Sunday, September 17, 2006


When I was a younger man, I spent many hours per day writing. Sometimes eight to ten hours sitting at my old electric typewriter. It was fun, and I admit I was obsessed, and that’s how I taught myself to write.

But that obsession came at some cost. I went through periods when I have to admit that my time spent writing stories and novels and articles and scripts caused me to ignore my family. I was so focused on getting the word down on the page that I failed to pay the kind of attention a family requires. It took a while, but I had to admit to myself that I had to back off.

So, after a while, I managed to find a happy equilibrium between my eight-hour workday, my family life, and my time spent writing. My output suffered in quantity, but everyone in my home was happier.

Still, my writing had become not only a kind of second job (perhaps even a first job, with the principle bills-paying employment relegated in my mind as secondary). Before writing had overtaken my leisure time, I’d had a number of hobbies. First among my hobbies had been hiking and backpacking. In my youth I had spent uncounted hours in the outdoors and had hiked many, many hundreds of miles along the trail systems of our parks and wild lands. My writing had put an end to this.

And so, at the age of forty-two, I took stock of the way things were. I’d enjoyed some small success as a writer. In some years, I made as much as $8,000.00 from my writing. Decent, but nothing to get too terribly excited about. I’d managed to sell scripts to major comic book publishers, had gotten into some great anthologies, and had still failed to sell a novel, despite some near misses. For the first time since I was 26 years old, I tried to take an objective look at what I was doing as a writer.

And the first thing that I realized was how much I missed the times I’d spent hiking the high country and backpacking into the South’s wilderness areas. So my wife and I bought camping equipment, and I got a new backpack and all of the equipment necessary to get back into that pastime…and I said goodbye to writing for a while.

For months I barely wrote at all. Instead, I climbed mountains and swam in whitewater streams and looked for big trees in virgin forests and took photographs of bears and looked at rare wildflowers and hiked into gorges and bagged hundreds of peaks and canoed pristine rivers and witnessed a million natural tales. My wife and son and I had a blast.

I didn’t miss writing, because I’d never stopped writing. But I’d placed it where it belonged.

In perspective.

I don’t think that it’s an accident that soon after that I wrote the book that has become my first published novel. And it’s no accident that I come back to my writing after each trip I take with my wife and my son with a new enthusiasm. I’m a better writer than I used to be. My work shows it.

In the darkest lines, I can spy a ray of light.

My son, Andy, and me at Juniper Springs Recreation Area in Florida.

No comments: