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April 28, 2020: The Writing Life: Filling in the Blanks

Writing and posting daily dispatches has been very humbling. Few read what I write, not even my sister. However, I do have a handful of long-time readers, and for this I am grateful. I often wonder what I might write about that might be of interest to those who once in a while check in – I’m not sure. I think that to others, my life must seem very boring. It must seem even more boring now that I am not straying very far these days. Maybe it is an interesting life and I just don’t have it in me to make what I do sound interesting.

Well, there are the photos. Pete and I manage to come up with good ones.

Alys editing

The above also pertains to most of what I write. Now, before me, on the floor – piles of files. I decided a few weeks ago to do a major mega-sort, and I do mean major. Books, notebooks, files, I have been reorganizing it all, both here, in my upstairs study, and in my cabin. This is a huge project, and to do it right, it will, by my estimation, take me another month.

I should have done this a while back. I didn’t because I was engrossed in learning as much as I could about wilderness medicine. Then there was the trip. Then there was more wilderness medicine. And there was the Bright Lights Book Project.

Had the book project continued, I would not now be in the throes of this major organizational campaign. I have no regrets, except for the fact that spring has sprung, and I am burning daylight being inside. I’m now giving this project one to two hours a day.

I have discovered that most of what I’ve written has gone unpublished. This includes a few hundred poems, and few hundred essays. No kidding. I also have proposals for about a dozen books lying around. And for each thing I’ve written, I have a multitude of drafts.

Now this is the most revelatory thing of all – the bulk of this work was publishable. I appeared to have worked very hard and very intently, then abandoned said project(s). This is because (I think) I set the writing bar very high. Reject notices are a determinant – they indicate to me that the work in question isn’t that good.

I suspect that those writers who have been successful have done so because they limit the number of projects they took on. A classic example, Pete and his chainsaw book. He has not wasted the best years of his life cranking out poems and essays only to abandon them. Oh no – he took on this one project and he is going to see it through. And I am absolutely sure that this book is going to do well on the mass market. How could it not?

I’m now embarking on an experiment. I’m going to make detailed lists of what I have written, and I am going to finish unfinished projects, and finished projects, out there. I am going to be very organized about this.

I’m going to submit work to journals, and I am going to self-publish. The self-publishing door has been flung wide open, and it’s about time that I entered it.

My sister, Eleanor, has indirectly said that I’m a head banger, meaning I’m engaging in a senseless activity in writing. Most others have failed and so will I.

Well, okay. I’m going to head bang some more. Maybe it will feel good when I stop.

Next: 119. 4/29/20: A Conversation with the Mares

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