A Book in Search of an Author

Book-with-skull

RUMORS OF MY DEATH, I regret to report (with a tip of my Stetson to Mark Twain), are greatly exaggerated. I was deeply moved by the spontaneous celebrations that erupted in the streets when speculations about my demise began circulating in literary circles, but I’m afraid there’s nothing to it. In fact, my prolonged absence from these pages reflects little more than an unusually lengthy stretch of intellectual torpor and cerebral vapor lock—to wit, a severe case of writer’s block. I’ve only just emerged from this limbo of listless nothingness to find I’ve nothing to write about.  So, what say we get started then? Right.

Nothing is really getting this writer’s creative juices flowing. Any hack can write about something, and I guarantee you hacks all over the world are furiously scribbling about something right now. But “something” is unclear, indistinct, nebulous; it can mean virtually anything…except, of course, nothing. Are you following this? 

There is no mystery attached to nothing. Everybody knows what you’re talking about. If your employer pops his head in your cubby to inquire about what you’re working on, you’ll want to answer “...something,” at the very least. But that really wouldn’t do now, would it? He'll almost certainly respond with an impatient request for further clarification. But if you tell him straight on that you’re doing “nothing," nothing is left to the imagination. He might be pleased that you’re doing nothing, because it might so happen he has something in mind for you. Then again, he might fire you on the spot. And wouldn’t that be something? Shrug it off…tell yourself “it’s nothing.”

Since publishing my previous column I’ve been doing some things...coupled with plenty of nothing. The somethings included mainly landscaping chores involving backbreaking labor that would have smoked a squad of fit young Marines, which means I was wholly unsuited for the project. Further, the work was performed during a stifling heat wave, which means I’m dumber than a bucket of rocks. Quite the coincidence since the task at hand involved lugging five-gallon buckets of river rock—roughly the size of plums and golf balls—from a six-foot high pile just outside our pool area to everywhere within the fence that wasn’t already covered by swimming pool or patio. Points are lost for dropping dead. So far, so good. 

The project is roughly 90% completed. A week of R & R was badly needed—irreversible damage to the spirit and musculoskeletal system has been cumulative. Each passing day “in the quarry” saw less and less progress. Grueling work? Yes. But well worth it. And it proved a spectacularly effective weight-loss program. But my week off has passed, a brutal hurricane has passed, and I have not passed. So, it’s back to the shovels. The interior pool area is, for all intents and purposes, completed. We are now arranging the remaining rocks around the pump, filter, and along the outside fence facing the street. The struggle will soon come to an end. Then I will shovel no more forever. And once again pick up my quill, which, after shoveling a ton of rocks, should feel light as a feather.

I broke down and subscribed to the digital edition of The Washington Times, the only paper worth reading anymore. I’m into the second week of my subscription, and nearly every article leaves me screaming “Kill! Kill!” I knew it; I just don’t have the temperament for this.

Actually, I never did put my quill down…not really. On off days I would tinker with this or that idea. I believe five columns are currently parked in draft mode. All seemed like good ideas when I started them. Now? Not so much. I long ago realized that to keep topics timely, it would be necessary to cave in and start reading a real newspaper. I’ve been getting most of my news passively through this or that source, because when it comes to current events and the death spiral of American culture, I can’t bear to watch. Everything…everything out there is so...God awful. But I broke down and subscribed to the digital edition of The Washington Times, the only paper worth reading anymore. I’m into the second week of my subscription, and nearly every article leaves me screaming “Kill! Kill!” I knew it; I just don’t have the temperament for this.

Punditry and journalism are not my métier. The world is lousy with pundits. Which is not to say I don't have a few faves; I find a handful of opinion writers amusing, informative, thought provoking, and I worship fine writing. That same appreciation for great writing applies to feature journalists. The best of the best, I’ve decided, are found in the pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard. And I admire several characters out there in the blogosphere. But I don’t really follow any of them with regularity. I doubt I would follow myself. I’m too busy reading. And now I must busy myself with writing, but change is in the air.

 

THE RESTLESS QUILL was four years in the making, from initial idea to first publication. I’ve had a great deal of fun along the way, coupled with no small amount of frustration and sturm und drang. I’ve also learned a great deal…certainly about developing, launching, and maintaining a web site. The Quill was never meant to be more than a hobby, and as hobbies go, it was a great choice. But it’s also proved profoundly disappointing from a creative aspect. If I were able to produce, say, two to three clever pieces per week, and enjoyed robust reader participation, that level of “success” would drive me to drink…more. That scenario would exhaust me; I would rapidly burn through what energy stores I have left just trying to keep up with myself. 

Time I’ve squandered working on columns I’ve set aside or scrapped altogether could have been spent creating something more enduring. A column is meant to be read once, perhaps passed around to friends, then relegated to memory while we anticipate the author’s next gem. Although I do have a tendency to archive my favorite columnists, after I read this week’s piece, I eagerly anticipate next week’s. As a reader, I’m your typical “what have you written for me lately” kind of guy. The writer who specializes in regular columns, regardless of medium, excels at the “short game.” It’s a fast-lane, high-pressure, unforgiving work environment. Yours truly, as has become abundantly clear, is temperamentally and creatively wired for the long game; to wit, the novel.

I’ve lost count of how many times friends, family, some acquaintances have said over the years, “George, you really need to write a book.” My standard reply—which I always muttered quietly to myself...on the inside—has been “Sparky, you really need to dig a post hole.” And I’m being kind; trust me, it’s easier to dig a post hole.

I’ve lost count of how many times friends, family, some acquaintances have said over the years, “George, you really need to write a book.” My standard reply—which I always muttered quietly to myself...on the inside—has been “Sparky, you really need to dig a post hole.” And I’m being kind; trust me, it’s easier to dig a post hole. But I’ve reached the point in my life where it’s now or never. Actually, I’m well past the point in my life where it’s now or never, so I’d better get at it. I’ve accumulated many years' worth of journals, notes, thoughts, and musings that need to be dragged out of “storage” and perused. And I settled on a nifty working title (which I’m not ready to disclose) about 18 months ago. That’s as close to a committment as I’ve ever come.

Not to worry, gentle readers; The Restless Quill isn’t going away. New columns will continue to appear, it’s just that a good deal of time that I’d been spending writing and scrapping articles for the Quill will instead be diverted to developing plots, creating characters, and stitching together a first novel. It’s going to take a while; remember, I’m in for the long, grueling game. Expect content at the Quill to include from time to time the ravings of an artist in intellectual extremis, because writer’s block will return as sure as The Sun Also Rises, and my immediate goal is to get a first draft together before my arteries block. The race is on.

Copyright © 2016 – 2018 George A. Rossetti – All rights reserved.
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