Happy Birthday, Wimbot


Man, 2016. What a cruddy year. The entire year was colored by death, some quite personal and others merely sentimental. I lost an uncle in January–the first of that generation of my family to pass. Two days after we buried him, my mother died. I was there for the entire 24 hours she took to let go, and those images still haunt me. The other day I caught a glimpse of her ’80s face in my mind’s eye, so that’s progress. “Time heals the wounds that no one can see” sayeth St. Todd of Rundgren.

David Bowie died in January, too. While his passing had nowhere near the impact on me that losing my mother did, it impacted me nonetheless. As a grade schooler I picked Bowie as a favorite artist the way other kids picked favorite football teams, and like them I stuck with my choice. But unlike a Yankees fan, I know my team won’t be taking the field next year, and that’s a bit depressing.

A rash of events occurred in the spring that dried up my paid writing work, none of which I care to go into. This seemed like a blessing: Losing my mother left me questioning the point of writing disposable essays that were no more than “content,” anyway. I’m proud of the work that I did for hire, but it’s disposable. All of that death made wasting time on disposable work seem really foolish.

On April 4, 2016, I finished up the last story in the arc that I intended for Why It Matters —
the story that I began writing in November 2010. I wasn’t ready to wrap it up, but that particular narrative was beginning to cause friction with some friends, and I simply didn’t have the energy to fight about it.

My original intention for the 251 numbered creative non-fiction pieces that comprise the original Why It Matters was to treat them as rough drafts that I’d later polish into a book. I reread a few of them recently, and I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I don’t know what you were thinking, either, hanging in there for five and a half years while I plodded through that nonsense.

Without paying clients or the WIM project, I scrambled for things to do. I wrote a couple of short stories, which was fun. Flipping the script on the Harambe story felt artistically successful, but I didn’t bother to shop it around. The same held true for my fictionalized presidential race.  A few other pieces of short fiction never made it past the rough draft stage, but I still have them. Perhaps when my mind clears up I’ll finish them.

I submitted 15 or so pieces to literary magazines. All but one were rejected. Two anthologies that I was supposed to appear in haven’t materialized. Even a piece that I was working on gratis for a friend was turned down before I even got to a solid rough draft.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten how to write–how to tell a story. I haven’t been in a rut this deep and long since I started WIM six years ago. With all of the mortality crashing down around me it’s no wonder, but that doesn’t change the fact that running on empty for nearly a year has left me drained and frustrated. Whether my mojo will come back isn’t really the question. The question is whether I will have given up before then.

So that’s the year in WIM. Thanks to all of you who have hung in there. Regardless of whether you’ve ever made your presence known, you’re still very important to me and I truly appreciate you dropping in and spending a little time with me each week.

5 replies »

  1. This certainly got my day started with a positive spin. Writing is hard work; I do acknowledge that. Being that I am not a writer there is not one damn thing I can do or say to make you realize you haven’t really skidded off the track. So I’m falling back on the old standby: “hang in there buddy it’s all gonna work out fine”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve lost two uncles and an aunt this year, and my Dad is in kidney failure and probably doesn’t have much time left. Add to that losing two artists that were a big part of my growing-up soundtrack (David Bowie, Prince) and this panic-attack-inducing election season….yeah, 2016 can go fuck itself.

    Here’s to a better 2017, for all of us. Keep at it, we’ll be here. All the best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so sorry you stopped writing the memoir due to other people getting cranky about it. And I really hope you put it all into a book and continue. Remember at the airport when we were talking about the issue of memoir, and the fine line where it veers from “James’s” story into what someone else in your life was doing, and it is suddenly ‘Mr. X’s’ story.
    I always felt you held that line beautifully, and you were very sensitive to the others in your life. Perhaps it is time to stop writing it on a public blog, but it is your right to move onto the private page and continue your story. We have hung in there because (I will speak for myself here) you invited us into your world and wrote it so compellingly that i felt as if I were living it, not just reading it. There are so many more reasons your audience wants you to continue, too long to list here.

    So there’s that.

    The impact of death exacerbates the “whats-the-point-ism” to an impossible level, and waiting it out is often a torturous numbness that just won’t end. I had a personal one this year also, and have not said a word about it because it impacted me like a sledgehammer, and I cannot seem to even talk about it. But it has taken a huge toll on a project I have been working on for over two years.

    The fallout from losing someone you love is nothing to be trifled with. You keep waiting to feel “normal” again, whatever your personal normal feels like, but it is not going to happen. When the people you love is permanently gone, your whole life has clicked over a notch into new territory, and you cannot click it back. The old normal is gone, and there is no manual for how to work out living in the new (and unwanted) normal.

    I think it is okay for you to just take a break from writing, don’t force yourself, it’s a recipe for more depression. You cannot just lose the ability to write, but you can lose energy and you have. Try to take a break without feeling like you have broken your talent. Do your other things without that nagging voice in your head saying “but I should be writing!” that puts a damper on everything else. Tell that part of your brain to shut the fuck up, you are doing something else right now.

    Work on restoring the bicycles, draw, read, listen to music…..do whatever you want to do and enjoy it as best you can. Fumble around in your new life for as long as needed, you will start to slowly adjust, in my experience often without really noticing it. And then that feels totally weird and takes a little time to get used to.

    At some point a story, along with the desire to tell it will pop back in, refreshed and wanting to be told. And you will have rested and have the energy to tell it.

    So, I wrap up my ramble with this fact:

    This reader is going nowhere, as long as I am still kicking around, your stories are not going into a black hole. And I suspect I am not the only one.


  4. In so many ways, nothing matters. But that is exactly why “it” matters. Without people to create meaning and tie together our common experiences, everyone feels adrift in that sea of nothingness.

    The work definitely matters, as do the connections it creates and the memories and emotions it helps everyone (to varying degrees) recall.

    And I believe those 251 posts will make an excellent core of a book some day. And if they don’t, that’s fine too — because they gave you more than that in terms of structure, connectedness, purpose, and opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I lost my mom in September of 2011. Today she would have been 75. Time does indeed allow the older, happier times to come through. Time is on your side. Keep on truckin’.

    Liked by 1 person

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