_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sanity Check

I haven’t posted much here lately.

Some of you noticed. Quite a few of you.

A number of you wrote asking if everything was okay.

I appreciate that. 

I appreciate that you wrote to ask about my wellbeing. I appreciate that you noticed the lack of posting on Stonekettle Station.

I suppose a word of explanation is in order.

In short, I’ve been busy.

First, as some of you know, I do consulting work for the US government. The ongoing sequestration and the government shutdown affected me directly and significantly and I’m still working through some of the consequences. I do not, under any circumstance, discuss what my work involves, so don’t bother to ask. I maintain a strict firewall between my consulting work (which pays the bills) and my online writing (which emphatically does not). Suffice it to say that at the moment, I’m out of paid work. It won’t be for long, I’ll be back to work in a couple of weeks, but the process of looking around for a new gig has sucked up some of my time. You’ll understand, I hope, why I’d put a higher priority on that, than on writing blog posts. I have a pretty high opinion of myself, true, but I’m quite sure that the world will get along just fine without my pithy observations for a few weeks.

Second, speaking of writing, I’m in the process of writing a book. Two actually. The first project is a novel, which is currently in outline form. This is not the novel I was working on previously, that dead-ended in an unsalvageable mess that even I wasn’t interested in reading and I certainly wouldn’t attempt to foist off on anybody else. But I learned a tremendous amount from that effort (like the writing part is easy, I can string words together with the best of them. Witty dialog? No problem. Character development? Easy. It’s the plotting part that’s hard. Some writers can go assbackward into the unknown and produce masterpieces, but me? I need to start with a detailed and fully developed outline. If I learned nothing else, I learned that).  I consider that failed novel a learning experience and not at all wasted effort (and large parts of it are salvageable for other projects).  I’m a much better and more experienced writer now, hopefully the current project will make it through to completion. I have high hopes for it. The other project is a collection of some of my humorous essays and stories that have appeared here on Stonekettle Station and on other social media sites over the last couple of years.  About 40% percent of the book is stuff I’ve already published online for free, the rest will be shiny new material linking it all together into a some kind of coherent whole. I’m taking advantage of the time I’m out of paid consulting work to push ahead hard on these projects. As such I made a promise to myself that I’d take a specified amount of time each day to work on them – at the specific expense of writing blog posts on Stonekettle Station. Writing is my passion, it’s what I’ve wanted to do my entire life, since the first time I picked up my first book (The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of Cabin Island. I was 8). I love to write, even if it’s just for myself. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of mastering the online form, I think I’m reasonable successful at it. I’ve been kicking around the idea of becoming a professional writer my entire life, now seems like a damned fine opportunity to advance that idea into a longer (and paying) format.

Third, I also promised myself I’d use my suddenly free time to get a number of projects done around the house. Stuff I’ve been putting off for a long time, things that if I’m going to do them need to be completed before the Alaskan winter sets in – which could now happen at any time.  As some of you know, in addition to writing and consulting work, I’m also an artist and woodworker. Over the last three weeks I’ve completely ripped my very large shop/studio apart. I pulled most of the equipment out, and rebuilt the whole thing from the ground up. I did a thorough cleaning after demolition and salvage of the old storage systems. I built new shelving and storage from the (mostly) salvaged material. I reconfigured the shop into a new equipment layout and workflow. I added new power systems and dust collection equipment. It’s been a lot of work. A lot. I’ve moved tons of material and equipment by myself.  I’ve made a dozen trips to the landfill, and twice that many to the hardware and lumber stores. Since my wife was out of town for a couple of weeks, travelling on business, I worked out there in the shop eight to twelve hours a day until midnight or later for the last few weeks, coming in bruised and sore and filthy dirty barely able to make it up the stairs to the shower.  I’d get up in the morning, put in my requisite writing work and business time, and go back out to the shop.  I’m well satisfied with the effort. I’ve got a few small projects to complete this week, but my shop/studio is now vastly improved and I can get back to making artwork instead of spending all of my time moving crap around and cursing while looking for tools and materials I know I have but can’t seem to find.

And fourth, well, yeah, fourth: I really needed a break from the internet, from politics, and from the ongoing assholery of the world in general.

This has been a stressful year, and would have been even if my father hadn’t also passed-away on top of it.  I’m used to stress, I tend to thrive on it, but when I get to the point where I find myself starting a new blog post … and then erasing it a paragraph in because I know that every comment will sound like the screeching of crazed monkeys flinging shit at me from Monkey Island, I know it’s time to take a break. For my sake as well as yours.

Don’t worry, I’m in no danger of burnout. 

I’m not really the kind of guy who burns out. 

But I do need a vacation from time to time, even if it’s only a mental one out in my shop cleaning up the accumulated sawdust and grime of years.

I’ve got half a dozen articles in draft, you may shortly expect a post with some thoughts on the recent LAX Shooting, another on the ongoing shitfest that is the fight over the Affordable Care Act, and long examination of some ideas that I think could permanently fix our government so that it works for all of us.  I’m waiting to see how a couple of things shake out first, rather than just shooting from the hip. I’m also waiting to hear back from a few experts on certain ideas for the government article. In the mean time, the LAX Shooter post will likely be up tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest. 

Hope that answers the basic questions. Thanks for asking.

Thanks for your patience // Jim

66 comments:

  1. Either book will be on my list when you announce it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for taking the time to tell us what is going on...I can appreciate the shop overhaul...just got done with one...good luck with your day job, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Novel...Next? A screenplay, and whammo, shop cat gets a new claw sharpener, and daddy a new lathe...and remember to stop and inhale some o' that fresh 'Laskin air...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Since you brought it up, you now owe us pictures of your new layout. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Being a woodworking hobbyist, I am also looking forward to seeing your new layout. I sincerely hope it has many labeled cabinets for the organizing of the thousands of tools one needs to complete a myriad of projects. Maybe it's time to do the same thing myself.

      Delete
    2. Oh Yeah! The minions request a photo tour of the new shop! Pics of Shopkat in her natural environs!

      Delete
  4. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredNovember 4, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    As a casual consumer of the site, I appreciate your candor and thank you for letting us know what you really have no obligation to tell us. This is your site and though you've garnered legions of fans and it might seem like you need to keep feeding this beast, you really don't. For me, I appreciate when and what you share and anxiously look forward to the next post - whatever and whenever it comes. Hope all works out well with whatever new job/opportunity you find, that your workshop gives you the pleasure you obviously get from the work, and your writing projects pan out to whatever you want from them. Don't worry. I'll still be here waiting with a worm on my tongue. I'm sure your many other fans and devotees will be here, too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "and I can get back to making artwork instead of spending all of my time moving crap around and cursing while looking for tools and materials I know I have but can’t seem to find."

    You write a lot even when you do tons of shifting etc, and you obviously put a lot into your writing. I admire the fact that you can do much of anything else.

    I don't make art, I am just wanting to get through the day, but I have that problem and I don't think that I could manage your solution. I have never been able to get the spouse out of the house by himself much since we semi retired.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Everyone needs a break, Jim. Switching gears to recharge the batteries is a good thing and the huge plus will be the opportunity for loyal readers to read more Jim Wright zaniness, smarts and all-round well thought out opinions here at the Station. I consider myself lucky in that regard. Oh, and hey... would love to hear about some of your woodshop efforts as my husband is often lost in his shop for hours as well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "I’m quite sure that the world will get along just fine without my pithy observations for a few weeks."
    Yes, well. we can - we just don't want to!
    We do, (at least I do, and I think I can speak for many of the minions, sycophants & wannabe gofers) appreciate that you take the time to occasionally feed our heads.

    Thanks!
    Bruce

    ReplyDelete
  8. Pat Wrede is a novelist (SF and Fantasy) who has a great blog about the process of writing, including all the different processes individual writers can use (and that the books either hype or ignore).

    http://pcwrede.com/blog/

    Bea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim, what about getting a gig as a columnist..essayist by another name? I will email you the hour long discussion of John Sandford on his book and on writing and on other writers...maybe only things that make you go hmmmmm...and no way would I have enough time nor energy for those studio/shop projects... Marilyn Ciucci

      Delete
  9. I would love to see what you've done with the shop - making work spaces WORK is a hobby of mine :-) Also, how has ShopKat felt about rearranging her home?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was also wondering what the landlady thinks of the rearranged shop. :-)

      Delete
    2. Me three! I sincerely hope that ShopKat approves of the new arrangement or you WILL be redoing it, again.

      ThinkingWoman

      Delete
  10. Glad to know you're OK.

    I totally get the "vacation" thing, and the "wanting to make stuff without having to rip apart the house to find the tools" thing. In my case, making stuff usually involves playing with string, since I'm a knitter - but having bought my 3rd freaking set of crochet hooks a couple months ago because my house ate the other two, yeah, been there, done that. Some day they'll turn up. Or not.

    Due for a vacation? My husband laughed at me last week. I always take my birthday week off from work (it's my damn holiday, dammit!). That's during the 1st week of December. I managed to miss the fact that this year, Thanksgiving and the day after (which are company holidays where I work) dovetail into my birthday week. 11 consecutive days off!!! So there I was doing my happy dance, scaring the cats & amusing the husband when I realized it. Need a vacay? Hellz yeah.

    And "ongoing assholery"? Sounds like a good name for a punk band. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like a Christopher Moore-ism (at least he is where I read it first.) "Heinous Fuckery Most Foul" from his book "Fool".

      Also a great punk band name.

      -Hugh C.

      Delete
  11. Not that you *owed* it to any of us, but I am glad you filled in the blanks a bit. I'm also super excited to hear about the book projects; you may assume me for an automatic pre-order, whatever, wherever, whenever.

    That being said, there will never, for me--and, I suspect, for all of us here--come a time that your mental health and well being won't come before any project, any circumstance, any obligation (real or imagined [well, except maybe feeding ShopKat]), ever. Yup, in that you DO get to be the most important one! Forward momentum, friend, but at your own pace and priorities. We'll keep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim,

      Kathy said it all so well, I will just say ditto. Take careful care, Shipmate, and best of luck in all you do. (Figure out a way to let us all sign up for pre-orders and you may be surprised.)

      Fair winds and following seas,

      Old Navy Comm O

      Delete
  12. It must have been the weekend for cleaning up. I spent some time in the garage discarding stuff I’ve held on to for decades. I can’t help but think I’ll need some of the items I’ve just thrown away next week after the garbage man leave (Murphy speaking). Practically speaking, the chance that I’ll need any of the stuff I just threw away is somewhere between slim and none. The sequester left my wife and daughter unemployed for a few day; the uncertainty was the biggest drain on morale, not knowing if it would last a few days or weeks. I hope that ShopKat approves of the changes.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Having written a couple of novels (two of which are even available to purchase) I've found that the writing process will vary wildly between books. Some of my books "needed" detailed outlines, others less so, and the current WIP has no outline at all - just some handwritten notes on a pad of paper.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hiatus for sanity are a sign of, uh, sanity. I find I HAVE to take time off from listening to news.

    Wish I had half you energy re: redoing your shop. My basement needs you! But wondering how Shop Cat is taking the changes, given most cats' preference for routine.

    ReplyDelete
  15. As a fiction editor (and author) by profession, I will be seriously interested in buying your first novel. Good luck with all of it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just have one question about your book. Will there be pictures of ShopKat in it?

    Leslie K

    ReplyDelete
  17. Being one of those who had to stop watching the "news" to save may sanity and my TV I can relate to the need to take a break. I will look forward to the books!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Taking a break is a good thing. It will be hard managing with less regular doses of your sanity, but if it mean there will books in the future, we will manage.

    Keep it up sir, but take time for yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  19. If you need advice on the whole publishing thing, Chief, I have some experience in that area, and I'd be glad to help you if you want it.

    Incidentally, I think that "Bang Bang Crazy" deserves a compilation book all on its own. Best of luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. We'll miss your wit and wisdom while you recharge your batteries. Just know your many fans will wait here patiently. You're worth the wait.

    ReplyDelete
  21. 'Cabin Island' was excellent. If the writing doesn't work out, you could make it as a photographer. Have fun.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I take mini-vacations from the bizarre world we now live in too. Maybe it always was bizarre, but it seems to have increased exponentially in the last 7 years or so.

    Good for you for taking a break, and I look forward to any novel you might write.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Fact. All this uncompensated creative labor can wear out a few brain cells. It's good to do other physical uncompensated labor to pass the time until they regenerate. Beer helps, too.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jim, anything you think is worth publishing, on line or in print, I'm pretty damn sure I'll think rewarded the time spent reading it. I look forward to your novel. I understand the out of work consultant part very well, as I work entirely free-lance. Glad you're back, and understand why you were away for a bit.

    ReplyDelete
  25. A Jim Wright book AND an Allie Brosh book together (someday) on my bookshelf?? What a wonderful day that will be!

    Karla

    ReplyDelete
  26. How is ShopCat managing?

    I wish both of you the best!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Can I proofread your book for you? Unless you are with a big publisher and already have that covered...I proofed one novel already, for a sci-fi writer self publishing on Amazon, and I am working on his sequel now. I'm also proofing a short historical treatise by a friend, about a supposed survivor of Custers' Last Stand. (My friend believes it to be a hoax)
    Anyway, shoot me a message if I can help.

    ReplyDelete
  28. (1) obviously we need a new tour by Shopkat.

    (2) while I have vague remembrances that your father died, I think I was between my second or third tour of West Michigan ICUs, and wasn't doing any Internetting at the time. A truly lovely piece and you have my sympathies.

    (3) take the time you need -- there's surely been no drop off in the quality of your posts lately.

    Dr. Phil

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think you need a bot that can automatically post pictures of ShopKat on the days when you have better things to do than entertain us.

    We, the minions, hangers-on, and assorted devotees, will have no idea, and will just buzz happily about the interwebz thinking you are there, thinking only of our well being.

    Seriously, it's a great plan, and I would get more ShopKat out of it. Win all round.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I read your blog religiously (so to speak) but only rarely comment. Like many, I was also starting to get a little concerned. Thanks for letting us know that all is well. I'm looking forward to both books. Please let your loyal following know if there is a preorder.

    And to other readers who are in Virginia, please get out and vote tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on the election results, tikidoc!

      Old Navy Comm O

      Delete
  31. Good luck with writing your books, updating you wood shop and with your job. I'll miss your postings, but you have to take care of yourself and do what's best for you and your family. Please let us know when your books are done, so I could look out for it and buy it when it come out.

    ReplyDelete
  32. "I’m used to stress, I tend to thrive on it, but when I get to the point where I find myself starting a new blog post … and then erasing it a paragraph in because I know that every comment will sound like the screeching of crazed monkeys flinging shit at me from Monkey Island, I know it’s time to take a break. For my sake as well as yours."

    I loved that, the "delete" key is my best friend at times!

    My condolences to you regarding losing your father, while I would not presume to say that I know how you feel (one of the silliest things people say, they do not live in your mind or heart) I can say that having lost my own father a few years ago that I feel for you. Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I love to clean & organize my workspace. It's like a long run, hot shower & a good night's sleep. The doing is good, and so are the results.

    ReplyDelete
  34. It all sounds fabulous. Write...just do it. Create. Express. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Can't add anything useful to the excellent comments above mine, so I'll just say ^^ditto^^ and watch for news of your books coming out. The Kindle is fully charged and ready to download!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Picked up your first book when you were EIGHT?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Looking forward to more posts. I understand about the vacation from all the political crap.
    I bet Shop Cat was really pleased with you for changing everything in your workshop.

    ReplyDelete
  38. What is the address for the webcam at the dump? I want to watch the circus as the denizens from monkey island go rooting through it.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Well done, sir, on all fronts. Taking a break from the assholery is part of my life quite often these days, as is rearranging my surroundings in an effort to rediscover the things I own & still think I need. Good luck with the book projects; I'll happily read again any of your posts that appear in your published works.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Now, Jim. You know how the minions get when you let them go for extended periods without instruction. :P

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks for the news. Interesting.

    Regards,
    Mapache

    ReplyDelete
  42. Late in getting to your post. I've had to take a break from the internet/the country/the blog world lately. Your description of the monkeys flinging fecal material was apt. That's about what the country has come to some days it seems.
    I can't wait to read your book. Then I can stop printing out all of your posts with the umpteen comments (because those add to it) and using up valuable printer ink, not to mention the paper.
    I've learned a lot from you. Most importantly is that my use of ellipses could be considered slightly irritating to some. So I've really tried to get a handle on that.
    I've also learned other things. You are a wealth of information. But then, you probably already know that.
    Cheers sir!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Ah! The poster above, dlbvet, brings up an interesting point -- will the blog posts in your book incorporate any of the comments? While not all deserve to be memorialized in book form, you do attract (beyond the spittle-flecked and merely adulatory) some excellent commentary. John Scalzi chose not to include any in his blog-post collections (e.g., The Mallet of Loving Correction), and I can understand why you'd choose to follow a similar course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The use of blog comments in a book brings up the dreaded C-word: copyright. Each comment to be included would have to have permission granted by its author. It could be a rather daunting task to find and obtain permission from all those folks.

      Delete
  44. Writing as a longtime devotee of your blog, Jim, I purchased one of your birdhouses from Etsy about a year ago. It is just so pretty that I have it hanging in my kitchen, where there's not a chance a live bird will ever visit it. I just can't seem to find the generosity to move it to the great outdoors where it could be used properly.

    Here's to time off spent doing constructive things! I look forward to seeing more of your art projects on Etsy. (I want one of your bowls next.) Of course, my Kindle will be ready to download any books you may care to publish. And including ShopKat in anything you write would be the cherry on top.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "... ideas that I think could permanently fix our government so that it works for all of us. "

    Careful there my friend.l Last time this was done, the entire Earth was destroyed to make way for a Hyperspace bypass.

    Oh, OK - be pedantic. It was just a teensie bit more than just "the Government".

    JC

    ReplyDelete
  46. StoneKettle, the Collection? A snarky novel? More cool woodwork? You keeping what sanity ShopKat has left? I can live with less blogging for that.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Been a reader for a while now.

    Just wanted to say that this: "I’d get up in the morning, put in my requisite writing work and business time, and go back out to the shop..."

    Sounds like a fine life, well earned. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  48. In the words of the poet (in a different context):

    "Do what you want to do,
    And go where you're going to,
    Think for yourself
    'cos I won't be there with you."

    You've embarked on some ambitious projects. If the blog suffers a little, that's a small price. I'll still check regularly in to see what's going on.

    ReplyDelete
  49. When you get that thriller written, as you will, and it's snapped up by a publisher, which it will be, I want to let you know that Seattle Mystery Bookshop would be honored to host you for a signing! Can't wait to read both books, honestly.

    I've let my wife see pictures of your wood shop. Envy is such an ugly thing. She looked at the pictures, stared in the general direction of her woodshop, and sighed deeply. She now has dreams.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I look forward to any novel you may write. You certainly have the talent.

    Given your comment about struggling with plot, I thought I'd pass along a tip I once saw long ago (late 80'). At the time I happened to make an online acquaintance with Robert J. Sawyer who was transitioning from technical writer to full time author. He subsequently became a very successful science fiction author. You can google his name if you're not familiar.

    He said once on an online forum that he used colored text to track plot / sub-plots. I don't know why but that always stuck with me even though I'm not an author, and even though he had not yet achieved any success at the time.

    Perhaps it's a useful tip for you. Perhaps not. But it certainly seems to have worked for him. Along with a whole lot of talent, but I think you have that covered.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Missed you. Hope you are doing better now.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Sometimes a change really is as good as a rest. Glad to hear you're doing well, and looking forward to the posts picking back up when you've got the time again.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Jim, please do what works for you to keep you mentally and physically healthy and happy. Write as little or as much as suits you.

    I'd rather read one of your essays per month than one per day from almost anyone else on the net.

    ReplyDelete

Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.