Woodsen 101

Note: I’m reorganizing this site. Moving stuff around. Modifying it. Might look different from one day to the next. Just so you know ….

I didn’t set out to be a writer (or help with a green cemetery startup, for that matter). Funny how two things that have so defined my life happened mostly by accident after years working as a … let’s see: racehorse hot-walker, motel maid, assembly-line worker, grease monkey, cleaning lady, day-care mom, soapmaker, cashier, woodworker, gardener ….

Then I got tired. Not tired of work, just tired of the grind. So I started writing.

The toughest part? Learning to type.

Wait. For pity’s sake, really? “Learning to type”?

This pic came from the NYS Horse Pullers Assoc. No guarantee it's a pull in Lisle, though it looks vaguelyfamiliar.

This pic came from the NYS Horse Pullers Assoc. No guarantee it’s a pull in Lisle, though the backdrop looks vaguely familiar.

Well, no — and yes. I wonder if, back in the pre-keyboard days, I could’ve pulled it off. “It” meaning “learning to type” — thus also “becoming a writer.” I remember my first computer — a used PC with DOS software, a heavy son of a gun; definitely gave me an appreciation for keystroke commands, since Microsoft was still several years away from unveiling it’s faux-Apple knock-off. I began with stories for the local media, 25 bucks a pop. (“Local” meaning somewhere within, say, 30 miles of Ithaca, New York.) Horse pulls in Lisle. River otters in Spencer. A chiropractic vet in Candor.

Most of those early stories are in antiquated Word formats that I can’t open now. Their filenames — “thrasher kills lizard,” for instance — hint at the content in broad brush strokes with little indication whether the story got published or not.

Detour alert! What, lizards in upstate New York? Believe it, though they’re plenty rare; rarer still, it would seem, that a lizard-killing thrasher was hanging out in my neck of the woods. I can’t imagine that pitch went anywhere: I saved just one versions in a Word file so old I can’t open it. Which (in my oft circuitous way: detour alert number two) reminds me … I’ve always wanted to write about hellbenders. Honking big salamanders, the largest in North America. Nearly 30 inches long. Someday I must seek them out, before upstate is entirely bereft of them. So … what do salamanders have to do with lizards? For the time being, just think of salamanders as being aquatic lizards, sort of. Not all need to live in or near water. But they need to lay their eggs there.

So back to “learning to type.” A skill that, for me at least, took some sort of neural sleight-of-hand I can’t quite put my finger on — something I apparently needed if I wanted to think and type at the same time. Does this make sense? Not really, though it’s the best I can do just now; and for the most part, many years later, I’ve got that down, sort of, mostly. But while I could still stand to be a better typist (or thinker, or writer as the case may be), typing is the least of my worries. Thinking? Writing? They’re just damn hard work, I’ve got a lot on my plate, and for the moment I’m stalled. Oh, a few years ago I knew a woman at Cornell who could spin really solid stories, each a joy to read, at the drop of a hat. Several, for all I know, in the space of a day. But that’s not me, or lots of other writers.

Anyway. A bootstrapper in any line of work has to build sweat equity, however figuratively. The tricky thing is that bootstrapper startups are prone to failure for any number of reasons. After all, you can toss seven tails or heads in a row (or a broody hen on seven eggs could hatch out all females or all males). Not that failure or its reverse are a flip of a coin. But the metaphor holds.

I shouldn’t complain. After all, I get to write for a living. I love my job: “real science for real people.” But the rest of my writing life? There’s just so much more I want to say. Everything short of higher mathematics fascinates me. Even there I could find something to blather on about; maybe even to love. Yet so many crazy things have taken over large swaths of my life and time outside of work that I sometimes wonder if, at this point … have I any equity left at all?

Note to self. Backtrack a bit. What came next; you know, after those local yokel stories I wrote? Oh yeah. Optigen. And what I learned. And following that, what I aim to do. So flip the page ….

Continued >


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