This column is in the print edition of CityBeat twice a month; but when we first started out, we were a Web-only type of thing. Since you clicked on us here today, I want you to know you're reading column #200. That's how many we've done, and I consider it a landmark.
Out of these 200 columns, I've written 120, more or less. Some I'm proud of, some I wish I could take back. Some were inspired, and some were just words on the page.
It doesn't get easier as you go. Come Nov. 12 the LOL column will become five years old, another landmark date; and with the column now becoming older, I sometimes wonder if we're repeating ourselves. When I think it's becoming stale, I get depressed, feel finished and think about closing the column down.
But then something happens. I'll encounter a prostitute in Price Hill or find someone who wants to save my soul on a Metro bus. When I think it's time to stop the column, I'll find myself helping throw a sad, drunken girl out of a downtown bar or I'll meet up with a stranger who wants to talk about his dead brother.
I guess, in other words, just when I think I have nothing left to write, something happens called "life." I want to write about the experience, and I realize I'm not finished at all.
I wonder if the other contributors here at LOL feel the same way. Thank God for them. I became "in charge" of this column somehow by default. I think, if it weren't for those other writers chipping in from time to time, this column wouldn't still be around.
I find it amazing that this particular column will be published Oct. 17. That's the date when my life changed.
October 17, 1997: Laid off from an executive business job, divorced and unhappy, I decided to make a change. I was going to try and become a writer.
I always enjoyed it and was told by classmates and professors in high school and college I was good and should pursue it. I didn't. I had children to raise, bills to pay and convinced myself, with the help of family and friends, that I could never make it as a writer. I could never make any money doing it.
Ten years ago I said "Fuck that" and decided to give it a shot anyway. On that day in October, I wrote in my journal that I would give it 10 years to see if I could have any success at it.
I sold my first story to the GLBT News in November 1997. I thought to myself this isn't a big deal at all. I wasn't going to have any trouble selling my work.
I went a year and a half without selling anything else.
In 1999, small publications published some of my work; and on May 8 of that year, I sent an essay to John Fox, editor and co-publisher at CityBeat. The essay was called "The Ribbon Is Still Red," about AVOC and its buddy program -- volunteers being a friend to a person living with AIDS.
A few weeks after sending him the essay, John called me, said he liked the essay and would publish it. This was the start of my association with CityBeat; and the rest, as they say, is history.
I can't help but look back on these 10 years and take stock as to how I've done as a writer. I take care of this column. I write other stories for CityBeat, and I'm working on another cover story. I've met some famous writers, released a book of short stories that didn't lose money and I'm currently working on a novel. And, oh yeah, there's the old LOL Blog.
So I think I've done all right. Am I a financial success doing it? Well, I'm not exactly living in Indian Hill or taking trips around the world, but the lights in my apartment downtown are still on and I feed my cat on a regular basis. It's all how you measure success.
After 10 years of taking writing seriously, I can honestly say I can't imagine not doing it. Even if I didn't sell another story or book or write another column, I wouldn't stop writing. I might complain about it sometimes, but it's too much a part of me now. Simply put, I love it.
Two hundred LOL columns later and soon to start year five makes me wonder where the time goes. I started real writing when I was 43 years old. Now, 10 years later, I want time to slow down -- want to take more of it in and write even more about it.
As life happens, I find I've still got plenty left to say.
Larry Gross' book, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories is in bookstores now or can be ordered through Amazon.com.