Ask that of yourself – any subject, in any discussion with friends and you’ll fuel many hours of thought.
But today I’m posing the question to myself, and to others, about this. This daily column, these musings; how will I know when I am done?
First year, all struggle.
Now, no difficultly or writer’s block each morning.
But harder struggle of different variety – to be relevant, to be better.
Better for me, better for readers – those who recently joined the group, and readers who’ve been along with me on this ride a long time, some for 15 years …
Started with six. Many have come, many went away, many stayed. Currently 9,227. Their loyalty and followership deserves writing that gets better. Most days, I deliver. Admittedly sometimes rushed, some days I don’t proof/polish enough or I’m off on some tangential rant that matters to few, if any, readers. Or only to me.
Everyday piling up another batch of keystrokes – seeking one ‘great line’ or punchy paragraph that makes my heart thump, make a reader gasp.
Within a few weeks, this daily process – spitting thoughts onto page will reach its annual milestone, on the first day of spring – 15 years of flowing sometimes murky thinking. What am I going to do with this massive collection of words.
Often wondering, 15 years is enough of this, doing it this way.
Just as I ruminated in Februarys past, ‘what to do when this year is up’. That first year, Frank Dabbs encouraging “do a book”. After I’d done that year (seemed to take forever). Now a year seems like ‘just a chapter in some book’, but still … no book. Such ruminations gave rise to a year of writing short stories. Before that, a year of writing poetry.
And I have a novel in my head. OK, ‘early stages of a novel’, some pages written – the rest struggling to get out, like an egg struggling to hatch or a bean trying to sprout. Debating, whether it’s time for quitting this daily spilling …
Or if I should change/morph it into something else to change it, making it better/different.
Column size varies – from 60 words to a 1,000 words, probably 200 words on average; over 15 years that’s over a million words. Like piling leaves for jumping in. Or for burning. Raking through them, as I’ve often tried, to extract just ‘great lines’, the ‘punchy paragraphs’ and whole pages I can’t bear to change.
A book? I’ve often been asked – and was earlier committed to ‘doing a book’. I’ve long ago abandoned that notion that any reader would want to read a year (or 15 years) of sequential columns – or even abridged version sorted by themes or subject.
I’ve rejected that notion time after time, vacillating I think toward a place of ‘just knowing’ what ought to be sculpted from this great pile of clay.
Approaching 5,500 consecutive days, the writing/the writer is improved, aged like cheese. Sharper. Shorter. Clearer?
Deep, down deep, I wish I could be seventeen again – making a different life, the life of a starving writer. But that wish is brain-candy for only a few minutes because the life I own, the life I’ve had, would be a completely different story. I have so few regrets about the journey, the story or the characters who have populated my life.
Fifteen years of material is a million word first draft. Like the kid digging through the pile of horse dung in search of a pony, there are some books in there. I only have 50 years to go and I doubt I’ll want to write much in my last few years, so if I want to actually get results, I’d better re-write and re-write until something takes the shape of a book.