52 Pickup, 12/29/2020
What are you thankful for?
This being the final week of not only 52 Pickup but the year as a whole, I asked my wife what question I should answer, and she gave me one saying that I should do something that looks back over the year and toward the new one coming in.
I could talk about health, prosperity, friendship and so many other things, but these Q&A articles are really more about writing, so I’ll stick to that as a guideline in keeping this answer under a thousand words…
I’m thankful for the blank page.
Every morning when I get up and square things away here at the ranch, I’m working for something, working for the opportunity to get in that stool in my loft and hit the button on the keyboard that’s going to open up my writing world. It’s a pristine, arctic expanse that I’ve heard people refer to as intimidating, daunting, and overwhelming—a landscape so fraught with possibility that the mind and body quell. Then I take that 12D mountaineering boot with the twelve-point crampon and step into the void, the crunch of new thought invading the vista of possibility, and then another, and another, and another… And pretty soon, it’s my world.
I’m thankful for the words.
I like to think that we’re all repositories for words, the end point for all the lessons, conversations and stories we’ve been party to, fertile ground where these words can settle and germinate. I got an unhappy email from a reader who said he was giving up on my books, because I used too many big words and used them in strange ways. I wrote him back and tried to explain that that was one of my jobs, to stretch those words like a canvas and to paint them in ways that explored their meaning so as to engage the reader in new ways. He said he didn’t like that and probably wasn’t going to read any more of my books, which is fair enough, but I think that’s part of an author’s job, to find new ways to say new things with the same old tools—the words.
I’m thankful for the ideas.
Hardly anybody that knows me hasn’t experienced that wayward look I get on my face when they’re talking to me in a perfectly normal conversation—but suddenly I’m out there in the white, thinking, assembling, manipulating. Usually, the poor person I’m in conversation with looks at me and says, “You’re writing in your head again, aren’t you?” I am. I don’t know what it is that starts you on the path of looking out windows when you’re supposed to be paying attention, but I think it must have something to do with the world not being enough. Most of the things I’ve been involved in in my life could be interpreted as looking for something, maybe even things that aren’t there—but I’m still looking.
I’m thankful for the characters.
If you’re lucky, and I mean really lucky, you’ll stumble onto people to write about. I remember when I first started writing almost twenty years ago, I was referred to as a young author and that rankled me, I have to admit. I was in my mid-forties and thought I was pretty well down the road. A lot of writers, I discovered, don’t really get their careers in gear until they reach middle-age, and there are probably a number of reasons for that, but I think it has more to do with discovering who you want to write about and finding the character that will give you that voice. I’m thankful in that I’ve got an ensemble to draw from, but the main voice will always be Walt and I’m glad I found him.
The last thing on this list that I’m thankful for?
See you on the trail,
PS: Happy New Year.