Okay, since this is — err, technically — a writing blog, I suppose I have to pay at least some lip service to my writing…but, of course, I’ll come at it from a weird direction…
“You live in Yellowstone? You must get all kinds of inspiration for your writing up there!”
Umm…yes and no. Yes, because the place really does have an innate magic that can’t help but touch you. And No because, when I’m out in the Park, I’m…well…out in the Park. Oh, I bring a notebook and a pen along on most hikes, but let’s be honest here: I spend that time hiking and soaking in the surroundings, not thinking. As much as I love — and need — to write, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to switch gears from outdoorsman to writer. Not least because, when I write, I put all of my focus and attention into the words. To do that when I’m sitting on the top of a mountain? Or deep in the woods? Yeah, at that point it’s not quite so easy as it is when I’m sitting at the picnic table at the back of my RV site.
Oh, and because … well … bears. There’s a now-hard-to-find picture of some girl in Alaska who was so absorbed in setting up and taking her selfie that she missed the grizzly coming up behind her in that picture… I’m pretty sure my Mom would prefer it if I didn’t end up an ursine Happy Meal with my earbuds in and a pen in my hand. Although, now that I describe it that way, I suppose there are worse ways to go!
“The internet in Yellowstone sucks, how do you keep up with family and news and all that stuff?”
Umm…I mostly don’t. Look, I’m a complete introvert* who needs to “get away from it all” for at least a part of every year. Okay, okay, I really DO get it — doing so for six months at a time might be considered a BIT more than “part of the year”, but I’ve always believed in the old joke that anything worth doing is worth doing to excess!
*Although I CAN pretty effectively fake being an extroverted “nice guy” when necessary.
My family is pretty used to “radio silence” from me, by the way, so they tend not to get too stressed when they don’t hear from me for a while. Well, except for that time when my Mom called the cops on me because I forgot to call for … umm … ahem … better than two months …
As for the news? It just frustrates and irritates me, anyway. I give myself one morning a week to read the news, over my coffee and bagel. At the end of that morning, I usually wonder why the hell I bothered wasting my time and energy. I then head out to see if I can tempt a grizzly into eating me in an effort to atone for my news-reading sin. Hell, if I didn’t need my iPad for writing, I’d cover it in peanut butter and try to get the bear to eat that…
“How many words do you write in a week up there compared with back home?”
Great, thanks a ton for making me feel guilty about my lack of productivity. I average about 1,000 miles of hiking in six months up here, doesn’t that count for something?!
Fine, here’s the reality: a full, dedicated day of writing will see me put down somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 effective words. I will also, on a day like that, accomplish a few writing-oriented chores that do not directly involve creating sentences and scenes. That means that, back home, I can (and hopefully will!) produce anything from 10,000 to 15,000 first-draft words in a week. Up here, I’m happy to end a week with 4,000 words on the page. Occasionally — like when the Yellowstone Beer Fest was happening! — I produce zero words. Such is my cross to bear*.
*Pun fully intended!
“Can I have a free copy of your stuff?”
Can I have your f*@#ing house? There ain’t many people in this universe getting rich from writing, and I am most definitely NOT one of those few.
“Okay, I get it, Yellowstone isn’t really an inspiration for you…so what does inspire you?”
Well….beer and coffee.
Oh, and tourists. Any time I need to write a character who is annoying, ignorant, or stupid — or, better yet, all three — I just study the tourists for ten minutes.
“Are you grumpy, or what? I’m glad you aren’t in public relations!”
That WAS public relations for me. Get any staff member who has spent more than a month up here even the slightest bit drunk, and we will tell you stories that’ll make you want the supervolcano to go off!
“So, on that topic, the supervolcano… It’s just media-hype, right? A fake-news thing?”
My RV currently sits all of two thousand meters above an active magma chamber the size of freaking Montana. Mt St Helens put out one-quarter of a cubic kilometer of
stuff…and that devastated shit for miles. The last Yellowstone eruption put out A THOUSAND cubic kilometers of shit. 2.1 million years ago, Yellowstone put out 2,500 cubic kilometers! So, yeah…“fake news”…
‘Where are you going after this season?”
Somewhere I can do more writing. I love being up here, I really do. I love the park, I love the hiking, I love the animals…but I don’t produce crap as far as writing is concerned. From a real-world, financial perspective being up here is stupid as hell. Let’s be honest — no one comes up here to work for the money. There ain’t no money up here. Pretty much every seasonal employee up here just manages to break even for the season. That’s it. At best, you might put away a few hundred. Which is why 75% of the seasonal staff are either college kids or retired folks. To be one of the few still trying to make a living while working in the park? Yeah, that has it’s problems. I’m going to need the six months following this just to make up the ground I lost being up here…and I still wouldn’t change it for anything.
“Okay, with all that said — are you FINALLY going to call your mother?”
No, I’m going to write. Then I’m gonna lead a moonlight hike through a geyser basin…