Advent 1: Wish I Had Done Better

Leaning up against a stack of books under a coffee table at my brother’s house was the small book of essays that I published five years ago.

I hadn’t given him a copy so he had to have bought it on Amazon and the thought that he had done that gave me chills. I talk about him in the book but only in one essay. The rest of the essays deal with my life and my family, disparate pieces grouped together under the title “Mother Mining” which I chose because I found a stock photo of rust-colored rocks and the title fit somehow. Every decision about the book – what was in it, how it looked, everything – was made in a week’s time

I was in a mad hurry to put the book together. It was rushed as if I had to finish the book in one night, as if the sun couldn’t set and rise again in the time between my having the idea of the book and getting it done. All of the pieces were already written, previously published on my blog or elsewhere, so the task was to edit them to fit the format of the publishing program, Amazon’s I think it was. The hurry was about getting copies to sell to raise money for community intervention training for police officers. It was right after the Dontre Hamilton shooting by a police officer in Milwaukee. And so I got 100 printed and sold maybe 80 of them myself and, at $10 apiece, the effort raised a nice sum of money which I donated.

Then there were copies sold on Amazon. About ten. It did get a five star review from my friend Marcia but that was about it for promotion. It had some good work in it, my little book, but I knew it could have been better if I hadn’t rushed, hadn’t created an artificial urgency about finishing and had really taken the time to better curate the pieces and be more deliberate about layout and design.

So this year, 2019, was to be the year of redemption.

My plan was to write twenty good-length essays – 1,500 to 2,000 words – and publish them with illustrations done by a good friend who is a remarkable artist. And even though I put together three or four pretty good essays this year – keepers, if you will – the whole project suffered from a serious “failure to launch.” I couldn’t gather the focus nor get the momentum going necessary to have a high quality collection of work. And if I couldn’t generate the energy, I couldn’t expect my artist friend to, either.

So this seems to me to be a failure for the year.

Oh, I’ve accomplished other things, important things, but I didn’t accomplish this and it’s an end of the year bummer. The clock has been ticking and I haven’t been paying attention. It’s not like I have all the time in the world to get this done. 2020 will have to be the year.

5 Comments on “Advent 1: Wish I Had Done Better

  1. Maybe trying to get this publication accomplished in 2019 could have been another example of “artificial urgency,” which you’re trying to avoid. You’ll know when you’re ready, Jan!


    • This so chimes with me. I call myself a quilt maker but I’ve got a pile of old ones and scores of much better ones in my head. I think we’re more or less the same age (I’m 69) and 2020 has to be the year they get sewn. Good luck with your essays! I’m a big fan of your work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. I do know how you feel though. Goals, however, are like rules. They sometimes break for good reason. I love your writing either way.


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