I’ve been writing this blog since 2007. It’s become largely about my hobbies: photography, old cameras, and old roads. But I’ve always written personal essays, that is, stories from my life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. These posts never get the most pageviews, but you tell me time and again that they’re the ones you like best.
My next book collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008. My horrible first marriage had finally ended after a protracted and brutal divorce. I was left to build a new life, to go in a direction I didn’t foresee when I made my wedding vow, a direction I didn’t want. But our marriage was truly destructive. We weren’t able to fix what was broken about us. Our home was desperately unhealthy for everyone, including our children. The end of our marriage left us both broke, but in every other way our family was better off.
I needed a hobby. Money was tight. Blogging was free. And so I started to write my stories and share them here. Not the ones from the bad marriage — I decided straight off that I would not air our dirty laundry, would not work through my pain by sharing its causes with the world. It would have been cathartic to do it, as my ex had done some breathtakingly awful things. But I had done some breathtakingly awful things, too. I didn’t want her telling my stories. I wasn’t going to tell hers.
Instead, I wrote about my childhood and my young adulthood. I wrote about the challenges of adapting to newly single life. I also wrote about my faith, which the divorce challenged to the core. Through it I lost my childish ideas of what following God was about, and gained a genuine, sustaining relationship with my creator.
I’m titling the book A Place to Start. It’s the same name as a story I first published a month after I started this blog. You can read that story here. I wrote of my first apartment after graduating from engineering school and landing a job. I lucked into a great apartment, one much nicer than my meager income could ordinarily have afforded. There I figured out a new adult life. There I also started to see some of the baggage I was carrying from my childhood — baggage that led me to form unhealthy relationships. I began the hard work to change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, so I could be a better man. That apartment truly was a place to start.
I’m on track to publish my book in November. When you read it, you’ll see that neither I nor my blog had fully found our voices yet. But I had started. There is so much power in starting. From there, you can find your way. You can’t find your way until you start.
With this book I start my publishing journey. Who knows where it will take me? I get to enjoy finding my way with it, just as I still enjoy finding my way with my blog. Just as, now that I can look back on it, I enjoyed building a new life after my marriage ended.
Blogging for so many years has made me a much better writer. As I laid these stories and essays into this book, I revised them all to better tell my story and to make it more interesting.
I think everybody’s life is interesting — yours too. It’s all in how you tell the stories. I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life, but these stories together form a memoir that tells how rich even an ordinary life can be.
I’ll share more about A Place to Start in the weeks to come as I finish it and prepare it to be published. I have a lot to figure out between now and then!
If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you already knew I was working on this book. I even offered you the chance to review an early draft of it, and give me feedback. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.
I dipped my toe into the publishing waters a couple years ago by releasing two books of my photographs. If you’re interested, have a look at them here.