It’s been seven months since my last blog post, and even longer since my last good long run. That’s pretty sad considering the grounding and stabilizing roles that writing and running have each played for me over the past few years.
So what have I been doing in the interim? Someone asked me recently where I keep my Superman cape. It wasn’t meant as a compliment – it was an observation that I tend to fall into/get led into/jump into “fix it” mode with work and my various activities – so much so that the day-to-day aspect of living life falls by the wayside.
What has it gotten me? It’s finally dawned on me that I probably cannot save the world on my own – probably not even my little corner of it. Even if I could, it’s not worth the cost. I can do my fair share, and then some – but, barring an unanticipated appointment as king for a day, I would do well to end my Quixote-esque quest to save the kingdom.
An admittedly cryptic post – but what do you expect after 7 months?
Confucius purportedly said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. True enough. But, I’ve found that the longer I have put off posting to this blog, the more difficult it has become to resume doing so.
Why? Expectations, mostly. Not so much the expectations of others, but rather the expectations that I place upon myself. If I am going to write something for public consumption, I want it to be good. And, as the dozen or so unfinished posts that I have saved in my “draft” folder will attest, I’ve had a hard time coming up with something that qualifies.
Let me be clear here that I’m under no illusion that I’ve consistently met that lofty standard in the past. Even a quick browse through the archives of this blog will reveal that for every post that’s a reasonably solid piece of writing, there are many more that are throwaways. But, with this blog having been dormant for so long, the post that finally does break the blogging ice ought to be worthwhile, or significant, or noteworthy, or thought-provoking, or side-splittingly funny – not just a blatantly obvious attempt to get something – anything – posted in order to break out of an overlong blogging dry spell.
Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow….
It’s been over 3 months since my last post. By any standard, that’s pretty pathetic output. It’s particularly weak given the fact that I tend to think in blog posts.
Really, I do. I’ve written many a captivating post while in the middle of a long run, or driving down the highway, or cutting the grass. Unfortunately, by the time I get in front of the computer, typically late at night after everyone else is in bed, the inspiration will have faded, or will at least be clouded by fatigue. Even more frequently, I’ll fall victim to the siren song of work emails, and by the time I’ve finished wading through those, I will have little creative gas left in the tank for posting.
But 3 months?! I’m turning over a new leaf. After all, writing something that I’m happy with, and occasionally learning that what I’ve written has resonated with someone, is far more fulfilling than most of the things that I’ve let take its place. It’s time to reprioritize.
I won’t promise daily posting, but I will commit to regular posting. (And no, by “regular” I don’t mean once every 3 months.) While I know that my modest readership has dwindled during my hiatus (even my wife has threatened to remove my dormant blog from her Favorites), I’m hoping there are still a few of you out there.
So, I’m calling on you to help me get the ball rolling. At the bottom of this post, I’m setting out a list of potential blog post titles. Let me know which ones to start with, and I’ll go on from there.
In no particular order, here are some that I’ve been working on but have never committed to paper … er, computer. And yes, I realize that most of the titles are cryptic:
Live vs. Living
Swallowed by the Dragon
Bobcat to Eagle to Tiger
Practice Part IV
Greek Like Me
Sharing my appreciation for good writing and for all things outdoors (indeed, probably the cause of it), my Dad sent me the following. I hope that it will resonate with you as it did with each of us.
I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen. But I am also going to sleep, because here in this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. Here I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it…
~Thomas Merton from the essay The Rain and the Rhinoceros
I am not sure why I do not write for a living.
That statement sounds presumptuous, but it is not meant to be – I am making no claims as to talent. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the only thing that I have in common with Faulkner and Grisham is that we all live(d) in Charlottesville. I make it simply because out of all of the career options that I have explored or can imagine, writing is the only one that doesn’t seem like work.
I have always enjoyed writing, and I have always done a lot of it. Again making no claim as to talent, I do find that I write more coherently than I speak. I have never been much of an extemporaneous speaker. Any public talk that I give, be it a business presentation, closing argument, or church invocation, can generally be found written out word-for-word somewhere. This practice doesn’t just apply to public speaking, either – some of my most serious discussions with my wife have been in written form. If I am not able to see (and consider and revise) what I am going to say and how I am going to say it, what I wind up saying will invariably be less effective than it could be.
I was an English major in college, which was perfect for me. Many of my classes were exam-free, with papers being the only graded work. In a few of my upper-level courses, we were simply required to turn in 50 pages’ worth of written work by the end of the semester – it was up to us to determine topic, format, and schedule. While this approach gave me a dangerous license to procrastinate, I loved the freedom, flexibility and creativity it afforded. I never found the writing onerous, even when I had a lot of pages left to write and little semester left in which to write them. Indeed, I’ve often found that deadline-induced adrenaline does much to inspire the muse!
Outside of class, I wrote for the college newspaper, and later, for my law school alumni magazine. I had no illusions of being, or aspirations to be, a journalist. Far from being a Woodward or Bernstein in the making, I wrote soft public interest-type articles – a retrospective on the retirement of a professor here, a publicity piece on the start-up of a new student club there. I wasn’t writing to make news, or even to report it – I was writing simply to write, and to be read. I did it because it was fun.
I used to be a rather prolific letter writer as well, before the demands of career and family started to eat up every waking moment. My mother saved many of those letters, and at some point I hope to go back through them. Despite an introspective bent, I have never been much of a diarist or journal writer, but a fairly sizable and significant chunk of my life is documented in those letters.
The technology of the last several years has been a mixed blessing as far as my writing goes. The advent of email has all but ended letter writing. Blogging, however, has opened up a tremendous new world of possibilities and opportunities. The fact that I am able to sit here and write, and have what I am writing be accessible to anyone who wants to seek it out or happens to stumble across it, is mind-boggling.
If only I could make a living at it.