by Neva Bodin
I can relate to Mike this morning (June 1st). I just saw the schedule (due June 5th) and I’m going to be on the road in two hours to the Wyoming Writer’s Conference. And I hadn’t thought what to write about.
I woke a little before 4 even though I didn’t go to bed until midnight, something that happens too often. Hopefully things go smoother with our 4 hour trip to DuBois, WY than the previous days of this week.
Tuesday I was invited to go to the Willow Creek Ranch where a writer’s retreat was hosting Craig Johnson for supper. Craig is the successful author of the Longmire series in book form, then on TV and now on Netflix. He is also a very nice Wyoming rancher.
It’s about 70 miles from our house. The first 40 miles was great. We’d received almost an inch of rain in the 12 hours right before we left. But as many WY roads do, pavement turned to dirt—meaning clay, which is probably full of bentonite.
Bentonite is a material mined in this area for many commercial purposes. It has colloidal properties that cause it to swell to several times its original size when wet. It is used in cat litter, as a lubricant, purifier and clarifier in producing iron ore pellets, building materials and edible oils. It’s used in cosmetics, animal food, paper making, dyes, detergents and more.
It also takes control of your four-wheel drive wheels, is slippery and tries to be in charge any time you work with it. It shift buildings, causing cracks etc. And if you get stuck in it with a four-wheel drive, you are stuck.
After about a half mile with possibly 10+ more miles of it, we carefully turned around on the narrow road, and slipped and slid, sometimes almost sideways, barely pulling ourselves back up the incline to the pavement. Disappointed and disheartened, we drove the 40 miles back to Casper and a car wash.
Longmire is a masterful series of stories where all the characters, whether good or criminal, are smart, resourceful and have some quality you care about. Each episode started with a murder if I remember right, but the killer was never clearly identifiable until the last minute, and the circumstances usually surprising. We got Netflix this year and watched 2-3 episodes each evening till done. Some left you with a cliff hanger, so we just had to see the next one.
How clever some writers are. And if we think about it, it’s not just authors of fiction and non-fiction novels. The shows that chase ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, the mysteries of earth, soap operas, and comics are masters at making us think we will learn something important in the next few minutes of each show or the next frame in the comic. And we are strung along for years!
Like bentonite, they suck us in, with great power, and progress in the story sometimes is slow and goes sideways. Yet, we slog on.
As we do as writers. I don’t know about everyone, but I and some others I know ask ourselves why we keep trying to improve our writing when it seems we never quite get there.
Yet, as in life, which doesn’t always give us dry roads to navigate, we continue. (And sometimes we have to turn around and pursue a different story.) For when you have a story knocking at the doors of your mind, demanding to be written, you must keep trying. That is built into the human psych I believe and shouldn’t be ignored.
Writing is hard, admirable, and necessary for our society. We never stop learning, and a writer learns so much, through research and relationships with other writers, and we show generosity when we share our knowledge.
So let’s continue to learn, strive, build our character and be ecstatic over any successes. These successes might be publishing, finishing, or just getting words on a page.