LAKE MACBRIDE— Intermittent rain fell throughout yesterday. Fallen leaves were dampened, and for a while, runoff flowed in the ditch. Apples clung to the tree, waiting another day to be picked.
We needed rain, but then we didn’t as crops stood in the field drying before harvest. It was a writer’s day, one for gathering material. Today will be the crafting of stories—a rarified trip into the imagination to produce more tangible results.
There are two hard parts about writing.
The first is finding meaningful venues. My process began with keeping a journal, writing letters to the editor, and commenting on a local radio station. When I look back at this work from the 1970s, it was raw, and rough, and in many cases, stylistically challenged. But there were venues, and I made something of them.
My first article outside public forums was written after a trip to Belgium and published in the newsletter of the Center for Belgian Culture of Western Illinois. I published a series of three articles after a vacation while serving in the U.S. Army in Europe, the first appearing on Nov. 27, 1977. A friend who was editor patiently waited as I drafted, typed and mailed the copy from my apartment near the Mainz railway station. As busy as I was in a mechanized infantry battalion, it is a wonder these articles were even produced.
My current work appears here, on Blog for Iowa, and in three newspapers for whom I am a part time correspondent. The newest freelance job, for the Iowa City Press Citizen, was added to the mix yesterday. 2014 has been a year of learning the peculiar requirements of writing for a newspaper, and doing it. By year’s end, I will have written about 50 newspaper articles. Between journal writing, blogging and newspaper writing there are venues enough to find meaningful expression, at least for now.
The second hard part about writing is staying focused. Sitting at the work station and crafting words and phrases on the computer screen or on paper. This takes discipline, and a willingness to avoid distraction. Some days it goes well, and others less so.
By design, today will be a day of writing. There are four articles in the works, and with a full slate of part time jobs to pay bills, it has to be. The rain left last night, and the chance of precipitation is zero throughout today. There will be a temptation to head outside to pick apples and peppers, or to work in the garage on a dozen projects, but it must be resisted. Even now I procrastinate—the writer’s natural inclination.
Yet when inspiration comes from a mysterious source, the words flow, almost automatically. It is those times we treasure as we write. Yet they don’t come without discipline and work.
To get to today took work, and some persistence. When I began writing four decades ago, I didn’t know how it would turn out. Now that I am here I can see the sacrifices that were necessary in the form of an unconventional approach to paying the bills, and a willingness to make sacrifices to see the world and gain understanding of part of it.
Was it worth it? I’m still here to tell the tale.