Annular Rings

I see a graph that maps out the past ten years of writing more or less daily. This thirty thousand foot view shows patterns of rise and fall of creative impulse, flow and energy for writing. There are situational daily and weekly fluxes of course, depending on mood, whim and the state of my metabolism–physical and otherwise. Then, there are the annual patterns.

The peaks seem to come in the late fall and winter; the troughs, in summer and early fall. Like now.

Some of this seasonal vacillation I can understand. The heat and lethargy of summer; the unending obligation to whack weeds and cut grass and fix small engines; and then the dreaded fecundity of the garden, during which we reap what we have sewn and must deal with the consequences of a more or less successful garden. Early mornings when it is cool becomes the time to work outdoors, not the customary time to browse, collect, think and write.

This year, there’s the added attraction of the dog, still in her puppyhood, demanding my attention in such a way that she is not to be denied. She remains high maintenance, so everything else in life moves down a notch.

I stopped writing towards news column deadlines, so have no fixed obligations to do the work. Too much freedom from obligation can make one lazy and unfocused.

And new and unwelcome this year, as I’ve elaborated, is the ungodly and unending noise from down the road with the windows necessarily open of a morning, the incessant felling of former trees by the deforestation project, soon to be followed by the joinery and carnage of building a house in that location.

So given these recurrent patterns and these special circumstances, I should cut me some slack for being such a slacker. Or so I tell myself this morning.

I do, however, wonder if I’ll ever regain my writer’s mojo and finish even a small project like the essays that evolved every two weeks for the seven years I wrote the “Road Less Traveled” for the Floyd Press.

I’d like to think third time’s charm. I have thought with greater or lesser hope depending on peak or trough that there might be a third book. In fact, I’ve conceived of several, all with their special merits and challenges. They have places in my writing outline:

1) A Floyd County Almanac: Our Planet, Our Place, Our Time

2) Field Notes from a Small Planet: A Personal Ecology for the Anthropocene

3) Above Earth’s Lamentation: A Novel from the Hopeful Future

I once would have written often about the writing towards any of these projects, but today, not so much. Mostly I write here as a brain dump for whatever crosses my mind during the quiet mornings when there is no grass to cut, no trees falling in the forest, no dog nipping at my elbows, no beans waiting to be snapped, and a full pot of coffee. Of all that, there is at least the coffee.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I would like to read more of your writing on “Field Notes from a Small Planet: A Personal Ecology for the Anthropocene.”

  2. Yvonne, I thought a good bit about this book, but could not think of a way to write it in the style I prefer–which is personal, reflective and non-technical. The topics are weighty, but I risked coming across as preachy, pretentious and opinionated.

    So I moved to the notion that the fiction book would allow characters to have conversations in their words from their points of view and to exhibit behaviors and be involved in situations I could not present in a non-fiction book. Problem is, fiction is foreign to me.

    I don’t even read much fiction, since the real world is so deeply interesting and, well, real–and needful of so many changed minds and hearts. I’m not sure I have the will to do what it would take to create complex characters and plots and still say what I want to say, and this in an influential book people would want to read.

  3. Today’s musings were as good to read as ever, Fred. Just keep putting words on paper, and when the doldrums are over you will find a project that calls you to work on it. Make forays into all three ideas. They will cross-fertilize, I bet.