The Latest

And now for the hard part …

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” — Stephen King’s “On Writing”

I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot recently. Because if the idea of sitting down to write scares an author who seems to exhale written words, it makes sense that right now I am terrified.

I’m about to begin an unpaid leave from the paper.

This isn’t because I’m going to stop writing. It’s because I’m going to start.

I’m taking this sabbatical to write a book.

Just seeing that sentence on my computer screen scares me.

I have a hard enough time piecing together 500 words for a semi-coherent column. The idea of saying I will write 50,000 words? That’s Jack-Nicholson-typing-in-the-Overlook-Hotel horrifying.

I won’t completely disappear from the paper in 2014. I still will write a monthly column. (And speaking of scary, in 2014 we’ll likely have a Scott-Crist race in our state and I’ll have a teenager daughter in my house.) But I feel like if I don’t try to do this, I’ll forever have a nagging regret.

Two years ago, I was given what still seems like a dream opportunity. I won a fellowship with a proposal to spend a year in our national parks, looking ahead to the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016 and beyond.

I planned to write quite a bit during that sabbatical. Each month, I was going to spend a week or two immersing myself in one park and one issue, then return home and write, then leave again. And even after Mom was diagnosed with cancer five weeks into the year, I stuck to most of the itinerary, except for a trip to Alaska with her.

One of her final gifts to me was the permission — the encouragement — to forge ahead. And I did. I recorded hours of audio, shot thousands of photos, hiked to the top of Half Dome and the bottom of the Grand Canyon and met people all over America who were nearly as unforgettable as the places.

But the hard part of the project — the actual writing — often fell by the wayside.

When I returned to the paper, I told myself I’d find time. Maybe early in the morning or late at night. Maybe weekends. That rarely happened. And with each passing week, the nagging regret only grew. So when my two sisters and I recently sold my mom’s house in Arizona, I had an idea. What if I used my share to take this leap?

Considering that I don’t have any guarantees lined up — no advance, no agent, no publisher — I’m sure many financial planners would tell me to do something smarter with the money. Perhaps just go ahead and burn it.

This is one more reason I appreciate a friend, a financial planner whom I leaned on the year I took my sabbatical and lost my mom. When I told her I had decided to do this, she said, “That’s exciting.” And she sounded like she actually meant it.

“Exciting and scary,” I said.


Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required