Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bearing gifts we travel so far

When I'm away from civilization, I long for Wikipedia and Flickr and YouTube, all of the digital distractions that masquerade as genuine tools for accomplishing things. But I forget about online shopping and celebrity gossip and angry birds and all the other endless rabbit holes that I can fall down. I forget how much time I lose here. Nonetheless, I'm happy to be reconnected, if only for a little while, with friends from my past. Instantaneous email is good, if it means I can maintain relationships with people I love. Even if it comes at the cost of Britney Spears impersonator video clips.

And one of the things that comes of returning to the inter-web is a return to these pages. I've been planning a coming-out-of-the closet post for some time now, so here goes: I wouldn't be writing here, in public, if I didn't home to make my living eventually, not as a farmer or an adventurer (although I wouldn't mind either of those sideline careers, if possible), but as a fiction writer. And not just any fiction writer, either. As a novelist.

Dare I admit it in public? It's merely an undercurrent in this blog because I'm hesitant about being public with my darkest and most private dream. There are people who keep whole ASPIRING NOVELIST!!! blogs, and I couldn't be one of them. The only reason I've managed to write here is by exploring other topics: adventures, backpacking, farming, hiking, sailing, bicycling, music, art, electronic media. Nonetheless, the beating heart of all of it is my true, secret desire.

If I have to be brutally honest, I'd say that the real reason I cast off from boat life was because I couldn't figure out a way to be both a full-time sailor and a full-time writer. I know people do it—I just couldn't figure how to be one of them. As I get older, more and more I believe life is about clarifying, again, annually, monthly, weekly, sometimes even daily—what do I want?

What do I want most? What is my heart's desire? How can I pay attention to my own inner teacher, whatever you call it, the Holy Spirit living inside me or my own truest self or both of those things in alignment?

Maybe it's returning to my desk, the basement office I built for myself here in Chattanooga, that's makes me realize the progress I've made in the last three years. Maybe it's the recovery I've made from what I experienced as a major setback in October. My electronic life is slowly returning to neutral—I'm recovering what files I can from hard copies, old computers, email, and compact discs, and finding more than I expected. But loss always makes me ask that same question—what do I want? Am I on track?

And my answer is, simply—yes. I've found a place where I can sustain myself, where, as I wrote a fellow missionary-kid friend this evening, I'm “in danger of putting down roots.” I've completed an intermediate draft of my first book. I've published. I believe, and hope, that with each word I scratch on paper my prose becomes stronger. I live more sustainably now, in closer connection to the earth, in closer connection to my own body, in closer connection to my own values. I have people in my life whom I love, who love me back.

Not a bad way to celebrate the last month of the year.

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