Sunday night

Tonight I finished another chapter. Well, the draft anyway. I’m focusing more on just telling the story and working out the details later in subsequent drafts rather than what I had done, which was to tell the story perfectly the first run through. All that ever accomplishes is frustration and feeling like you suck because it isn’t ever as polished or right as you hope.

Drafting gives you the lightning in a bottle moments that you can glean some truly inspired pieces from the mess and work them in later in better, more efficient ways. Over the last couple day, I covered a lot of ground in the story. Between the notes I took yesterday and the narrative I built today, things are coming along nicely.

I squeezed in some binge watching, and have found Tennison on Amazon Prime. It’s good, but I don’t think it is nearly gritty or cheauvanistic enough. Life on Mars was done better. But I did get coffee today and my fans at Dutch Bros. cheered me on. One of them even said she was baffled by my new sleeping schedule, which believe me, it baffles me too. Tonight, I am running on fumes, still coming down from the third cup of coffee of the day, but my mind sufficiently tapped when it comes to putting words together that I actually like. Even on a draft level.

I keep thinking about the ethics of what I am writing. I understand that no matter what I do, some people won’t like what I write, and that will burn bridges. Not saying a lot of these bridges didn’t need to be burned a long time ago. It’s not as if a lot of those I am thinking about will even care if the bridge even burns. Not saying that I should hinge my life on what other people expect from me either. After all, that hasn’t worked out so well anyway.

I keep coming to this. I think of those inspirational quotes about “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” and sometimes I forget that this isn’t just for women. I think it’s about anyone willing to kick back at the bullshit we are held back by. Today, I could honestly, hardly care less about how people will react to my work that I know personally.

My bigger concern is that once I pour all of my time and heart into this, it will just be swept aside by anyone I send it to for publication. I know I’m not a terrible writer. I know that I have cultivated my voice and have stories to tell that are often very good. Stories that resonate with people and give them an emotional reaction. And I have had editors send back a form letter saying “It didn’t hold our interest” while a bunch of other crap gets published.

Gatekeeping. Gotta fucking love that.

Where are all the great books? The stories that captivate us? Inspire us? So many people complain that even movies are nothing but remakes or superhero movies. Why is that? Because someone is holding the gate. And they really shouldn’t be.

Anyway, chasing my dreams right now leaves me poor in funds, but rich in spirit. I’ll take the latter.

It just sucks that my measurement of success is a handful of people giving the thumbs up or down at a publishing house, depending on what some pencil pushers predict will make them lots of money based on graphs and charts.

Fuck it. I’m not stopping.

Early snow

Today was Labor Day in the USA. It used to mean the end of summer vacation, but since schools have been converted into state paid babysitting for the last 20 plus years or so, Summer vacation typically peters out in about mid-August for most people these days. When I was a kid, summer Vacation began with Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day, giving us around 100 or so day of summer. Of course where I grew up, this also meant these were the only relatively snow free days of the year. Give or take a week or two either way.

I used to dread snow, because it meant being trapped in the mountains for any of eight months per year. We had two seasons: winter and mosquitos. I still have nightmares about needing to get out of town before the roads closed.

This year is different. The running gag seems to be that this year things can’t get much worse. Truth be told, things can always get worse, don’t fool yourself. They’ve been worse. They will be worse at some point. 2020 is not the high water mark. According to some, 12,500 years ago, most of the human inhabited world was either suddenly under water or on fire. This is definitely worse that a game show host being the President of the USA. If I have to remind you of this, then you need to check your priorities.

This year, a big chunk of Colorado is expected to get around a foot of snow. We need it. For the last week or so, ash has been falling from the skies like snow. Some of the chunks I have seen are recognizable. Pine needles, flecks of bark, wood, pine seeds. They are now reduced to ash and we have been breathing them. I’ve had a wicked sinus headache and trouble breathing for a few days now. If you think COV1D, let me remind you that it has been snowing ash for the last week here. The smoke cloud hit 45,000 ft. in altitude the other day. It has blacked out the sun and it has been dark all day here.

Already the winds have cleared out the smoke in town and you can feel the chill in the air. A good snow storm will do more to control the fire than all the fireline crews and helicopters full of slurry we can throw at it.

Spending most of my time indoors for the last week has been a good thing for my creativity and productivity. I’ve been writing like crazy, taking off only a few days. My average word count on days I have been writing has been right around 4500 words. Some days has been 6500 and others have been 4000. I’ve been able to sit down and write a chapter a day in many cases.

Today, my son came back for the week, and it being Labor Day and the worst smoke yet, we decided to buy him some new shoes for the school year, heading south to Denver just to get the hell out of the smoke and ash. I took the day off so well that after he went to bed, I didn’t even know what I wanted to work on for the book. Every other day, I have had an idea for a chapter forming in my head, but today it has been a wash. I moved plants in from outside. I took a nap. We got settled in.

In a few days, I’ll be 45. Usually this time of year I get a little maudlin. Considering the challenges 2020 has held, I won’t veer into that territory. The last year has been some of the best times of my life. Also some of the most heartbreaking at times. A year ago, my son got me sick with some crud he brought home from school. I got pneumonia, which persisted until November. I still struggle with breathing problems. I dealt with more bullshit from my day job until the writing was on the wall and layoffs were imminent. I threw my hands up in the air and stops trying to please people who would never think my effort was ever good enough.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who have left my life ever think of me. If they ever miss me the way I miss them. Hell, there are times I still think about the people I knew in elementary and high school. I can still see their faces in my memories. It’s a good thing I have been gifted with the ability to write, because I have been cursed with a long memory. In the fifteen years I was married, some of my dearest friends moved on without me. My life was complex, a world of constant conflict. In many ways it was easier to just drift apart. At least they couldn’t see my destruction and I didn’t have to hear them try to save me. When I emerged from that cave, they were all changed, and I was trying to be the man I started off as when I went down into the dark.

Maybe they don’t. Most people have short memories and shallow hearts.

In a couple days, I’ll be 45. I’ve learned how to let go of some things and how to hold on to others. Mostly I try to walk away from toxic people, situations. I have turned my focus from chasing and chasing to pushing forward. I’ve put my long memory to use and am working on building a world that others can relate to. Right now, my big fears are being a good enough dad, pushing through an entire lifetime of being told nice things are for other people, more talented, well-connected people. Not some middle-aged guy who grew up in a poor Colorado mountain town.

“Quit these pretentious things, and just punch the clock,” as Arcade Fire says. But it’s hard to do this. I cannot begin to tell you how hard this is.

I punched a clock for 20 plus years. Now I get to work on my own, set my own schedule, and maybe the payoff will be everything I ever hoped for, or complete failure. At least the choice is mine now. I would say that it’s better to learn this at 45 than it is to learn it at 65.

I might not have worked on the book today, but I wrote here, and I suppose that is worth something.

Three Defining Moments

Today, I rewatched the movie “Wild” based on the non-fiction novel by Cheryl Strayed. I’ve been picking at the book again, but wanted a different perspective when experiencing the story again. It has been years since I watched the film. It’s about healing. Heatache. Redemption. It always hits hard.

In my life, there have been at least three big defining moments. At the risk of sounding selfish, I want to state early on that what you are about to read are my own moments and hopefully you don’t place judgment on me for what I am about to write. These words are not easy, but I hope that they have truth to them. No, these moments won’t include the birth of my kids or anything like that which parents are always expected to say. In retrospect, those moments were stressful and usually made miserable by a very selfish partner. I’ve blocked a lot of those memories unfortunately. Either because of exhaustion or stress or general unpleasantness. I love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but things like learning how to ride a bike or being pushed into the world are things that belong to them. Not me.

The first defining moment of my adult life was the UN Trip, in which I got on board a bus with forty other 15-17 year olds and we traveled across the country, visiting historical sites and landmarks along the way, all the way from Denver to St. Louis, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City for a week, Niagara Falls, and then back home again. On this trip, it was a source of many firsts. It was the first time I was away from my parents longer than just a day or two. The first time I left the country. The first time I had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (in the World Trade Center no less). My first kiss. And so many other moments. I have lived on those experiences throughout my tumultuous adult life. My awful marriage. All the years I have been pretty much broke. And these experiences have seasoned my mind for pretty much the rest of my life in some regard.

This trip was that moment of Awakening, like when E.M. Forster writes about the transition into adulthood. It was the summer that meant saying goodbye to how I thought as a child and learning so much about myself and other people.

My second defining moment was very much like my first. It involved a trip. I wrote a lot about it on my travelblog, but when I changed domain hosts, all of those entries evaporated. Be careful what you put on the internet, because it will be there forever…unless you stop paying your hosting service. Then they will make sure the internet is scrubbed completely. My trip to the UK was my first international solo trip and really my first solo trip of any significance. I figured out how to get around, pushed my boundaries and got blasted out of my comfort zones on a daily basis.

This trip was a lot about shedding the last fifteen years or so. From the experiences of my marriage, the divorce, my first romance which really messed my head up, and the loss of two of my three kids due to parental alienation. Getting out on this trip expanded my horizons, brought my confidence back, and helped me to heal from a relationship where I never really felt like I was good enough.

Now, I feel like I am beginning yet another journey. Only because of COVID, I can’t go anywhere to get away from the situation like I did last year. Instead, I’ve been writing a lot more. This time, the journey is within. It is sharing the stories that have built up over the last 25 years. Whenever anyone asks what I’m working on, this is what I tell them. Their response is usually something like “You’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

Yes, I do. Which might explain why sometimes the stories just demand to be told. I will often find myself sitting up at 2 or 3am, writing things down. The ideas are insisting that they be jotted down or even fleshed out. My biggest problem now is trying to figure out how to connect all of these expanding ink blots into a cohesive narrative.

These stories are the result of needing to get over my last serious relationship, which ended during lockdown. It was amazing while it lasted, but only served to give me more questions than answers when it was over. The other thing I am getting through is the end of my job of 18 years and coming to terms with that. It’s not as easy as you might think! And the third thing is what so many of us are dealing with right now: the end of life as we used to know it. Whether that is political platforms, mass germaphobia, or possibly never being able to go to a movie or concert ever again…the world we all used to know will be changed significantly once this is all said and done. We are only seeing the beginning too.

So, I will be posting updates of my thought process as I work through the book. I hope you enjoy the posts!