We hope you enjoy our interview with writer, songwriter, storyteller, and university lecturer in English, Tim J. Myers. Tim’s most recent book is called Glad to Be Dad.
Fatherville: I see you have written many other books–what motivated you to write this book: Glad to Be Dad? In other words tell us a little bit about the vision behind the book.
Tim Myers: I’ve found that the “story of the story”–the way a book comes to be written–often provides a window on the life of the writer. That’s certainly true for me! Part of my motivation for this particular topic was practical; I was a hard-working teacher with three kids at home and knew my writing time would be limited, so I decided to write about something I already knew. And because I was up to my elbows in family life, I also had lots of experience and plenty to say. Even more motivating was my realization that the “work-life crisis” was, and continues to be, such a big issue (which I’m sure many of your readers can identify with!). Add to that the inherent challenge of being a good parent under any circumstances.
Parenting is clearly a profound aspect of human experience, and I wanted to join the movement to make it better, particularly for men. And that’s part of why I’m thrilled to appear on the Fatherville site–since, generally speaking, all of us are working together for the same critical goals.
Fatherville: How long did it take for you to write Glad to Be Dad–from concept to being published? What obstacles did you face during the process?
Tim Myers: I’m actually a pretty direct writer in terms of process, and I go at it hard. The book took about nine months to finish. Of course that means time sandwiched between my teaching job and my commitment to family; ironically, family life often kept me from writing about family life! And finding time is even more complicated with a book this size. I’d written lots of shorter things, but a big book requires longer uninterrupted blocks of time. It’s like that trick where you get a bunch of plates spinning on poles and have to keep each one spinning; all that has to happen in your head simultaneously. So I used every single free minute I had.
In terms of the arc from conception to publication–let me just say that this book was rejected 76 times before it was published.
Fatherville: What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing this book?
Tim Myers: That’s something I love about writing–the way it brings you to a deeper and clearer understanding of yourself. (Which is also true about parenthood, it seems to me). I didn’t surprise myself in writing this book, but I certainly saw more deeply, and with more force, just how precious my family is to me, and how much I love being a husband and father. And I realized more fully too how grateful I was to have a way to capture precious moments of my family’s life in the relatively permanent form of the written word. Not to mention how much I loved the possibility that I might actually help real human beings.
Fatherville: How did you decide on the title for your book? I mean why the name Glad to Be Dad?
Tim Myers: I actually worked with a different title for a long time, calling it A Man’s Guide to Being Dad. But I came to see–with great help from my family–that that’s too male-exclusive a title, and I want the book to be for husbands and wives. (In fact, I’ve gotten great responses from women, which delights me!). Naturally, my publisher and I had a number of conversations about the title–thinking not only about representing the book accurately but also about marketability and its modern stepchild, searchability. So we finally settled on this. One cool thing for me is that “glad to be dad” absolutely reflects my joy in family life!
Fatherville: What in your opinion is one of the biggest challenges of being a father?
Tim Myers: I see two huge challenges. One is that so many men don’t have domestically-committed fathers themselves, so they aren’t taught how to be good fathers, or simply don’t have positive models for that. This is historical, of course; ideas about men, not to mention fatherhood, are clearly changing. But it’s a gradual process, and I think many men have a deep sadness and frustration about not being better fathers and husbands. The second challenge is the pace of modern life, which puts significant pressures on most parents, men or women.
The good news, it seems to me, is that we’re making progress on both these fronts. But when so much is at stake–not only the lives of our precious children, but also the future of our country and of the world–well, I can’t help being impatient.
Fatherville: What is the most difficult challenges Tim Myers has had to face as a father?
Tim Myers: My wife and I began our relationship–and continue it–with constant communication; talking to each other is as natural and necessary to us as breathing. So we started talking about parenthood early on, and we studied it. We read many books and learned a tremendous amount from them–and we explored our own values and ideas about what good parenting is and what it requires. Even before I became a father I was in the enviable position of having a lot of clarity about this, and of having a spouse who felt exactly the same. So we made a fundamental commitment. The hard part, then, was just applying what we believed in on a daily basis. Sometimes that was VERY hard; parenting isn’t for sissies! It was especially hard for me when family commitment meant I had to be very patient about my commitment to writing. But even in the hardest times I knew what we were doing and why.
Fatherville: In your opinion what are some of the biggest challenges that parents, in general, face today?
Tim Myers: One is that sometimes huge problem of finding time and energy for quality parenting–which can be difficult for any number of reasons, some of them economic. But a second challenge comes out of human nature itself, and won’t ever change, as far as I can tell: Coming to a wise and clear understanding of who you are, and then a wise and clear understanding of what good parenting is. It’s usually the case that the most “together” people make the most “together” parents. I don’t mean we have to be perfect; if that was the case, no kid would ever be raised right! But personal growth is, I think, a basic part of good parenting.
So there’s a fundamental human challenge here, and many of us grow up in families that are, well, less than optimal. That makes all of this a lot harder.
Fatherville: Growing up–who were your childhood heroes?
Tim Myers: I’d have to say the Hardy Boys, until I got into music in high school and started learning about great singer-songwriters. I was certainly a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. But I was fairly oblivious as a kid; names of childhood heroes don’t spring to my lips. I don’t think I was mature enough to fully appreciate what makes a real hero.
Fatherville: Who are your heroes today?
Tim Myers: I’m still overwhelmed by what Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished, despite the tragedy of his murder and his human failings–I don’t think a society can ask for more than an effective and non-violent prophet of necessary social change. That of course makes me admire Gandhi tremendously too. I LOVE John Stewart, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert, for their passionate use of satire to make the world a better place. The religion scholar Huston Smith probably influenced my life more than anyone else. I’m a huge fan of writer Ursula LeGuin, even though our worldviews often differ. And I feel a lot of admiration for certain artists, with Walt Whitman certainly in the vanguard.
Fatherville: If being an engaged and caring father is your #1 biggest challenge–what would you say is #2?
Tim Myers: I’d add “and husband” to the first part of the sentence–then I’d say that finding the wherewithal to fully become the artist that I am is #2. I live for my family, and I live for my work. And as I often say, I live within a triangle, the three points of which are time, money and love. Everything I do, every minute of my day, is informed in some way by those three. So as I push to find more time and make enough money, I use love as my Pole Star and follow it toward my calling as an artist.
Fatherville: Tim, would you say you are living your dream? Did you always want to be an writer?
Tim Myers: I’m absolutely living my dream, and I overflow with passionate gratitude because of that! I should add, though, that it took a long, long time to get to the point where I could devote sufficient time to this life–for the simple reason that family comes first, and I couldn’t live any other way. And where I am right now is a lot more tenuous than I’d like. But I’m here, alive in this amazing world, and doing this–for example, right now having the delightful experience of this interview! So I don’t even have to remind myself that I found my dream–I can feel it every second.
Fatherville: Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Your passions, hobbies, and goals for the future.
Tim Myers: Besides my family and my university teaching (I’m a senior lecturer in the English department of Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley), I’m committed to three things: writing, songwriting, and storytelling. I’ve been working on those for decades. I also love basketball, even as my age and waning abilities make that more problematic, and hiking and bike-riding. Oh, and I suppose I should mention my deep devotion to cheeseburgers, which I try to keep in check.
Fatherville: Thank you, Tim.
Tim J. Myers is a writer, storyteller, and songwriter who living in Santa Clara, California, where he also teaches at Santa Clara University. His work has made the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books, been reviewed with art in the Times, been read aloud on NPR, and has won other honors. Find him at www.TimMyersStorySong.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TimJMyers1.
See also Tim’s article Excusing the Sins of the FatherTweet