Write On

Although Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, I’m working particularly hard this go-around to cling to the sentiments it embodies, even after it’s passed. Despite all of the pain and hate in the world, there is much to be thankful for, especially the collective concern building to work for positive change. There are many ways to go about this: volunteering, donating, activism, education, etc. For me the best way is to write. As Nobel winner Toni Morrison put it: 

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”

Write on . . .

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Optimism

This is what I keep telling myself: Think long. Goodness will win out, even in those that are very hard to love. Naive? Clueless? Okay, but I’m going to stick with it. Otherwise, how do I get up in the morning?img_4107

Love Wins

43 years ago today, Debbie and I went on our first date. I was already smitten. It’s nice to think about love, and how strong it can be, in times when hate keeps bullying its way through the door.

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Time to Shift Gears

The highlight of this past weekend was a camping trip on the banks of Oregon’s beautiful Metolius River. It could very well have been the last campout of autumn. It was fantastic — tamaracks and vine maples full-on yellow and red, the afternoon light at my favorite slant, roaring campfires, frosty mornings, and a daily writing session — but the snow line is working its way lower in the Cascades, and skis are calling from the basement corner; time to shift gears.

Part of the seasonal shifting of gears is not about outdoor adventure, though. Cooler temps and cloudy skies turn me inward, and I see a nice stretch of uninterrupted writing sessions ahead. Sure, I’ll still go for trail runs, and spend time with family and friends — a balanced life works for me, not against me — but “normal” will be weighted heavily toward my YA novel. As poet Sharon Olds said: “All that wanting to seem normal in regular life, all that fitting in falls away in the face of one’s own strange self on the page. Writing or making anything — a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake — has self-respect in it. You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up.” Yeah, time to shift gears.

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Writing on the Road

Writing is portable . . . thankfully. Three weeks into a four-week road trip, and I’ve been able to get in a solid session on my novel every day except one. True, these sessions have been squeezed in before or after hikes, depending on the heat of the day, and long talks with my wonderful wife, Debbie Birdseye, my amazing sister, Ann Birdseye, and her pie-loving husband,Robert Raffield, as well as my warm and welcoming writing friend Kate Ferguson. And my usual office niceties have been missing — no desk, or countertop to spread notes, or shelves lined with books. But through it all the backdrop has been amazing: the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Dinosaur National Monument, the Devil’s Tower, and several thousand stunning highway miles in between. Setting matters, both within the story and in the way it soaks into the brain of the storyteller. I’m not going to become an itinerant writer, but it’s nice to know that I can take to the road and still get after it. I am a very lucky guy.