Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coming to Terms, Part 4: I'm not the writer I used to be.

The light here in Northern Colorado is changing so drastically during these last few days. It's fall. And in Colorado that means one thing when it comes to these September days: the days feel like summer and the nights feel like autumn. I mean, the days are still hot, and the nights are cool. In October, the days feel like autumn and the nights feel like winter. We don't get many seasons here. And this particular time of year always makes me feel funny, and oftentimes, that funny feeling isn't good.

This year has been a great experiment for me. I've been desperately trying to recapture the writer I once was. And really, it's not the writer I once was as much as it's the prolific writer I once was. I spent 2015 with my notebooks with no care for producing anything. This year, I've been with the notebook, yes, but I've been trying to produce something tangible. The whole result of last year's work was a handful of very bad (but ultimately timely) poems, and a group of short stories namely “The Buchanan Book of the Dead” which I hope to rework as some point. All said, I didn't do much last year, but it was more than the year before. 2016 has been a different story.

Janice invited to contribute to her blog this year. I thought it might be a good venue for some larger piece of work that I may not have had the energy to pursue without a deadline. I wrote a memoir piece entitled A Scout is Brave. I hate memoir. I have always hated memoir. Over the years there have been a few exceptions. When I wrote my piece, I began the piece with my first day on the job working for the Boy Scouts of America. It ended with my last day. The whole story stretches over a period of about 5 years. I've been meaning to write about my Boy Scout experience for years. The only reason I could do it now, is because now I have a tremendous amount of perspective and I am unable to be anything but proud and grateful of my experience. Despite leaving the Boy Scouts of America in August of 2000, anytime before December of 2015 would have been too soon. It was a great pleasure to write, and I think it's a pretty good manuscript.

I've also endeavored to write more short stories this year. They are a group connected thematically. The larger manuscript, entitled (Pre)occupations will contain about 12 short stories. Each story includes these elements: a central character who has a specific occupation that defines/defies him, the setting for each is Longmont, CO and each piece is 5,000 words. I'm about two thirds though this process. What an interesting thing this has become.

And I plan to finish another novel this year. Those who know me, or know my writing may remember the work I did at The Sophia Ballou Project. In late months of 2013, I began writing a novel called Coppertown which is still unfinished. I hope to finish it this year.

Despite the completion, and near completion for a good amount of work, I just don't feel like I'm the writer I used to be. I suspect I feel like this because I just don't work like I once did. There are many excuses for this and a few of them are excusable. Yet, when I go out into a September afternoon like I did today and my mind down shifts into lurid thoughts and memories, I just don't feel the same that I once did.

Writing, to write or to be a writer is as important to me now as it has ever been. Thankfully, I've been a bit more diligent this year than in recent years. I think I'm on the right track to begin working anew. I mean anew because the old way of working, I mean my old daily writing schedule is simply not feasible any more. It can't be, won't be and thankfully so.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that should I want to continue to write, be a writer or engage in the act of writing, I must do it thoughtfully and efficiently because my time has become limited. I just don't have a ten hour day to dedicate to 500 words. Likewise, I don't have a whole day's time to compose 5,000 words. And that's okay. I'm just not the writer that I used to be.

I also believe that this sort of thing happens to parents, whether or not they're writers. There's a point where the daily maintenance of family life becomes the priority. I am the writer I am today because I have had those prolific times. Hopefully those prolific times come again.

It weighs on my mind because of the September light I saw outside today. The most profound times of my life as a writer have always occurred in the autumn. I first put a pen to a piece of paper in the autumn, that was 1986. I wrote my first “novel” in the autumn, that was 1999. The fall of 2000 and 2005 were feverish fits of writing. I began Umbrella Factory Magazine in the autumn of 2009. All of my books have been published in the fall: Dysphoric Notions in 2012, Undertakers of Rain in 2013 and Cockroaches and Geese in 2015.

I'm looking forward to the autumn. I'm looking forward to writing too. I'm looking forward to the writer I will be.

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