Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Choppin' Wood

Once upon a time, in a far away northern land, lived a boy. By day, this boys toiled in the cold and snow along with the others in his village, but it was the nights he lived for. For at night, the elders of his lodge always built a fire. Some built big roaring fires out of huge logs that lasted all the way through the night. Other elders stoked smaller blazes from smaller limbs. These had to be continually tended, but they offered a charm that the big fires did not. And some elders spent hours stacking their limbs and logs in just such a way that they they kept things glowing hot.

The boy spent much time near the fires. He liked the way some of them popped and cracked, while others quietly sizzled. He liked to stare at the mystical shapes that sometimes appeared. He liked how sometimes the flames danced recklessly while others they licked the wood rather sedately. And of course he loved the smells. Pinon, oak, Aspen. The woodsmoke varied depending on the tree, but each tickled his nose and pleased him with their aroma.

Despite the differences, all of the fires kept the boy warm and happy. Oh how he loved the fires.

Over time the boy grew older. He became one of the elders. Yet, he never built a fire for the others in his tribe. He wanted to. He even believed he could. And a time or two he went so far as to sneak off in the snowy woods to practice. He cut logs. He laid them out combining the techniques of his favorite fire builders. He longed to be a fire builder.

One day, the boy, who was now a man, was too sick to go outside and work in the cold. He stared at the woodpile by the door. He eyed the communal fire pit. He reached for some kindling. Then a log and before he knew it, he'd built a very intricate stack of wood in the pit. But as time neared for the tribe to cease their work and come inside he got scared.

What if his stack of wood collapsed too fast and put out the flame? What if he couldn't get it lit at all? What if it failed to warm anyone but himself?

No it was easier not to put himself out there. Let some one else build the fire. Then he could sit by the amber flames without fear. So as the sun set, he ripped apart his creation and restacked the wood he'd used by the door.


DON'T BE THAT BOY.


Yeah, I'm talking to you and you and you. My fellow writers.

Finish what you're writing. Send it off to that agent, or magazine, or editor. Don't watch your dreams smolder at the bottom of someone else's pit. Grab the matches, a can of gasoline and roast your own damn marshmallows.

And if you gotta ask, if this was directed at you, then YES it is.

And for the record this is a reminder to myself, as well as any of you.

38 comments:

Poetry Sue said...

damn it.. get out of my head!!! here I am quibbling over whether to send some poetry to some magazines and then you go and post something like this... bastard... now I have to buy stamps

Kristen Painter said...

Nope, not aimed at me. I start fires frequently and with great joy. ;o)

bookbabie said...

I hear you. I did finish my book and get it into the Amazon contest. This writing is tough though, call me a wimp, but I'm actually trying not to let another idea for a book seep into the writerly crevices of my brain!

AirmanMom said...

this is my first visit to your blog and I must say I totally enjoy what I have read! I'll be back to read you again soon!

~AM

Crystal Phares said...

Great, now you are telling me, too. I'm trying, I'm trying. It's hard work, though!

Being Beth said...

I'm all about starting a fire, an have started enough to win third prize in my writing groups "Strike Out" contest for having the most rejections during a year.

Then I started writing novels. Geez Loweeze!!! It's one thing to write a book. It's quite another to rewrite one. At this point if I sent it out it would be like dropping a lit match in the gasoline can -- BOOM - I'd be blown to smithereens.

But, I do have both matches and fuel and as soon as I can SAFELY strike that match, you can be sure I will.

Fun post!

Paul Brazill said...

Fair enough! I'll finish and send a story off tonight! Thx!

Steve Hamilton said...

I really needed to read this today. I've been overcome by the "I'm not good enough" bug lately. Thanks for the nudge.

Pink Ink said...

*Finish what you are writing*

Thanks for the pep talk.

Terri Tiffany said...

That's exactly what I'm doing this week--finishing my WIP. ALmost there! Then the query to an agent who said send it! We shouldn't let opportunity slip by! Great story!!

Junosmom said...

Well, I didn't write, but the day's not over. And I did click on all your Google Ads so that should count for something.

Cloudia said...

Thank you Travis! Aloha-

David Cranmer said...

I'm in the ring swinging T Man but I appreciate the reminder.

dizzblnd said...

Beautiful writing. You are so good! It took me back to my childhood watching bon-fires. I could almost smell them again. Thanks for the memories ;)

theneatos said...

excellent analogy ... and very fitting to just about anything sitting ... collecting dust ... waiting to be finished.

Thanks for the kick in the pants.

Preston said...

Great story...now if he just had a beer to sip on (sans orange slice) while sitting next to that fire...

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, don't worry if you get some splinters.

Barbara Martin said...

Good story, Travis; but it doesn't apply to me. My first is finished and out finding a home, and I'm still working on the second and third. A modified chapter of the first will be published on BTAP on March 7th, so the proof is in the pudding.

the walking man said...

Nice parable Travis...but I keep unstacking the wood because in my heart I know it won't burn.

Josh said...

are you the MATRIX!!!!

alex keto said...

Funny you should pick this analogy.

Most of the agents I talk to seem rather interested in fires also, but mostly that's because they want to burn my manuscripts.

Virginia Lady said...

Great story, and great poke! Thanks Travis.

Melanie Avila said...

An excellent reminder for all of us. Thanks.

Passage of a Woman said...

Wonderful post, Travis. I must say, I didn't expect the punch line.

I've always loved fires and used to stare at them as a child, so I read with interest. Certainly, your analagy can apply to anything we've started and left unfinished...procrastination, after all, is a fear of failure.

I have never tried to publish anything. I love to write, but it is tedious for me; nevertheless; enjoyable. Although a handful of my dearest friends and family have said that I write well, I'm not convinced any publisher would think so.

Now that I'm "retired," perhaps I'll take some of those writing courses I never finished in college.

Thanks for a great post.

Merry Monteleone said...

Thanks, Travis, I needed that.

See you on the trail. Don't forget to keep your horse's head up after riding through a stream :-)

Lana Gramlich said...

You have no idea how timely this post is...for both Charles & I. So ironic...

Frank Baron said...

Nice metaphor Travis and it seems to have hit a few folks where they live. There are a handful of things I believe I can do well in this life. One of them is building a fire. You're quite right - they're magical.

laughingwolf said...

i keep getting singed, but guess i'm too stupid to quit trying...

nor do i care about the raucous laughter each time i fail....

Angie Ledbetter said...

*Passing the can of lighter fluid to ya* :)

Jennifer Archer said...

The old Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" syndrome! No matter how many books I write, I come down with this malady again when I start the next one. Great post, Travis. The best medicine is to just apply butt to chair and WRITE until you reach the end.

Annie Wicking said...

Thank you Mr.T I hear you... I'm hitting those key as we speak.

Great posting

Clare2e said...

Travis- I expect to finish a short story draft today that, with critique and edits, I will submit to a paying market in two weeks. After that, who knows, but I wear way too much lip gloss to be THAT BOY.

Still, you're reminding me I should be writing, not surfing!

J. L. Krueger said...

Absolutely!

Been working on book four and five today. Running out of steam now, so stopping in for a visit. ;)

Melissa Marsh said...

This is awesome, Travis. Love the story, love the message.

Windy Lynn Harris said...

I needed to hear this today! Thank you, Travis. Now I'm off to mail that query letter :)

Monnik said...

This is good advice, Travis. And frankly, it's what I need to do these days.

Bubblewench said...

Great story... love how you applied it to your writing.

Basil Sands said...

As a boy in the far north I identified well with your fire boy.

As far as the illustration yeah...build that fire. Keep piling the wood on and rearranging it and keep it blazing if at all possible. If it goes down to embers keep them white hot until you can find more wood to put on. And make sure you get the story out there.

Never give up cuz someday someone is going to see the blaze and come get warm in its glow, maybe they'll stick around for your next fire. And maybe they'll be an agent with a great connection to a huge fire-building franchiser and you suddenly find yourself with a contract to build and large number of fires for pits all over the world.

So keep learning.

Sincerely,
Basil Sands
soon to be discovered fire builder who has a blazing podcast novel inferno at my website and thinks Travis hit the point very succinctly...and poetically...

By the way, nice blog. I like.

Travis, since you're a Texan and I'm Alaskan, I had to write a big entry...just to keep things in perspective.