No writer works in a vacuum. There are always influences. Fathers, for example. My dad Ken, now 96, started keeping a daily journal in his early 50s. Twenty years into that he decided to pull it all together into a memoir. He grew up dirt poor in the Depression. Later, he was one of the first people to work with the Univac, a new fangled thing called a ‘computer,’ in 1947, and that opportunity gave him the opening to hoist himself into the middle class. No more cardboard liners in shoes with holes in the soles.
Writing, done right, is hard work. Ken published his memoir, “The Day is Far Spent,” after ten years of polishing, sanding, cutting, re-writing, adding new additions, rearranging sections, tearing up whole chapters and starting over. I thought he’d never finish.
But he did. He blocked out time every day to chip away at his project. Some days crowded that time; some days he was able to devote more than the usual effort. But every day, something.
I absorbed that influence when I started “Delaware Before the Railroads”. Lots of people have said to me when I mentioned my new book project “Oh, I should write a book someday.”
“Someday” will never happen unless you discipline yourself on a schedule. I’m relieved that my Delaware book did not take ten years to complete, but when I began it I was prepared to take the long view. Just like my dad with his memoir project, I ran into snags, delays, setbacks, roadblocks, and nasty surprises.
West Virginians say folks who are able to keep on course no matter what have “stick-to-it-ive-ness”. If there’s one thing I want more than anything to inherit from my old hillbilly father, it’s that.