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