Catalyst Book Press

The places, ideas, and people that change us

Life on the Road

Ken (Alaska’s Fiddling Poet) calls me every couple of weeks from somewhere else in the United States. He spends his days, running from place to place. At each place, he plays the fiddle, reads poems, meets friends, hears interesting stories, gathers some more and heads on to the next place. Sometimes he makes a lot of money, sometimes he makes less. Sometimes he sells a lot of books, sometimes just a few. Last week, he had car problems–with the van that has criss-crossed the country ten times or more, been his home-away-from-home for years now–and called to say he hoped it wasn’t biting the big one this time around. It didn’t but it’s just a matter of time.

There are times I envy his life, though more to the point, I think I envy his willingness to stake his everything on his art. And then I realize I’m living my own version of his life: the artist’s life outside of the academy never looks the same from artist to artist. I love travelling but I also love the idea of holing up somewhere, being a hermit, alone in a cabin, alone with my thoughts and maybe a dog, just writing. In the last year, I’ve spent quite a bit of my own time on the road as an artist: 3 weeks travelling Texas and New Mexico, another week in El Paso, a few days in Colorado, a week in Utah, a week in New York, another week in El Paso. I’m planning a trip to Book Expo America in May, then possibly a week in South Dakota in June, and then five weeks in South Africa–all in pursuit of the writing life. All of it necessary to sustain the writing life but much of it taking time away from the writing life. 

Ken has learned the way to keep himself sane while spending most of his life unsettled and in strange places (sometimes with strange people.) One thing he’s learned to do is write in public, on public computers. I haven’t yet learned the tricks of the trade for how to mesh writing and travelling, or how to find calm and peace in the midst of a hectic schedule–but I know I need to find the things that allow me to do it.

March 27, 2008 - Posted by | Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Ken Waldman, the artist's life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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