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This struck my fancy. I miss letters – actual letters that arrive in a mailbox, not emails, which are nice, but just not the same. I always used to write my letters on onion-skin paper – does anyone but me remember that kind of paper? It had a lightness, a sheerness to it, that made it seem more romantic somehow, more classic.  And of course, I always needed just the right pen. I think that’s a characteristic of most writers, that need for the perfect instrument to spill our hearts and words onto paper. Hope you are all having a lovely week.


Salida, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Daily gratitudes:
Watching a pink sunset at Topsail on the Jolly Roger webcam
That the grass is still emerald green in October
Mr. P, my new travel pillow
Lunches with MKL
Olives and feta

I have 318 draft posts in the stomach of this blog.

318. That’s getting close to a post for every day of the year (just in case you couldn’t intuit that for yourself.)

But here’s the thing:

I have no idea what some of them are about.

Like most writers, my inspirations do not always strike at the most convenient times – like when I’m sitting down at a keyboard or with a journal and a pen.  So I do what all writers do. I write down whatever I can wherever I can. Because I know I won’t remember it by the time I get to the “writing place”. I can’t even remember the five-item grocery list that I’ve been reciting to myself ceaselessly for an hour – even going so far as to make up a little song as a memory aid – if I walk into King Soopers and am distracted by the shopping carts being stuck together.  Poof!  The list is gone, just like the outline of a cloud. I will, however, remember, while sitting in a meeting at work sixteen hours later, that I forgot to buy lemon juice.

This lack of total recall translates into several things:

1.   I have a dozen notebooks going at once.

2.   Even so, I don’t always have one with me. When I need one and no current notebook is handy, I find (or buy) a new one.

3.   If no notebook at all is available, I use whatever I have to write on – bills, receipts, dry cleaning tickets, my hand.

4.   I can’t throw anything away because it might have a precious nugget of creativity on it (though I do wash my hands). Kelsea is going to have to save everything so she can piece together my memoirs after I am famous and dead.

5.   I am a menace on the road, because it is very hard to write while driving.

6.   Sometimes my notes make no sense at all.

Many of my post drafts are just a title.  If it’s a brilliant enough idea to be a post and to have a title, surely the title will trigger that same waterfall of creativity about the topic.  Wouldn’t one think? Well, one would be wrong.

Take, for example, a post drafted in February 2011 with the title “George and Jennie”.

I don’t know anyone named Jennie. And I only know one George. Maybe something about Winston Churchill’s mother? I tried googling “George and Jennie” – maybe it was something an old movie stirred up, or something inspired by NPR’s StoryCorps series.  I often find that those spark the creative kindling.

The only thing I came up with was a couple named George and Jennie in Fayetteville, West Virginia, who mysteriously lost five of their children after their house caught fire back in 1945. Now, this does sound like something I would actually write about, but I know in my heart that I have never heard of this tale before, nor was it at all related to whatever my post was going to be about.

So I guess my George and Jennie post is as much as mystery as what happened to the five children sixty years ago (not to minimize the tragedy).  It will likely come back to me one day while I am petting a random dog or rock-climbing or changing cat litter. Most likely at a time when no writing resources are available.

Some draft posts are titleless and contain nothing but a few choice phrases. Opening those is like opening a present – I have no idea what I’m going to find inside. But those are the ones that, when the spirit moves me, I can whip into a literary frenzy and complete with relish (and mustard, if that’s your preference). Those drafts are easier to work with.

Many potential posts dwell in my notebooks as well, lists of them.  I often say to Kelsea, “I should write a post about that,” and she’ll say, “You should.” I treat her as my back-up brain – two days later, I’ll ask her,”What was that great idea I had for a post when we were watching Jersey Shore?” Sometimes she can remember, but sometimes she can’t.  Darn unreliable back-up brains.

The notebooks contain nearly finished pieces, but unfortunately, they’re in the notebooks.  And that’s often where they stay. Which is why Kelsea is going to have to keep everything that I have ever written on.  Half-baked (as opposed to fully cooked) posts will also dwell for eternity on neatly lined pages if they take longer than a bus ride to finish.  However, few of them – this one, for example – will, like a single-minded and determined sperm, make it to the promised land.  But only a very few.

A draft is defined as “a preliminary version of a piece of writing” or, if you ask Mr. Webster online, “an instance of drinking”.  I think for a lot of writers, there’s little distinction between the two.  Just ask Hemingway. But at the end of the day, as I contemplate my 318+ drafts, I’m certainly inspired to drink a toast to them, and to all that someday-to-be-tapped creativity.

I had an interesting writing experience, and I’m struggling with it.  And I’m hoping some of you writers out there can help.

I’m starting to write articles (on spec) that I want to pitch to magazines.  But what I’m discovering is that when I write with publication in mind, I seem to lose my voice, my spirit, the essence that comes through my words that, in my mind, makes my writing special.

With the trip reports that I’ve written in the past, some of which are posted here, readers have told me that my words transport them to the place about which I am writing.  That’s exactly what I want to do.  But when I think about writing for publication, my words seem to become stilted.  I lose my confidence in the appeal of my soul-level writing.  I think that the “specialness” of my words is too personal for a publication to purchase.

The piece that I wrote could probably sell.  It’s better than a lot of pieces that I’ve read that have sold.  But I wouldn’t be as proud of it as I would be were it soul-level writing.  It almost feels disingenuous.  It feels like I’m selling out somehow.

My sister-in-law is/was a great photographer, and many years ago, she used to sell some of her work.  She stopped when she realized that she was shooting to sell, not shooting what she loved, not shooting her passion any more.  It stopped being fun and started being work.

So where’s the balance?  More than that, what’s on the scales?  Is it work vs. play (as I’ve discussed before)?  Is it writing for yourself vs. writing for others?  I know that some writers can make that distinction – how did they get themselves to be able to do that?  Is it fitting into a formula vs. doing what you love and trusting that the money will follow?

Does anyone have the answer?  Is there an answer?  Is there more than one answer? 

Anybody?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Anybody?

Mornings are when I want to write, when the juices are flowing like a just-bitten ripe peach. But I must shower, go to work, find some healthy food to last me until I get home tonight at 8:30 – another long day.

Times like this, I picture Hemingway, waking from a poor, whiskey-induced sleep, giving a slight groan, swinging his legs out of a rumpled bed, and sitting on its edge, running his hands through his hair, nails scratching into his beard. He stands, a shifting stretch to move the kinks around, and walks out onto the porch to look at the morning. His brain starts to work, his heart sifts through hope, practical feelings, and despair, that organ itself unsure of its own emotional landing pad for the day. His eyes scan the horizon, and he breathes. He turns and goes back inside. To start his day.

January 2021


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