Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sharpening Saws

As the summer draws to a close here in the Salt Lake Valley and the skies are brown orange with burning wildfires and the kids are complaining about itchy new clothes and regular sleeping schedules, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about saws.

I’ve been sharpening saws.

Fun fact: I learned once that the reason there are so few old saws in the world is not because they were stolen by Indians looking to start a saw mill, but because they’d be sharpened and sharpened again until nothing was left of them. Go to a Colonial woodshop, go on do it - and ask them about this. They’ll tell you the same. This is at once a nice example do thriftiness, but also of sacrifice.

Fun story: Two brothers decided to have a tree cutting competition in the forest, the beach being universally frowned upon for male tree-cutting competitions, though strangely, the female bikini tree-cutting competitions continue to be held on the beach to the is day. Anyway, the two brothers went out in the forest and went at it. The first brother went at the trees like he hated them. He cut and sawed and paced himself so his blade was never idol. At times, when he moved between trees, he’d notice the sound stop from his brother’s area and he smiled at his brothers laziness and cut down another. When the day was over, the brothers counted up the trees each had cut. The first brother had lots. The second brother, had even more.
    “What the?” he stammered. “How’d you…. But you didn’t…. Hey, wait a minute. How did you cut down so many? I heard you stop many times where I never did?”
    “You’re in the wrong story,” the brother told him. “This isn’t the tortoise and the hare.”
    The first brother scratched his head and bandaged his hands.
    “While you kept cutting all day, paced but steady,” the second brother said, “I took time off to rest and sharpen my saw.”

I’d been writing non-stop for months before the summer. Into it as well really. I had to get out and relax, sharpen my saw, you see. I was burning out and didn’t notice it, though the blistered fingers could have been a clue.

My first trip was to Bear Lake. Just four days with the extended family. Should have been plenty, but it took three days for me to relax enough to enjoy it. So it was really one day sitting on the beach digging gnats out of my mustache. Don’t ask.

The second trip was a stark road trip through Nevada along highways they make horror movies out of. We followed the the path of my protagonist in my newest horror, so it was fitting. A stop at Mountain Meadow, Donner Pass and Reno all together gave the bright summer sunshine a pall. It was a great trip though. Got a lot of ideas. Got a lot of thinking done. And since we left the kids behind, we could hang out in bars until the wee hours of the morning and then have a bellboy push us to our rooms in matching wheelchairs.

The last trip was sudden and last week. It should have been the most well planned since it’s to our traditional family cabin, but it wasn’t. We sold our interest in it many moons ago when Oregon called us to the wet coast. We get an occasional week and usually everyone’s pretty good at letting us get a week, but not this year. We had only a couple of weeks we could take and no one would give them up to us. My aunt however gave them to my cousin no problem, but luckily the cousin backed out and suddenly, and with only a day’s notice, we got to go to Flaming Gorge. Without internet I got some reading in and some quiet time. I taught my youngest to drive, ruptured both eardrums diving too deeply and had a dam fine tour of the a fine dam. Walks and humming bird swarms, steaks and just the nuclear family were all just what the doctor ordered.

One of the best pieces of advice I have too often ignored is to sharpen your saw and sometimes you just have to stop and do it. As a writer, it’s particularly important. I remember a writers conference a few years ago when a speaker suggested that every writer should take a day off every week to have a new experience. Go somewhere, visit someone, do something you’ve never done before. It sounded all hippie groovy at the time, vegan with chakras, so I liked it but alas, forgot it. The speaker was talking about first getting new experiences to draw from when writing, but even then I understood it to mean to continue to grow as a human being and recover your strength.

I didn’t think I needed a vacation. I thought my saw was sharp enough, but after an eventful summer of trips and bloody ears, I know I was mistaken.

But I’m back now. Sorry for the breaks in the blog posts, and the silences on Facebook, Twitter and late-night talk shows, but I needed the time more than I knew. With sharpened saw, waning summer and fresh ideas, I proceed into a very exciting time of my life, outlining a new book, and preparing for the launch of my debut novel, BEATRYSEL.


  1. I'm glad you took some time off and I'm glad you are back! : )

  2. I spent a couple of days last week trapped in a truck on my way to Lake Powell where I swam at 2 am in the moonlight with bats swooping overhead for company--the first time in a long time I was thankful for insomnia. You're right; time to think without having to think is a great gift. I felt things shake loose and air out, unwind if you will. My saw's not sharp yet, but I'm hopeful.

    1. I don't know whether to envy you or pity you.