The Straight Story

The past two and a half weeks, I’ve been pretty much missing online.

Between calving season and getting the farm ready for the big family easter gathering, I’ve almost entirely neglected my online family. I have to say that I feel pretty crappy for doing so, but I have lots of pics/videos of frolicking baby bovines I’ve taken in the meantime. I hope they might help in lessening the general bonfire and pitchforkishness reaction of my interweb brethren and sistren.

I recently remembered and rewatched one of my favorite movies.

How ridiculous would it be if David Lynch made a Disney movie. Well…he did.

The Straight Story is about a man who drives a lawnmower to see his brother who’s had a stroke in another state. He’s 73 with failing eyesight and doesn’t have a license, but he has to go see him because they haven’t spoken in over a decade.

Character development? You’re doing it right.

Sometimes, that’s how I feel about where I am with my writing. Not necessarily getting nowhere fast, but getting somewhere very, very slowly.

As my cousins in Texas would ask. I wonder if y’all have ever felt the same…

(Image property of Disney)

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  1. If you can write a wonderful post like this one, you are doing just fine. Just fine. I’m a big proponent of The Slow Show.

  2. Steve Vernon says:

    David, are you freaking kidding me?

    I’ve got a day job that’s pretty well full time. I’ve got a house that needs keeping. Snow that regularly needs shoveling.

    Throw on some family crisis over the last year. Three siblings who are battling the reaper – two of them younger and one of them run to critical.

    On top of that I’ve been taken a paying gig as the editor of a Canadian anthology of speculative fiction. Means I’ve had to read about four hundred manuscripts in the last three months. Right now I’m hip-deep in the final selection process – heavy, heavy editorial work and dealing with numerous authors.

    On top of that I’m dealing with three book tours that are coming up. These are all paying gigs – which is great. Means I’ll be making appearances in schools, libraries, bookstores and auditoriums.

    Now – none of these activities compare to the amount of work that is involved in actually running a farm – as you do.

    (I know that for a god-given fact – I actually dated a lady farmer briefly and worked on her farm and it definitely lives up to that whole “working from sun to sun” motto – farming is damn tough)

    And – several of these activities – especially the book tours – are REALLY freaking cool and a chance in a lifetime that I intend to have a blast with.

    BUT – each one of these activities takes time away from my writing.

    Each one takes energy and prep-time and a certain amount of commitment and focus.

    So yes – I do sometimes feel like Alvin Straight – the gent who drove his John Deere tractor from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.

    (And I’ve watched that movie several times and loved it. Amazing that it’s a true story. Amazing that Alvin Straight was played by 82 year old Richard Farnsworth who actually was dying from terminal bone cancer while he was making that film – and knew it!)

    It’s a wonderful flick that tells a wonderful story.

    The truth of the matter is that life is built to get in the way. It’s supposed to get in your way. It plays a VERY important role by getting in the way.

    You see – every time that a personal commitment and/or responsibility gets in the way of you putting words down on paper – it is serving a heck of an important purpose.

    You’re output has been suffering – but your emotional content hasn’t been.

    Remember this, David.

    Repeat it every morning that you’ve got to get out of be knowing that you’re about to spend the next twelve hours – maybe shoulder deep in the wrong end of a difficult calving – or shovel deep in a heap of manure.

    Remember these four words.


    Life – and the living thereof – is what keeps your creative motor humming. It’s what keeps the muse wet and juicy. It’s what keeps the words flying off your fingertips while you dance them across a willing keyboard.

    Life – in all of it’s manifold formats – is what we writers write about.

    Whether you’re writing science fiction or hot steaming romance or blood and guts battle – ALL of the stories you write are stuffed cram-full of characters. And if you want your reader to buy into the tale that you are spinning you’ve got to make sure that these characters are freaking believable – which means that you’ve got to grab a fist full of personal experience and cram it shoulder deep into that character and stuff him cram-jam-full of hot stinking life!

    So – don’t beat yourself up over not getting anywhere to fast.

    Do just what you are doing. That ain’t a keyboard – that’s a John Deere 110 ride-on tractor.

    Keep it straight and you’ll get there by and by.

    yours in storytelling,
    Steve Vernon

  3. adan lerma says:

    slow sounds good to me!

    don’t know if it’s because i’m a senior now, or also from texas, but either way, all the best wishes david ;-)

  4. LM Preston says:

    Sometimes stepping away gives you a new perspective and keep us anxiously waiting your return. Glad you had a good Easter holiday and calving season.

  5. Angela Brown says:

    Ref: Sometimes, that’s how I feel about where I am with my writing. Not necessarily getting nowhere fast, but getting somewhere very, very slowly.

    I pretty much mentioned this same thing in my post today.

    From what it sounds like, things on the farm and with family are going well, and that’s important too. Happy Writing :-)

  6. PJ Sharon says:

    You are not alone, my friend. Most of the time, I feel like I’m internally moving at a 100 mph…externally, I’m sitting still and watching the world zip by. Deadlines and to-do lists can so easily take over my life to the point of feeling like a hamster on a wheel. It takes effort, planning, and a good amount of sheer willpower to stay engaged in life, family, friends, and taking care of my physical and mental health. It would be so easy to disappear into my writing world and never come out…but then, I’d have nothing to write about:-)

  7. Tamara Ward says:

    Slow and steady wins the race… right? Everyone writes differently, and everyone’s life is different. I have a friend who writes like a fiend and has a novel-length, quality manuscript out before I’ve even finished a rough draft. I have times in my writing life where I take a break from writing… like right now. I’m focused on getting a novel out the door/formatted/distributed and I’m enjoying my boys while one of them is off school. For some people, it’s about writing every day; other people write in spurts. Some people write in the mornings – other folks are night owls. Some people are plotters; others are pantsers What works for you is what’s right for you… at least in my opinion as far as writing goes! And you can’t write in a bubble (or at least you shouldn’t). Your life enriches your art. :) Keep going steady!

  8. Lois Lavrisa says:

    All of life is a story- you are just busy being in it now- when you have time you will write:)

  9. SK Holmesley says:

    My maternal grandparents were farmers. I lost them both ages ago and the farm was shut down, distributed to the four surviving sisters and gradually sold off. I still treasure the times my brother and I spent on the farm, and my mother’s remembered stories of when she was growing up. We moved so much after WWII (I was born in 1946), chasing jobs for my father, and fleeing cities for my mother as more and more people would move into an area and she would start to feel closed in. In the end the farm was the only place consistent in enough in our lives for me that in my mind, I still designate it as “home”.

    I love it when you talk about your farm. It brings back memories of my grandparents and makes me smile. :-)

  10. Great post and wonderful comments! I feel that way a lot, especially lately. Day job, family crisis, low sales on e-books (I had a free promo on Monday for Opening Day of baseball season and I can’t even give my short story collection away), etc. etc. I feel that way on the day job, too. People around me are working really fast and I’m…slow and steady wins the race.

  11. In my opinion (and in my actions) slow and steady is the best way to go. Us turtles sometimes win the race. I admire all that you do, my man.

  12. “Not necessarily getting nowhere fast, but getting somewhere very, very slowly.

    As my cousins in Texas would ask. I wonder if y’all have ever felt the same…”

    Oh, my! Do I! Feeling like that as I type this. I don’t have the interruptions of those new baby beefs (wish I did), but an interruption is an interruption and, boy, do I have them of late! Thanks for for the suggestion that I may be getting somewhere…slowly. :)