From Cop to Novelist

Bruce Robert Coffin here, wishing all of you the best 2017 has to offer. This month, I thought I’d try and answer some questions that I’m frequently asked. What was it like to retire from police work to become a writer? Do you miss it? 

Following my not so recent leap from law enforcement, after nearly three decades, I found myself without that much needed connection. Missing the daily interaction with like-minded folks that makes life so special. Admittedly, there were days when I wondered what the hell I was thinking retiring from the safe and familiar confines of my law enforcement surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always welcome to stop by and catch up. And they still usually remember to invite the “retired detective sergeant” to functions and get-togethers, but it’s not the same. There’s no way it could be. I’m now on the outside looking in, and they’ve moved on. Having new adventures, creating new stories, while I’m left with the same old tired “war stories.” 
My new family, the crime writers, live and breathe writing, the craft, the nuances, the business. In many ways this new family is like my old, they come from all walks of life, as varied in age and beliefs as they are in styles and goals. And they work. All the time. While the members of my old family were on call 24/7, likewise the new ones never sleep. The creative mind doesn’t allow a good night’s sleep. The Muse whispers at the strangest and most inconvenient of times. Trust me, I know. There’s always a story or an idea that needs to be told and written down, before it evaporates into the mist from whence it came (okay, you got me. I was dying to use the word whence in a blog). But perhaps the best thing about being a part of this family is that each of us longs for the others to succeed. As if the collective good might benefit from our individual successes. And perhaps it does. Publication, award nominations, best seller lists, whenever something great happens to one, it does happen to all. I’ve seen no jealousy, no pettiness, no backstabbing, only sincere joy when things go well. We go to hear each other speak, read each others blogs and manuscripts, provide feedback, and generally act as each other’s glee club. And it’s not because we’re obliged to, but because we want to. Occasionally, we will even be there to talk each other off the proverbial ledge. And trust me, that’s one steep precipice. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between my old family and my new is that we don’t see each other everyday. Unlike policing, which is a team sport, writing is a solitary business. Producing the amount of work necessary to keep up with the demand often requires a level of hermit-like behavior. We stay in touch by phone or e-mail or by private messaging. But when we do get together it’s like zero time has passed. Like we’d seen each other only yesterday. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be part of something so special. And in my case I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of two such families. Actually, my Murder Books crew makes three! 

So, how do I feel now about changing careers? Honestly, I’ll always miss being a cop, but this new career is a dream come true. 

What’s your dream job? 

9 thoughts on “From Cop to Novelist

  1. Great post, Bruce. I have those same feelings about retiring. I miss it…everyday. But, I wouldn’t go back. My policing days are past. The current generation is doing fine without me. Since I moved across the country when I retired, I seldom go back for functions. I miss the people, but this new tribe of writers is pretty fantastic. And I have a special affinity for writers who, like me, used to carry a badge a gun for a living.

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  2. I like the idea of the muse – at the old and the new jobs. I can only imagine how the pressure of a case acted as a muse of sorts… always on your mind, waking you up. And I know how the writing muse operates – those fleeting thought which seem so important but will never be remembered if not recorded. The idea that something ‘unreal’ is so real.

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    1. I can speak to my investigative experience. Often, you start an investigation with blessed few facts, and you have to create a theory that fits the facts. A story, essentially. In that light, a shift from detective to storyteller may not be such a leap after all!

      -Ben Keller

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Consider it done, though I fear I’d owe a greater thanks to Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency :).

        We’re looking forward to you guest post in celebration of your upcoming book launch!

        -Ben

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was obviously fooling only myself when I decided retire. It lasted about two years before the writing fever overtook me . . . again. And this time, it wouldn’t turn me loose. I hadn’t really thought about it as anything other than a solitary endeavor, but finding my way into the Atlanta Writers Club and then into a serious critique group, set me straight on that score. And then I went to Bouchercon 2016 and discovered a whole different level of writerly kinship. My early careers, first as a lawyer, then as a college professor, gave me access to all sorts of interesting groups and endeavors, but I assumed those days were behind me when I retired. Thankfully, that has turned out not to be the case. The creative community has turned out to be much more than I expected, and Bruce is absolutely correct that success here is not a zero-sum game. It’s actually a very cool thing to be able to observe and cheer on the success of my fellow bloggers as well as the success of my friends on the Miss Demeanors blog.

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