I’ve been writing on a regular basis now for almost five years. I started to write after 9/11/01 to try to make sense of a world that seemed beyond understanding. I felt the uncertainty of not knowing what each day may bring, so I began with what I saw happening in my own back yard, in my barn and woods, in my family and in my work. Then I tapped into what was in my memory and personal history.
All this has grown to over 250 separate essays, poems and writings and over 350 pages total. I know because I decided to print them all out today to sort them into tangible hard copy piles and actually hold the stack in my hands. I’m issuing a formal apology to the forest tomorrow.
Some of what I’ve written has been published in really lovely publications that people actually receive in the mail, to hold in their hands while they are sitting on the toliet, or in the bath tub, or it falls onto their tummies while they are doze off at night. I know these magazines are read in doctor and dentist waiting rooms while people sit nervously waiting for a diagnosis or a painful procedure, or as they are feeling so miserable, all they can do is look at pretty pictures, but not really process any words. I know when I’m waiting for my colonoscopy next month, my mind will certainly not be on the magazine I’m holding in my hands. But it will calm me down and make me feel a little less anxious.
I have had a few appreciative letters from readers reach me, addressed with only my name and the small town where I live in Washington state, with no zip code. I estimate the average age of my readership to be approximately 85 years old. While that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of my potential audience, I at least know there is a growing cohort of octogenarians anticipated in the next 30+ years, myself included, so maybe there is still hope.
I have wanted to write short pieces that are encouraging to people, that feel familiar or a little nostalgic. Since that easily oozes into treacly sentimentality (a cardinal sin), I have not very successfully tried humor in some pieces (I’m not a very funny person, at least not intentionally). So I have tried sad stories, and began dwelling on deaths and illnesses and other tragedies, but there is only so much of that one can take without getting thoroughly depressed, which took me to a more spiritual dimension. Faith writing isn’t for every reader, so I’ve concentrated on meditations for Lent and Advent. Then there is always the experimental poetry…
What it all comes down to: I have no idea what to do with all this in a day and age of electronic books, self publishing and blogging. Although this is not a book with a plotline and consistent characters, no denouement and I hope, no The End anytime soon, I really want to be able to hold it in my hands with an actual binding and book jacket because someone else decided it was worth taking a chance to publish.
But then looms the anxiety of any published writer: the magazine article goes into the recycle bin or ends up lining the kitty litter box or bird cage, or the unsold books wind up on the remainder discount table completely unwanted and unnecessary to the well being of civilization. I end up apologizing to the forest all over again.
So given how ridiculous the notion of a published book would be, why do I lie awake at night in a sweat trying to think up clever, pithy, “you can’t put it down” titles?
I’ve decided it’s menopause.