’s fixed. I’m a proud homeowner again.

I’ll be back with something meatier next week.

In the meantime… go get dirty.

John Carlton

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  • Steve King says:


    Have a great time with your dad.

    And I think I’ll do a bit of gardening this weekend. My wife is the keen gardener – so she’ll be stunned to see me mow the lawn.

    A few “blogs” ago – you mentioned how crucial it is to read good fiction – and you mentioned a few exceptional writers.

    Could you go a step further?

    And give us all a list of your top 20 favorite novels. The name of the book and the author.

    And here’s a thought – put up an and an (I’m in the UK) affliate link – and you’ll make a stack of easy money.

    And we all get to read brilliant books that will entertain, educate, relax and inspire us – and most of all help hone our skills in becoming better copywriters.


    Steve King

  • John Gilvary says:

    Wait a minute.

    Steven King wants you to recommend some authors of fiction?

    Hmmm. Pretty suspicious.


  • mark says:

    Reminds me of when I used to do roofing jobs with my dad back when I was 16 in 1979,and the early 80’s.

    Didn’t have pneumatic or air hammers back then,and shingles weren’t air lifted by a
    hydraulic lift. We did real grunt work.

    My father worked his ass off at a regular job and doing contracting work on the side.

    Thanks John.

    Mark in Cold Ass Canada

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