It’s the ambiguous productivity week between Christmas and New Years, when kids are out of school, beach resorts are jam-packed, and freelancers find themselves in a conundrum between motivation and vacation. So instead of writing something new this week, or putting together a stack of links to everything I’ve done over the last year, I instead created this list of things I have read this year and which made me want to write.
Inspiration is not the right word, these pieces did not spark my creativity with a great explosion of insight. Instead, they motivated me to write more, read more, and generally get by with written words. Nothing on this list is related to skiing, as the balance is good, and when I only consume ski content I often find myself in a bubble of crap, overused tropes and phrases. So here are the things that have helped me write this year. Maybe they’ll help you out, or maybe they’ll just kill the downtime this holiday season.
It was one of my favorite books in recent memory. It’s a well-researched and well-written novel about the end of ancient logging in California. Davidson subtly constructs the deep woods the book is set in, but readers are left with an intense sense of place, I felt like I could smell every scene. And beyond exploring the loggers’ relationship with the woods, it’s also a deeply human story of dependency and complicated relationships. It doesn’t hurt that the cover illustration is one of my favorite gouache paintings.
If you want The spring of damnation, you should probably read Bark by Annie Proulx. It’s an even larger story of logging in North America that manages to span centuries while still providing an intimate glimpse into each character’s stories. Proulx is probably best known for the short story brokeback mountain but in my humble opinion Bark is a magnum opus.
I’m a sucker for good fantasy, and A deadly education offers this in spades. It’s a relatively quick read, yet dense, with good character development and an easily accessible yet unique writing style. If you want Harry potter, but also understand that magic is better when it’s more real, more painful, and more gritty, you’ll get along with it Deadly education.
And, the best part: it’s part of a two-book series, and the second book is out already. So you can get a nice satisfying conclusion to the story. Kind of. No spoilers, but neither book spares readers some emotional punches.
This is an article on a piece of fan fiction. I’m not generally a fan of fanfic. Leave the classics alone, damn it! But, in a way, All the young guys manages to give anyone who’s even a little Harry Potter fan a little more time in their favorite universe.
It’s hard to compare All the young guys straight to Rowling’s writing, because well, it’s a whole different kind of work. All the heavy lifting of building the world has been done. We know what all of these settings look like. But, where the young guys excels fleshes out the characters, boosts motivation for the events predestined by the Harry Potter series, and creates a more adult and realistic world.
It’s free and easy to download to any e-reader, and it’s long, very long. As a small bonus, All the young guys uses the music of the time as vanity, and there is an excellent playlist of all the songs referenced in the book that makes for great listening.
If you were the right age to be excited about Harry Potter when it was released, you’re probably about the right age now to identify with the existential malaise that All the young guys captures so well.
And now for something completely different! I like a classic blog myself. Just a place to write long thoughts on whatever matters to you. It turns out that the Dicky team cares a lot about bikes. He likes a style of riding that isn’t really my thing. I like the speeds, the suspensions and the descents a lot more than him.
But he manages to capture much of the magic of grassroots racing and competition even when there’s nothing real on the line. And this blog has been around for a long time, although blogging continues to disappear. The linked post really struck a chord with me, as someone who regularly spews words on the internet. What happens when we stop? Does it matter? If we die in the metaverse, do we die in real life? Who knows, whatever, but if you love to read on bikes, Dicky is worth a visit.
This blog is old news, and in response to the question posed by Dicky above, he is dead. But watch The mountaineer recently (I also highly recommend this movie) reminded me of this blog that I loved when I was learning to climb mountains on skis. Leclerc was not only one of the first free-soloists of his time, he was also an excellent writer. I love the pragmatic style he uses to describe his ridiculous first climbs. It’s clear and concise, without ever being erased or magnified. He comes across as intelligent and level-headed, with a very clear vision of his abilities and goals.
Some climbing blogs and travel reports are so bogged down in technical jargon and obscure references that they are accessible to the casual reader. Leclerc manages to tell interesting stories regardless of your level of climbing experience.
First of all, the name is awesome. Just perfect. I love Andrew Major’s writing on NSMB.com, but Meat Engines, his personal blog, is even weirder and more nerdy. Major cares about the details, he sweats the little things that make or break gear, and as a hardware nerd colleague, I find that fascinating, although, again, I don’t really like mountain bikes out there. single speed or rigid. If you love bikes, work on bikes, bike culture, or just read articles from someone who is really knowledgeable and passionate about their topics, Meat Engines is for you.
I appreciate Succession, and I generally don’t like New York-style profiles. They quickly become generic, similar to many profiles of professional skiers. But this one is just awesome. He distinguishes between being mean and deliciously insightful. I laughed out loud several times and left with more questions about my own masculinity and my own perception than answers. It’s worth reading, even if you generally don’t like these kinds of pieces.
Cowboys like us
We don’t have a lot of live theater here in our little mountain community which is part of what made Munz Cowboys like us so special. Real critics have written more insightful things about this show. All I can say is it made me want to tell better, better stories. It was extravagant, it was emotional, I always feel weird when the actors on stage make me feel feelings, and the leftover pizza from before the show was pretty good cold. I don’t know, I’m still processing this one. But I’m so grateful that it happened, and that I got to see it.
And, Munz’s ski-themed playbook, I can ski forever is a great read for skiers everywhere.
Sunday, I will have an overview of the things that made me want to draw things. But so far, what have you read this year that really stood out?