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Thursday, 27 March 2014

As I Bang Out My 1,000 Words a Day, I Dream of Nebraska


I feel rather as if I am wading through treacle. It’s the price of diligence, I guess. I’m writing a book I really don’t want to write, but am contracted to do. While one part of my brain manages – somehow – to dream up and commit to paper the statutory thousand words a day, occasionally more, another part is pining for the freedoms that remain tantalising out of reach.

That’s the part that’s populated by a whole shelf of books I plan to write, hope to write, have written but need to re-write, and books that are no more than a vagrant notion scuttling across the back of my mind. They’re clamouring for attention, more urgently every day, and every day I fight them off, manfully, as I concentrate on the job in hand.

When you’re out of work it’s easy to imagine that you’d sacrifice anything for a paying proposition. But I’ve been cranking out paying propositions for the past few years, pretty nearly non-stop. If I add them all up - six Mike Pannett books, two e-books for myself, a full-length autobiographical memoir, plus a handful of outlines-plus-sample-chapters; if I throw in the 43,000 words I’ve done on Mike’s childhood, and add a couple more full-length pieces I’ve edited and effectively re-written, we’re looking at around a dozen books in seven years, four in the past fifteen months, plus the routine manuscript assessment work, a blog, and a few other speculative bits and pieces.

Well, you can’t have it both ways, I tell myself; and, when the state pension arrives this summer, things will change. Make that next Christmas, because I’m committed to ghosting one more memoir in the latter half of this year. Hardly surprising then that, even as I crank out another chapter about our boy playing with his bows-and-arrow, breaking windows, or sneaking down to the railway line to put coins on the track, or fishing for pike, or building a huge bonfire for Guy Fawkes night, a sub-conscious part of me is hatching plans for next year. And the interesting thing about the sub-conscious, as opposed to the conscious part of your brain, is that you exercise far less control over it.

It’s rather like a kid left home alone with little or no adult supervision: for better or worse, it gets creative. In my case it’s started cooking up a plan for next year, when I hope to pay an extended visit to the U.S., and in particular to Nebraska. The thought that my neglected subconscious keeps waving across my field of vision is this. Why not set up a lecture tour through a few small towns? Why not talk to the public – in libraries, perhaps – about why I keep coming back to Nebraska, and show them some of the pictures from my six months on the banks of the Niobrara? Why not print some hard copies of The Red House On The Niobrara and sell a few?    

Why not, indeed?

Okay, that’s given the subconscious an airing. Tomorrow morning it’s back to work.


  1. Nebraska is my adopted state. I've lived here for over 20 years and it is a beautiful place. I especially love traveling through the Sandhills. So, I am here to encourage you to do a speaking tour and to publish some hardbacks of "The Red House On The Niobrara" (I'm hoping the hardback would include pictures of your stay)

  2. Thanks for that, Joan - whoever you are. It is encouraging. I'm thinking of talking to people in Chadron, Valentine, Ainsworth, North Platte, perhaps Fort Robinson, possibly Lincoln. Also considering Gordon. As for the hard copy book, I am thinking I might include a free CD with the photos on it. Incorporating colour photos in a book makes it very hard to format, and more expensive to produce.

  3. Excellent choices of places to speak!
    Although my husband and I live in Lincoln, we love to travel to Chadron and then go up to the Black Hills. When we can, we like to take long weekends and travel to towns in NE. Chadron, Valentine, and McCook to name a few. We 'discovered' the Bean Broker in Chadron and it was through one of their posts on Facebook that I heard about you and your stay in NE. It has been fun to follow your travels!

    1. Joan, as you may have noticed, my Red House book is now available as a paperback. I'm going to see whether the Bean Broker will stock it. Meanwhile it can be seen on the site.

    2. Joan, you were kind enough to write on my blog about two years ago. Just to update you, I am visiting Nebraska 7-27 June. I have two speaking engagements lined up so far. One is at Chadron State College's Wild Writing event at Fort Robinson (12th June. The other is at the Willa Cather Memorial in Red Cloud, June 25th. On Friday 24th I am due to do a live interview for NET Radio's arts show from downtown Lincoln. I am hoping to set up other events at Rapid City and Boulder, Colorado, but although I have been getting an enthusiastic response from them, nothing has been fixed. I am looking too at bookstores in Lincoln and Omaha, but have not get very far yet. Too busy here, writing the next book. You may have seen that I have published another book, about my bike ride across the state.


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