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A Writing and Life Update

Updated on August 6, 2013

Going to the mountains to work on my second book

I have spent the last couple of days getting some peace and solitude in one of my favorite places on earth: our family cabin in the mountains. And among other things, I have gained a deeper understanding of two simple truths, both of which will sound a bit cliché. Of course, there is a reason why simple truths become clichés, as I will now demonstrate with a third cliché: the most important truths are simple.

First, I have learned that you gain a deeper appreciation of things when you almost lose them. Just a couple of weeks ago, a huge forest fire was raging just a few miles from where I now sit. The town, in fact, was evacuated, but thanks to the hard work and bravery of thousands of firefighters, our little spot in the woods was saved. Other than the loss of family and friends, there would be few things more personally tragic than the loss of this place. I have literally been coming here from birth, and I hope that it can be passed on to my kids, grandkids, and beyond. So I appreciate my little visit a bit more today than I might have one month ago.

Second, I have learned that I like being a husband and father. These past couple of days have been fantastic. I have had peace and quiet. I have not been called away or distracted a single time by my wife, kids, dog, the need to do housework, the phone, or anything else. I have gotten more writing done over the last two days than over the previous three months. A part of me is thinking that I could get used to this. But even after only a couple of days, I can see that this would get old fast. The last nineteen years of marriage, and particularly the past twelve years of fatherhood, have often been busy, stressful, chaotic, exhausting, and frustrating. But they have never been boring or lonely. This is not to say that the single life is inherently boring and lonely. But I think that it would be for me. So after I get this little solitude/writing binge out of the way, I plan to spend the rest of this summer vacation focused on family.

Speaking of writing, you may (although probably not) have noticed that I haven’t written any blogs/hubs for about a month or so, which is the longest drought that I have had since I started blogging almost four years ago. There are various reasons for this – see previous paragraph – but this little break was partly an experiment to see if I would miss writing. Writing takes a lot of time and mental energy, after all, and there has not been much of a practical payoff. So I’ve been thinking that it might be wise to invest my limited time in other ways.

I originally started blogging for the fun of it, as a mental exercise, and partly because I felt that many years of teaching, reading, and living might have given me some insights worth sharing. I quickly concluded that I enjoyed writing and might even be pretty good at it, so good, in fact, that I could possibly make a little money doing it. I also eventually realized that I had compiled enough history-related posts to put an American History book together. As an American History instructor at the community college level, this book could also be an added teaching tool. So I published the book almost two years ago, and in addition to bringing in a little extra income, I have had several students tell me how much it has helped them in my classes. Meanwhile, I have kept writing for the various motives written above and to also promote my little book.

So having reached this little crossroads, I have decided that I want to continue with this writing project. I don’t know if anyone else would notice if I stopped writing, but it has become clear to me that I would miss it. So I came up with a plan, a plan that I have began to implement up here in the mountains. Having gone through what I have written over the past couple of years, I realized that I almost have enough to come out with a new, improved, expanded edition of my book. There were a few topics where I needed to add some essays, however, but the amount of work still remaining is not too daunting of a task.

The problem is that I have a very busy semester coming up, as I will be teaching seven classes at three schools. So time for any heavy writing will be limited. I therefore decided, with my family’s blessing, to come up here and try to crank out some rough drafts of essays that have been kicking around in my head and that will fill these historical gaps. Then, when the busy fall semester starts, I can spend my time revising rather than generating essays, which can more easily be done in the little windows of time that I will have than it takes to write something new.

Over the last couple of days, I have written five rough drafts of historical essays and this little update that you are reading now. I will soon return home, kick back, and focus on family for the next couple of weeks, periodically posting these rough drafts in the hopes of getting some feedback. Then, if all goes to plan, I will spend the time that I can muster during the fall semester revising and/or updating essays in hopes of publishing the second edition of Accessible American History early next year.

In the mean time, my Facebook book page – just search Accessible American History to find it – will have links to the rough drafts of my American History essays that will eventually find their way into my second book. I recently created this page both for my students and in hopes of maybe selling a few more books. So I would appreciate any feedback that you can give. Thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ll check out my book when it’s done.


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    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 4 years ago

      Thanks Andy for your always encouraging comments. (You were busy today, or at least you had some time on your hands, for obvious reasons.)

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      Andy 4 years ago

      I also hope that I hope that your family cabin can be passed on to your kids, grandkids, and beyond. It's a major part of who you are.

      Have fun updating your rough-draft essays and publishing the second edition of your book.