Recently, I picked up a copy of a story I wrote way back in 2012. I read it mostly because I didn’t recall writing it and I discovered a few things about myself.
First, I’m not a bad writer. I actually like my stories and given some time and distance from the birthing process I find them enjoyable to read. No, I’m not perfect, but who the hell is? And no, I can’t spell my way out of a paper sack, but that’s what editing and revision are supposed to correct.
The second thing I realized was how much I enjoyed writing. I recalled anticipating the moment when other people read something. Sometimes they’d see my dream through those words and then I’d feel really good — probably the most sense of accomplishment I’ve ever experienced — and other times I’d miss conveying that part of myself. Always, though there is the anticipation of the cast.
I came to the conclusion that I’ve let myself down not because I stopped writing, but because I stopped because I couldn’t sell my writing. Yes, much of that is due to the reality of my approach. I’ve never been particularly skilled at writing for a market. I am in possession of only the most rudimentary tools when it comes to writing. Due to the fact that I’m a slow reader, I’ve read much less than most writers. And, my personal cherry on top, is that I’m getting old. However, there before me sat one big fat regret ready and willing to roll over my remaining self-worth.
So, it’s unlikely necessary to say, but I’ve spent a great deal of time lately coming to grips with my regret. More recently I’ve begun to formulate a plan to repair this wound.
I’ve recently enrolled in a Coursera Creative writing class. It’s pretty basic stuff, but I’ve rushed through the first three weeks of material in a couple of days and had fun doing it. I took on this learning experience first, to see if I was still capable of doing it. The answer seems to be “yes” I can still learn. Take notes. Explore new ideas and figure out how to grow as a person and a writer.
Here’s an example I wrote this morning.
This morning unfurled like a sail, orange and crimson sunlight billowing deep into the western horizon. Invisible rigging pulled Dodge west with the morning’s breeze. As he walked, sometimes skipping between the long shadows, chocolate mud puddles dense with fallen aspen leaves, and bird song, he whistled and sang a half-forgotten love song. His pace was brisk, but not so fast that he’d be weary before noon. On his slender back, because he’d eaten most of his supplies, was a light rucksack. He knew that today he would need to sustain his march well into the evening, but that understanding didn’t seem to delay him or break his mood. Apprehension being a physical impossibility in such warmth of morning sunlight on an early autumn trek.
As the morning passed the soft dark mud and quakie stands began to give way, yielding in stature and density to elevation. Sweat formed on Dodge’s brow, then slipped down his nose creating a drop of salty moisture on the tip of his long nose. As he climbed, he’d blow a puff of air at it, then send the moisture back to the land where it originated. The physical strain of climbing shortened his breath. He hooked his protuberant thumbs through shoulder straps hoping that some blood might flow back down his arms and lessen their swelling as he continued forward.
“Pass by noon, resupply by seven,” Dodge murmured to no one but himself. Camp robbers that haunted the weather foreshortened spruce that now bordered the trail clicked and clacked like peasants as he violated their boundaries. “I’d share some nuts if I had any,” he said to two persistent Canadian jays that perched near him. He shrugged at the birds, smiled in response to an inquisitive nod from one gray head, and continued up.
Long after the trees had receded like a sleepy memory into the distance below Dodge glanced up, the sun being a better indicator of time than his watch, and automatically noted a cloud, heavy with the potential of rain, passing through a gap between two peaks. He took several more steps toward the pass, then paused to look again when he noticed the scent of ozone falling down the mountain on a katabatic gust. More sisters followed the first cloud, all of them racing through the breach of peaks, all of them dark and pregnant with a storm.
Hunger gnawed at his belly. “I should have packed more food,” he said to his feet. Then, despite the stink of lightning soon to fall, Dodge lifted his head and defiantly shouted into the oncoming storm, “I should have packed more food!” He took a step forward, toward the top, then two more imagining in that moment that he might chance it.
As he walked the sisters joined each other and sent their first bolt into the stone below. The concussive expansion of singed air and basalt thumped Dodge in the gut. He turned around and ran for cover below.
Now I’m looking at the possibility of going back to school. This time, to get my undergraduate degree, not in a subject of infinite practicality, but to achieve something that only I’m likely to appreciate: Creative writing. How I’m going to pay for it is anyone’s guess, but I’m going to figure it out all the same.