Writing Questions

I’ve been writing for a long time. Well, it seems like that to me, and for most people, 14 years isn’t anything to sneeze at. That’s a quarter of my life.

If you’ve been a reader of my various blogs, then you are somewhat familiar with my story. If you haven’t heard it before, here it is in a nutshell. At the age of 39, after dabbling with writing on-and-off for a couple of years, I got serious about my craft. Much of this newfound motivation was a result of reading Stephen King’s well-known book about writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I followed his advice in establishing a routine and adopting discipline. About a year later, I had an essay published. Three years later, my award-winning first book, When Towns Had Teams, came out. That was in 2005.

I continued on through two Moxie books, the period I called “the Moxie years,” and in 2012, decided it was time to move on to something more personal—a book of seven essays touching down on my life experiences, with several centered on my hometown of Lisbon Falls. That book was a failure from a sales standpoint, even though it contained my best writing to date.

During the last decade-and-a-half, I’ve also spent extended periods freelancing for local newspapers, regional magazines, alt-weeklies, and a few websites. I’ve gathered a file of clips, with my most recent ones posted here.

A week ago, a talented local writer who also happens to blog posted about her own challenges as a writer. She was honest about her own struggles and a recent tough patch that she’s been through, including receiving rejection notices for her latest novel.

It takes courage to remain transparent and not paper over our failures and the moments when we question whether writing really matters, or not. I commend this talented writer for being forthright.

When I decided to get real about my own quest to be a writer, I embraced blogging. That was back in 2003 and I was working at a large insurance company I often refer to as, “Moscow Mutual.” My posts pretty much wrote themselves, I had so much to talk about and wanted to share everything with the whole world.

During the past 13 years, I’ve experienced maybe two “dry spells” as a blogger. The last one was back in 2007, I think.

My routine of blogging twice weekly since 2012 has been fun. This self-imposed schedule used to be something I shared as a point of pride, especially with writing students, as an example of “writers gotta’ write.”

Yes, “writers gotta’ write” until it feels like writing is self-indulgent and whatever I have to say has been said by others (much better). After years of at best, mediocre traffic at any of my various blogs, I have been wondering, “what’s the point?”

I’m not going to deep-six the JBE just yet, but I’m not feeling any real urgency to post regularly, either.

Maybe the multiple “jobs” I’ve taken on to cobble together my daily bread have sapped some of my creative energy. I’m no writing super hero, you know! Or perhaps I’m just tired of being ignored by everyone, save for a few devoted readers and commenters.

Sometimes, words escape us.

When it’s hard finding the words…

At one point, I was overtly political as a blogger. I’ve decided that I’m not going to tell you how you should vote each and every week. Not that any of it really matters, anyways. There are only so many ways you can frame posts that posit “technology is bad” before you sound like a broken record. I think it’s better to just keep my thoughts and ideas to myself.

The last time I went on a blogging sabbatical, it was short-lived and I came back a few weeks later armed for bear. Maybe that will happen again, I don’t know. Until that happens, I have plenty of tasks on my to-do list to cross off.

In the old days, people seemed to know how to track us down. They sent letters, or picked up their rotary dial phones and rang us up. Now, email is to labor-intensive to bother with.

In our current era of button-pushing and “liking,” it seems much harder to remain tethered to others outside of the digital realm. There’s an isolation that I’ve been experiencing for some time now.

There is no blog post, or series of posts that will fix that.

4 thoughts on “Writing Questions

  1. I was not a regular reader of Stephanie’s blog; ironically, we had stopped at her house a few days ago and learned she was “putting the novel in the drawer.” I was sorry to hear it because she is a very talented writer. For a non-writer, it can be difficult to understand the “writers gotta write” thing. And having had some commercial success must only encourage the muse. I wish her well on the research she’s begun on a new novel.

    The isolation of the digital realm is another thing. Maybe writing will go the way of oral storytelling. Future generations will look back and say “can you believe people used to read words on paper when they could just track the algorithmic popularity of their thoughts with 240 characters and a smiley face?”

    I appreciate your honesty about the isolation. I share the concern and the feelings.

  2. Hey Jim, Your few devoted readers need you to keep writing, True connection is not how many people you reach. It is how you reach out to people no matter how many. Individuals matter….you also don’t know how many read your blog but do not reply.

    I find in my everyday life I try very hard to focus on things that are the most important to me. And your blog matters to me. I may not get to it the exact day it is published but I have read every single one for the past several months and perhaps longer. You are a dependable, honest and truly great writer. And I depend on you and that matters.

    I went to the hospital for some tests recently and at registration the woman mentioned that she and I were born the same year and we chatted a bit. Then she handed me a credit type card (can’t remember what you call it) and pointed to a credit card sliding device on the side of her computer and said….next time you come in you don’t even have to speak to me. And I said, “So we can never talk about how we have the same birthday, again?”

    We need people like you, Jim, who are going to be who they are! And want to tell the rest of us what they think. I have always thought a writer’s job was to write and for the rest of us reading the writing to find a connection, a new friend, perhaps, even an agreeable foe? But to make a connection nonetheless and to take … a moment to respond in some way, maybe just at that moment, internally. And moments matter. And they add up and help us continue to grow in so many ways. Writers change and enhance people’s lives….they have no choice…that is what they do. You change people’s lives and that is a good thing….write when you can as I know you are busy but when you do remember this devoted reader is with you. Because you are a writer and I want to read what you have to say.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Jim. As you already know, there’s no shame in taking time to step back and re-evaluate your priorities. We use social media to broaden our audience but we can quickly become a slave to it if we’re not careful. Best of luck to you and your writing–whatever form it may take.

  4. @Stephanie Thanks for stopping by. Your post resonated with me. There are countless writers that while not household names, are immensely talented and their writing is every bit as good as many best-selling writers.

    I look forward to news about the novel when the time is right.

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