A day in the life…

Hi ____,

I’m sorry man, my heart’s not in it right now. I’m so distracted I can barely muster the energy or interest to work on my own projects at the moment. I wanted to put that at the front so this didn’t read like a shitty rejection letter.
The truth is, I’m feeling very depressed following the election, not the least of reasons being because of how little I feel that I do to make this world a better place. I feel part of a majority of people who never reached out to the people who voted for Trump, who never tried to understand them, who dismissed them all as idiots or morons or racists without trying to get at the root causes of those things, which I believe are poverty, and hopelessness.
I become more and more disenchanted with the entire outdoor industry every day. I become more and more disenchanted with Fringe’s Folly readers. When I break an article about a girl breaking the speed record on El Cap, the click count goes ballistic. When I write about the very real risk of land transfer legislation throughout the American West, it barely causes a stir. I become more and more disenchanted with Fringe’s Folly itself. With myself.
It looks like you have put in a ton of work and reflection here, and I think that’s awesome. If we were friends, I would be so proud of you. Even as a stranger, I’m proud of you. Shit is hard. It’s a tough life. Nothing comes easily. Hard work is everything.
That said, from a personal aesthetic stand point, I am becoming less and less interested in stories of overcoming personal adversity, especially through connection with the outdoors. That’s not a criticism of you or your film, it’s just me – that’s my own personal aesthetic interest right now. I want to learn more about the other 50%, I want to understand how to affect policy, I want to know what’s at stake globally and locally, how to help out in Standing Rock, where to line up with pickets when Trump puts Keystone back into play, how to improve relations between ranchers and environmentalists, cops and the black community, LGBT and evangelicals, “patriots” and muslims, uneducated white folk and latinos, republicans and democrats.
That’s where most of my interest lies right now. I barely have enough enthusiasm to follow through on my own work commitments, and personal passion projects that I am feeling less and less passionate about.
I hope you’ll understand.
Again, thanks for reaching out, and best of luck.

Hey ____,

Inhabit the role of the confident author. What a novel idea. Sadly, I think I lack the constitution for it. I can hold on to a little misguided enthusiasm for a short time, but then the weight of the real world inevitably comes crashing down upon me, and I realize: “oh yeah, that’s not for me.”

In principle, I agree with you. Time spent comparing your own work or achievements against those of others is time better spent working. But I find it hard not to. Maybe it’s a sort of addiction to self-deprecation. I’ll think about that, and get back to you. Meanwhile, enjoy Britain’s recent drop from the number one spot on the list of world’s dumbest political maneuvers of the 21st century. America, I’m proud to say, will gladly take the crown.

Hi ____,

Thanks for your kind email. I don’t get many from the site, so it’s always a pleasant surprise.
I actually do know of Dark Mountain… I must have found it some time ago on a Jeffers google clickhole. Believe it or not, I’ve even submitted work there; but either got rejected or no replied. I can’t recall which. As a writer, I get plenty of both.
My ability and tolerance for contributing unpaid works wanes more and more each day. Unfortunately, writing is (so far) the only career I have. It’s so hard to muster the energy to imagine a piece, then dream about it for days, then sit down and write it, then work the writing over for a few days, then send it off to someone for free only to get a form email response, or nothing. Some literary journals even make you pay to submit work. I even have before. It’s the most dehumanizing feeling, like signing up for something exciting that turns out to be a pyramid scheme. You realize you’ve been duped.
I hope none of this dissuades you from your goal of starting a second career as a writer. I think writing is a proud, courageous, and bold thing to do. Especially in today’s world which is dominated by clickbait, social media, and adspace. If you are getting published in Dark Mountain, you must be quite good at your craft. I hope you succeed where others fail. If you don’t, I hope you keep trying. I am becoming more and more convinced that skill is less valuable than persistence, and networking. But all that said, you also have to have skill. The one gets the foot in the door, the other allows the rest of you to pass through.
All the best,

Hi ____,

Thanks so much for your constant encouragement, and friendliness. The workshop was great – I only wish my head had been in it a little bit better. As we already discussed, I find it very challenging to maintain enthusiasm about much of my work any time I get a reminder from “the real world” about all the work to be done, all the massive problems needing to be solved. Writing about climbing, by comparison, seems like an enormous waste of what Mary Oliver called “this one precious life.”

As for the work itself, even if my mind wasn’t floating off to enormous issues that loom ominously, I’m a bit disheartened by what feels like a growing reality: it’s simply too short for book publication. While writing Part One, I felt that I was really reaching at times just to boost the word count. I was trying desperately to get up to 25,000; or at least 20. As far as I understand it, you need at least that much to make a book.
That said, I agree with the criticisms: the narrative doesn’t bear out the wordiness. Looks like it will land around the 15000 range, which is sort of a no-man’s land, I think. Too long for any sort of climbing magazine (not that they’d touch short fiction with a ten foot pole, anyway); too short for a book.
I wonder if, perhaps, I’ll just self-publish in the end, after all. Sometimes that works well for people. One can always hope.
Anyway, the truth of the matter is I need to quit worrying about who’s going to publish the thing, and refocus on just making the writing as good as possible. I know that, of course, but it’s hard for me at times to keep it in the center.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s workshop, and hope you have a lovely day!

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