This would be a good title for a post about writing, and getting rid of the extraneous junk that keeps a reader from getting into the flow of a story. But how could I write a post like that? I’m one of those who enjoy Neal Stephenson, despite the fact that some of his paragraphs are two pages long and filled with endless lists of … well … junk. It may be the challenge of wading through all that and staying with the story that makes me like him. I’m a sucker for challenges.
But this isn’t a post about writing, unless writing about methods for clearing the detritus out of your brain so you can write counts. Since the methods I used this morning were only marginally successful, I may not be qualified to pen that post either.
So, in the end, this is a post mostly about how I deal with … stuff. Of course, that sometimes includes running away from it.
Taking out the Garbage
That is what I set out to do on my run this morning. I wasn’t sure how far or long it would take and wasn’t fully prepared for how much I would find. It is surprising how much junk accumulates when you are distracted by the demands of life. My e-mail inbox, with its ever-expanding collection of spam and almost-spam, looks organized and spiffy in comparison. There was so much debris that twenty miles was not enough to jettison it all. Garbage remains and some of it may end up in this post … sorry.
It is no wonder that I am in the position of never being able to remember if I’ve put my deodorant on after my shower, as in every single time. I turn to put my shirt on and my shoulders slump because I CAN’T REMEMBER! Don’t worry, this always results in my putting deodorant on again, likely for the second time, but maybe the third–maybe I need to stop using the clear stick. This forgetfulness may be a sign of Alzheimer’s, but I would prefer to think it is because my head is too filled with bits and pieces–some pretty big pieces–of stuff I need to write down, or just let go.
I had only the wind and my jumbled thoughts as constant companions. It was a long, lonely run; more so since it was a result of my hurting the person I love most in the world, and her reaction to that hurt.
“Harvest of the Heart” went live on Amazon on December 13, exactly one month ago. Lately, I’ve been scrambling to get my next book “Running Scared” ready for publication, going back and forth with the editor, tweaking and hopefully perfecting what I think could be a great collection of short stories. I’ve also tried to regain some momentum in my writing of the sequel to HotH. Oh, and there is also the biography for which I’ve been collecting baseline information.
Additionally, I’ve been working a half-dozen social networks, doing interviews, setting up my physical launch, arranging a book-signing tour and Maryland launch, sending out books, and, always, looking for other marketing avenues. In other words, doing what I could to get sales. And you know what? I don’t really care about selling my book. The only reason I’m being a pseudo-spamming pain in the ass to friends on dailymile and Facebook, the only reason I’m in a radio studio at midnight for fifteen minutes of airtime, is to prove to my wife that I can earn a living with this writing obsession.
Because that is the bottom line. No matter how many stories are in my head, no matter how much I want to write, if I can’t pull my financial weight with my writing, I’m going to have to give it up. I know, from over thirty-five years of experience, that I will not be able to work a full-time job and continue writing in any manner that will be fruitful and satisfying.
Six times over the past year, I have been willing to do that–give up writing–in order to ease the financial worry that now rests on my wife’s shoulders. I’ve applied for six different jobs in the past eleven months; interviewed for three. For one, I was over-qualified and I’m certain the company didn’t think I would stay long enough for them too get their money’s worth out of me. The other two I applied for would have been challenging and rewarding, easing the sting of what I would give up to take it. I believe I gave my best at the interviews. I know I could have done those jobs as good or better than any other applicant. But I didn’t get them–and felt like a death row inmate who’d received a temporary stay of execution.
All the above is the backdrop for a major screw-up. My wife made the sweet gesture of purchasing her own copy of Harvest of the Heart through Amazon. It would be hers alone; she said it made her feel like a fan. After waiting patiently for it to arrive, she brought it down for me to autograph. I wanted the message in her book to be extra-special, so I set it aside, in a place that I thought would be safe, until I could get some quiet time to find just the right words.
In the frantic period leading up to my physical launch, I received a request from the Cheyenne Frontier Days to donate a copy of my book for a basket of books by Wyoming writers for a charity auction. You can see where this is going. My wife’s book is setting up on the kitchen counter, sealed in a padded envelope to mail out. It is signed “Thanks for supporting Cheyenne Frontier Days.”
This was a big mistake. I know that. And there is no way for me to undo it. “I’m sorry” wasn’t near enough. The sum of her reactions sent me out the door this morning for a run that had no planned end.
I ran out to the railroad track west of Rte. 287, hopping two fences on the way, and turned south. And just kept going. I had no business running fourteen miles, much less twenty; but, for a time, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get myself turned around. On the way out, I tried to shovel old stuff from my brain that I had no business holding onto. I was only partially successful; like moldy newspapers piled in the basement, some scraps were stuck to the floor. There was so much crap to go through, a point was reached where I could see myself not stopping at all. Like a character in one of my short stories I would just keep on running. Guilt wasn’t the only thing driving me; there was a lot of hurt, and confusion … and anger, too.
In the end, I was able to circle about and head home. Unfortunately, not all the mental garbage was left behind. On the way back, I picked up a twisted piece of iron from alongside the tracks with the intention of carrying it until I dropped the weight of rubbish that was cluttering my mind. The iron probably weighed between six and eight pounds. Picture me with eight miles to go, already dragging, and now carrying a big chunk of iron. For two miles, it went from hand to hand as I tried to maintain some semblance of decent running form. At the same time, I struggled to get my head straight.
After a bit, I found that I had adjusted enough that I thought I might make it all the way home lugging that rusted, heavy, ugly POS burden. Then it hit me–I was doing the same thing with the garbage in my head–finding a way to adjust, to carry it along. I tossed the weight and a lot of the garbage. Not all of it; there is more that still needs to go. But, like used motor oil, I’m going to have to find the right place.
So I dragged myself home. After 20.35 miles, I was exhausted, aching and dehydrated. For almost three hours after I finished, my eyesight was blurry because I was so dried out. I know the self-flagellation I put myself through doesn’t change anything and this public “mea culpa” isn’t even an attempt to do make the situation better.
Most of the challenges I get into are meant to prove something to myself. I’m not sure that this one proved much of anything except, I don’t know, that maybe I am sometimes dense and stubborn. Whether it accomplished anything at all remains to be seen. I decided when I started this blog that my writing for it was going to be unflinchingly honest. Even if it isn’t what makes for a popular blog.