Blog Mississippi book

Plan B

Saturday, December 03, 2005

plan B in the planningSo with some help from Buendia (who reckons she should have been an editor, not an architect), I’ve come up with something of a plan for the Mississippi book: less Mississippi, more David.

I’d thought I would have something important to say about the red states, and urban decline and all that, and while I did see some interesting stuff, most of my conclusions could have been reached in the comfort of an armchair a long way from Iowa or Arkansas.

Also, how much does any travel writer really get inside a place that they only visit for 24 hours, before heading off to the next target?

I realised that the more interesting topics were more personal – how I came to have this troubled but affectionate relationship with America, and what I’ve gleaned from living in 3 different parts of it, not just drifting through.

The photo shows part of the planning for the next draft – some Mississippi stuff is still there (in pink, if you’re interested) – but there’s a lot more Kansas, San Francsico and Santa Fe in there (green post-its), and some broader themes (the yellow stuff).

Now all I have to do is write it (again).

Posted by David in • Mississippi book

Blog Mississippi book

The difficult second album

Monday, November 28, 2005

So you might have been wondering what’s happening with the second book, the follow-up to The Accidental Pilgrim. You’re not the only one – I’ve had to tell my Dad to stop asking about it, because it upsets me to have to report every week that I’ve done nothing on it for months.

But I’ve finally sorted out some time to stop being a full-time half-time web designer, and take a look at what I’ve got, and what I want to do with it.

And it’s not a pretty sight. I feel like a rock band settling down to make their second album: the first was well-received, but since then everything’s changed and they’re not sure what the hell’s going on.

First, some back story. I cycled all the way down the Mississippi in the summer of 2003, just before I got married. The decision to go down the river was partly one of expediency, and starting it I was underprepared and less than completely enthused. Cycling across Europe had at least ended up as a sort of a pilgrimmage; this felt like a business trip.

The whole thing was a bit of a slog, and I didn’t enjoy it that much. I saw some interesting stuff, and had a few scrapes and adventures, but my heart wasn’t really in it. So not a great start.

Then back in Dublin after we got married, I never really got down to the writing. I was working 4 days a week, and never found (or wanted to find) the time to devote to it. The Accidental Pilgrim came out around then, so my extra-curricular activities were devoted to going on TV3’s Morning Ireland, or talking to Marian Finucane or whatever.

Moving to Santa Fe finally freed up time to write – while I was waiting for my work permit – and I dashed out a first draft in the summer and autumn of last year. I wasn’t really happy with it, but at least it was a start.

That I promptly ignored for a year – I started Moore Consulting, got busy, and then Fionnuala arrived. Since then, Buendia and I have each been working half-time running our respective businesses, so it’s taken until now to grab some space to think about it.

All of which sounds like a string of excuses and self-justifications for inactivity. Writers write – and even within some pretty tight constraints I could have done a lot more. But my sense of why I didn’t gets to the heart of the problem – I’m just not that excited about the project as it stands.

Expediency is not a great well to draw from if you’re looking fo creativity, and wanting to write another book was more important to me than wanting to write this book. So now I’ve got a first draft I’m not that excited about, on the subject of a trip I wasn’t that excited about in the first place.

But there’s some good stuff there, and I’m keen to turn into something I actually like. So now I’m batting around all sorts of unlikely ideas – fictionalize it, turn it into a performance piece, or a series of essays, or set fire to the whole lot . . .

What’s crucial is that I find a way to turn this amorphous bunch of stuff into something I’m interested in working on. Cranking out the Accidental Pilgrim 2 by rote won’t really cut it. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Posted by David in • Mississippi book

Blog Mississippi book

500 words before breakfast

Thursday, August 26, 2004

So you might be wondering what I’m doing, when I’m not riding bikes or camping or such like.

Two things mainly: writing the new book, and working/trying to get paid work.

On the book writing front, I’m part of the way through the first draft of the Mississippi book, tentatively titled ‘Only Bike’. I try to write 1000 words a day. Sometimes that takes 90 minutes, sometimes it takes 4 or 5 hours, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

I’m not much of a believer in waiting for inspiration to strike. As the old saying goes, inspiration seems to find me more easily when I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer. I’m aware that some days it will be a struggle, and other times a joy, but I prefer to keep plugging away.

This morning, for example I tried to surprise myself by not letting myself go for breakfast until I’d written 500 words. I couldn’t do that every day, but it worked on this occasion.

On the work front, I’ve been sending out CVs and job applications (without much joy), and pitching for freelance work (a bit more progress but nothing I want to share yet).

Fortunately, I’m also doing some work for some old happy clients – the web consultancy in Dublin I’ve done lots of work for, and my sister, whose site I built a few years ago, and who’s now looking for a revamp.

Throw in some research for the Mississippi book and the usual errands (and Olympic coverage), that’s pretty much me.

Posted by David in • Mississippi book