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I woke up this morning on the windward side of the island, cold and miserable. Sand and seaweed had covered me in the night. For a moment, I seriously considered not getting up and letting the tide wash me out to sea. To Hell with the world and the burning new year. But then I shook off that mutinous thought and stood up. It’s another day and I’m alive and I have another chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of a finished novel.

When I strolled back into the writing shack, I found a note-bottle bobbing in the inbox tied to the reef. It was a very inspirational missive from a writer named Chris, somewhere out there on the Great Bearpaw Sea. He said he didn’t make any resolutions this year, he’s just going to continue to make progress on the things he set out to do. He’s going to run and train, meditate and journal, and “don’t eat like I hate myself.”

All of that sounds awesome – I like everything about it.

It was a great start to the day. As I sit here scribbling and enjoying the view of my life, I remember how lucky I am to be here. I will stay calm, stay open and honest, and let it all pour out onto the page. Because, goddammit, why not?

As the Brown Buffalo would say, “Living is hard, but it’s simple.”

There are many…well, I hesitate to call them distractions because that lays blame where none is due, so I will call them interruptions to the writing process here on the Great Bearpaw Sea. My writing island is my island and no one lands without permission, but it is not the only island I call home. Right off the mainland is a little island I share with my wife. It is not only the land we share but the responsibilities. My responsibilities there are legion – and they are not always spelled out. When I am working, I leave our little island and try to forget all about it. I leave at dawn and return at sunset, but lately, when I return, I’ve been leaving my mind in the writing shack on my island instead of taking it with me when I go home.

This is the cause of a great many of my troubles.

Things would be quite different if I were the kind of person who announces to his wife, “I know there are many things I need to do here on our island – feed the seals, clean the beach, re-thatch the roof of our hut – but there is something in my head that I have to get down on paper and I have to do it now. I will take care of those other things when I come back, but for now they must wait.” Then I would grab her, kiss her, and set sail into the rising sun.

But I’m not that kind of person. I’m the kind of person who wakes up, grabs his pens, and walks out the door with a hurried mumble of, “Goingtowrite!”, leaving my wife staring at the receding aft of my boat saying, “What about the goddamned seals?”

Then upon my return, there is a furious storm in our house.

There is a lesson in this: accept who you are and what you want, then take it. If you don’t take what you want, you will have to steal it. And that will always, always, piss someone off.

I sit at my desk, alternately tapping and pounding at the keys of the coconut-computer.  I prefer the scritch and scratch of foolscap folio, but technology doesn’t always work this close to the z-quator, so I have to take advantage of it when it does.

It’s so quiet here.  A couple of wild cats have made my tiny island their occasional home.  They are full of writing advice, but so far none of it has proven useful (how many times can the hero stare blankly at the villain and then utter an enigmatic, “meow”?  Once, that’s how many).  Still, they break up the solitude with the mostly silent and sleepy presence.

 

I have acquired a little island of my own in the middle of the Great Bearpaw Sea.  It is extremely tiny, but I have no complaints.  There is room for a desk, a chair, and a bookshelf.  So I will sit down and continue to write.  The trees give me paper and the stars give me ideas.  There is a nice breeze here most days.  When the tide is out, I daydream while walking on the reefs.  I am home again.

The locals of this island are a strange mix of affable, jovial, distracted, and obsessed. I like them. They have invited me into their tribe – the initiation is a grueling, month-long inscription of my story onto the walls of a local cave. I am tasked with 1,667 words per day, upon penalty of lashings and public humiliation if I fail. But if succeed, I will be honored and feasted like the half-man, half-monkey god of their legends. I admit, I am scared. But I must go forward, for I feel my destiny lies on the other side of this absurd ritual. The hammer and chisel grow heavy in my hands. My shoulders and back burn with the effort. But right now there is the daily word count, and there is nothing more. God be with me.

I came ashore on a sparsely populated island after I crashed my boat into the rocks in an attempt to die. To my surprise, I am still alive. All I have is the work now. I must do my best or I will never leave this place. Faith is what is needed now.

I will find land eventually.  I have faith.  Hope all is well on your end.  As for me, it’s back to the oars and the endless sea.

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