Writing Through

Celery and Kale Seedlings

One third of the way into 2017 I’m like the horse that smells hay in the barn.

I can’t wait to finish the year, bed down for an evening, and get on to what’s next.

When writing about this final lap I felt a Social Security payment beginning next year would alleviate daily cash flow concerns, helped not a little by cancelling our health insurance through the home, farm and auto supply store and both of us going on Medicare. I won’t completely stop working outside home. Beginning next year, we could.

What’s next? Writing, I hope.

The most productive writing I did was between 2010 and 2015 when I was an editor at Blog for Iowa and wrote over 100 articles for the Solon Economist, North Liberty Leader  and Iowa City Press Citizen. I gained perspective about structure and clarity. I came to understand the 200-1,000 word post and what makes them interesting. Most importantly, I had great editors — five of them. When they found time to provide feedback, I learned from it. Practice combined with editing didn’t make me a perfect writer. It made me better.

I’m ready to take on different topics and longer writing projects as soon as we have enough income to take care of bills and pay down debt. Just eight more months to get there.

Reading goes with writing and I’m concerned about my ability to focus on longer narratives after a). having viewed so much television during my formative years, and b). bringing home our first personal computer in 1996. In a 2007 interview with Andrew O’Hagan for the Paris Review, Norman Mailer expressed my concerns.

“Now people grow up with television, which has an element within it that is absolutely inimical to serious reading, and that is the commercial,” Mailer said. “Any time you’re interested in a narrative, you know it’s going to be interrupted every seven to ten minutes, which will shatter any concentration. Kids watch television and lose all interest in sustained narrative.”

I have managed to be an avid reader, although internet habits have become more important than the formative influence of television. Beginning with access to the internet my reading habits changed. There is greater access to a diversity of articles and opinions on the internet. There is also a tendency to skip around from short article to short article. What’s concerning is the new and compulsive behavior of picking up a hand-held device and searching for the next story as if it were an addiction. The information gained through internet applications keeps me informed. However, when I decided to break away from political reading and try a novel, it was a disaster.

Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks came highly recommended. It is a well-written narrative, engaging on several levels according to many readers. I had to re-start the book three times to retain essential points and make sense of the narrative. I’m still only a few pages into the book after previously reading the first fifty.

Part of my experience was witnessing Banks’ craftsmanship. Part of it was difficulty focusing on the narrative —not because of Banks’ style — but because my reading abilities have been tainted by the internet. I’m determined to read the book through to the end. I need better focus to dive in and do so. Whether I gain it remains to be seen.

Human resilience give me hope of becoming a better reader and writer. If I learned bad reading habits, they can be unlearned. In the meanwhile I’ll be writing through the final lap in a workingman’s race on this blog, hoping sweet oats and better reading and writing lay past the finish line.

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