I gave up my column today. Fifteen and a half years, never missing a deadline, writing about anything I wanted to write about, meeting people in the grocery store who recognize me from my column photo (I have no idea how), and who tell me they loved a certain column, that they always look for it and read it.
So, why would I stop writing it? Why give up an opportunity to write--an excuse to have to sit down and process the world? It's not because I've run out of material, although sometimes I've come pretty close. It's not because I'm bored. It's because, perhaps, it has run its course. I want to make room for something else. Or it could be just because the new editor is disorganized and doesn't believe in planning and I like to know how many columns I should submit and when. Seat of your pants vs make a plan. I use both in my writing--I plan to write, but I don't always know what I will be writing about. So, I get it when someone prefers to wing it, but I think when you produce a newspaper on a regular basis, there should be a pittance of planning involved; a smidgen of scheduling; a trifling oddment of organization. Whatever.
I write a bi-monthly column for the Mountain Democrat, the oldest newspaper in continuous operation in California. That has been my blog for 15 years, longer than most blogs have been around. So, developing a platform, gathering followers, tweeting and blogging just doesn't seem necessary or fun to me. In my column I've explored everything from saying goodbye to my sportscar to being a frog wrangler; from current world events to appreciation for local beauty. I've broken through into the two areas that were forbidden to me from the first day: politics and religion. I write it and they print it and people do read it. They comment on my columns in the grocery store, in the post office, sometimes from many states away. It always amazes me--that people enjoy what I have to say and that they recognize me from my column photo. l don't recognize myself from the column photo.
I had to have a Twitter account at the paper and gather followers. Since I retired from the newspaper, I've abandoned my Twitter and all five of my followers. My Facebook account is an avenue only to see what some of my friends and family are up to. After Trump, tweets leave a bad taste in my mouth. I think of those 140 characters as Email Lite. Sound bites. Who cares? Apparently publishers do. Writing my thoughts for the Internet feels like being a castaway putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. Maybe someone will read it; maybe the cork will leak and by the time the bottle turns up on some other beach, the writing will have been washed away. Or the person who finds the message doesn't speak English. As authors we are asked "Who is your audience? Who are you writing for?" If you write on the Internet, it could be anyone. How can you tell who might read it, who might be interested. Who do I write for? Why, myself, of course.
All at the same time
August 26, 2017
The lengthy time between posts doesn't mean I haven't been writing. I've been writing columns, freelance articles, two books, and obituaries. What began five years ago with the unexpected death of my brother-in-law has continued with the death of my father, my mother going into memory care, the death of a niece, the death of both my father and mother-in-law, the death of one of my writing group, the death of a friend, the death of a good friend's mother and of my hospice client, and the news that one friend has ALS and another had a heart attack. You get the picture: death and dying all around.
It's easy to spiral down into the rabbit hole, convinced that the world is a sad, bad place when everything around you, including your bark beetle-infested trees, are dying. But, if I look up and out of the rabbit hole, even just a bit, I see other things. At the same time my mother-in-law lies dying, babies are being born, someone has just gotten their dream job, a couple has just purchased their first home, people are climbing Mt. Whitney, something wonderful has been invented, someone has just saved a life. It's all happening at the same time and it always has been. When you're on top of the world, someone is in the rabbit hole; when you're in the rabbit hole, someone else is on top of the world. It's all temporary, constantly changing, the good and the bad, all at the same time.