Today I’m linking my impressions of my new Origin American Bison boots on my travel site! Please click the link and subscribe at https://gettingoutmore.org for future content. I’ll be writing more there about destinations, gear, and experiences. This post talks about the first decent pair of boots I own. I love ’em! Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago, one of my pitches for a travel story was accepted. I’ve been blogging for a very long time, probably about 13 years, maybe longer, so I am no stranger to a first person narrative, but this felt a little bit different. This was no slap-dash rambling tale of something that happened, this was a STORY, this was something someone might actually pay me for! In some ways it felt like that hypothetical stone that smart asses with at least one college level philosophy course bring up. The one that God creates, and just might be so heavy He cannot lift it.
So, I started off with a draft and realized at about 1200 words that I could write a lot more than the 1000 word limit I was given, especially considering I hadn’t even hit the parts that I had said I was going to write about in the pitch. I took some inspiration from the 2018 Years Best in Travel Writing anthology, which were very much like the blogs I’ve been writing for many years. Incorporate the personal with the spectacular, thread them together and allow the setting to become a character in the story.
I pored over the story, writing out the narrative, filling it full of imagery and character and then ruthlessly killing my darlings, carving it down over 700 words until I hit my word count. Ish. I thought of the Hemingway documentary I had watched the week before, and how he urged writers to just begin by writing one perfect sentence. Then following that one with another perfect sentence. This meticulous attention to detail borders on the obsessive. It is a rock it’s Creator never judges the weight of properly in the beginning. That bitch is heavy.
After a few days of this, I submitted the story. I’m still waiting to hear back. I like what I turned in, but I did have my doubts. Part of writing is familiar to anyone who has been in an unhealthy relationship. You have to anticipate what your editor might want, without actually knowing. I guess the best approach to this is to submit your best writing, and if they don’t like it, you can submit it someplace else. Otherwise, it’s just mindreading (which is impossible) and dumb luck (which is more likley). Hard work, editing, and maybe just a modicum of belief in yourself will payoff if you keep at it. That’s what I’m going with anyway. Otherwise, you have about as much luck selling a story as you do hitting a winning scratch ticket.
My doubts stemmed from the fact that the anthology I was reading was extrapolated from magazines such as Esquire, New York Magazine, the Atlantic, and some others. Had I completely misread the room and put this personal narrative out there when really they might have wanted some kind of list of “Best places to eat dungeoness crab on the Oregon coast”? So, yes, of course there are doubts.
Just as a parent has doubts that first time they let their kid walk to school on their own. The doubts that you get when you set foot on an airplane that is about to fly close to the speed of sound halfway around the world. The doubt you get when you give that person you like your phone number. And with those doubts comes a feeling of exhiliration too. The possibilities that come, all of which are good, which are more likely to come true than any of the negative shit you’ve been cooking up in your head.
That kid will make it to school, and make the trip about a thousand more times. And they will learn to drive, and read train timetables, and take buses in other countries, and be self-reliant when the chips are down. That flight you were nervous about taking will open your eyes to new wonders and experiences that nothing can take away from you. The person you like calls you and you laugh and chat and enjoy each other’s company, gradually filling in the blanks of each other’s Mysteries until you chide yourself for ever being nervous about giving them your number in the first place. You wouldn’t know what to do without them.
And maybe that story gets published and it takes a bunch of readers along with you. Because that is the entire point. Like anything worth doing though, it takes time and work and overcoming some serious doubt.
After all, most Creatives are like this because we’d had our share of damage in life and use our talents to try to make sense of this universal brokeness, this imbalance of emotions and personalities and conflict we find ourselves examining every day. Otherwise, we would do something sane like working with numbers, which never lie. So of course we will have some doubts. We will have to overcome our own self-doubts, fight our own demons, and maybe get to some point where we can have that moment in the sunshine where we feel the warmth on our faces and say “I like this feeling.”
Just a little bit of that is truly addictive.
It’s no wonder we get so fearful of the next chance, which could be a total failure. But what if it isn’t? What if it’s another day with the sun on our face? And like Hemingway’s perfect sentence, we just follow up with another one.
When I was first divorced, I didn’t have a lot of social systems. I had very few friends from before I was married to reconnect with and even fewer from the time when I was married. My life mostly consisted of wife and kids. So when I started getting the chance to do more and have the freedom to do these things, I usually found myself without a cohort to do them. But for some reason, I felt this compulsion, this “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO that drove me crazy. On Friday or Saturday nights, if I wasn’t out having fun, or hanging out with friends, I felt like I was wasting the time that I was given. I felt like some sort of shut-in loser. I felt like I was in competition sometimes to make as many new friends as possible, and if I didn’t I was somehow lacking.
It took a few years to get to the point where I accepted the fact that sometimes I didn’t need my “squad” or people to do things with. I was totally capable of doing them on my own. I didn’t feel left out if I was my own favorite company. When I was dating someone, I felt included–usually–but it wasn’t all that important to have a whole band of people to do things with. It was quality over quantity in that case. My last gf and I were pretty much homebodies. We would spend time together just hanging out, smoking cigars around the firepit, having a glass or two of wine or beers and just relaxing after a stressful week. There wasn’t the compulsion to rush around and be social all that much. It was kinda nice.
Then the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns happened, as did finding myself single once again. With lockdowns too, nobody was getting out and going places and if you did try, it wasn’t the same. It was a waste of time. So, I started staying home more, enjoying my own company. Writing more. Reading more. Dicking around on FaceBook a lot more. I could connect with people via messenger or the very close friends I had were in my bubble of contagion and we could spend a Friday night just watching Netflix or sharing a meal. Or I could do that on my own and not feel like I was climbing the walls.
Everyone was stuck in this boat, but honestly, I miss very little of those early days of needing to be doing something on a Friday or Saturday night. Sure, sometimes I miss people watching or doing something new. Getting a drink with friends too. But on days like today, a lazy Saturday where my son is in the next room playing video games and the house is quiet, and it’s a little cold outside and I don’t feel like walking anywhere in the wind, I’ve gotten to the point where I can just be still. Do some writing. Drink copious amounts of coffee. Clip the dog’s nails. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
The lockdowns have given me guilt free responses to FOMO. Sorry, can’t go out, lockdowns. *Shrug* I am not missing out because I just don’t feel like it. When I want to do something, I’ll do it. I judge myself less harshly. Should I be working out? Probably. Should I do dishes? Yeah. But instead I choose to sit down and write these words. Pet the dog. Have a phone call with an old friend and then do something else that needs to get done.
But I’m not stressing anymore about being an introvert. I get out and do things when I can and when I want to. I’m not in any rush.
The same cannot be said for my next big trip. I am chomping at the bit to fly somewhere new and push my comfort zones. But that works nicely with introversion too. I can charge my own batteries and see new things, without the hassel of having to have a crew to enable me to do it.