Musings On The New Year

Resolutions. Affirmations. Beginnings. It is a new year.

In 2011 I graduated from college, moved across the country, and learned how to use a crosscut saw. I rode a Greyhound bus from Missoula to Portland, Oregon. I rode an Amtrak train from Missoula to Portland, Maine. I touched my toes in the Pacific, jet boated to a remote location along the Salmon River of No Return in Idaho, and attended my first “big” college football game (free of charge, courtesy of a kind Griz fan).

But it wasn’t easy. I found myself playing a completely new ball game. I had been used to school. Liberal Arts. Essays. Characterization. Metaphors. Creativity.

Then, all of sudden, I was trying to figure out how the heck to sharpen a Pulaski. How to filter water from a creek. How to work with pack mules. How to go nine days without a shower.

A tough day on the trail!

There were mornings in the backcountry when I groaned at the sound of my alarm clock, wearily lacing up my heavy logging boots, fumbling to clean a small circle on my grimy pointer finger to stick contacts into my sleepy eyes. There were hot, dusty afternoons of pounding rocks with sledgehammers in exposed scree fields. There were exhaustive hikes and construction projects that I just couldn’t conceptually grasp.

But serving on a trail crew provided me with necessary insight. I think that too often we stay within the confines of our comfort zones. People with practical minds take up jobs that require hands-on skills. People with less-grounded minds take up jobs that allow for a more visionary, capacity-building power. If one does not have to take up a job in the opposing bracket, why should she?

Well, because sometimes you can’t write about something until you experience it firsthand.

In my final semester at Farmington I presented a research project called, “Exploring Environmental Imagination Through Creative Nonfiction Multimedia.” Through travel excursions during my college years, I discovered that I am intrigued and passionate about this innovative way of storytelling. What is creative nonfiction multimedia? It’s using words, sounds, voices, and visual aids to tell a story. It means utilizing the tools of technology for the benefit of information distribution. In my opinion, creative nonfiction multimedia has two main goals: education and empathy.

One of the biggest tricks to writing is finding balance between the demands of life experience and the demands of creating art that is profitable. In many ways it sounds absurd…after all, how can we commodify something as qualitative as human emotion? Most artists detest the business aspects to their work, and I have to agree that I’m not enthused about crunching numbers.

Taking out some sagebrush at the City of Rocks

However, there are bills to pay and so one of my main goals for the coming year is to figure that balance out…how can I pursue my passion and be able to afford to live? It is a critical question not only because of the present economy and scary job market, but also because writers are finding themselves in constant competition with the multi-faceted technological stimuli pervading everyday life. How can the written word remain of value when placed beside photography, film, and radio? I am determined that these forms of creative nonfiction can work together harmoniously by offering up different perspectives to the stories we share. Multimedia really just means using more than one platform to present a story. And while we are a society that loves headlines, news clips, and instant “feeds,” it’s very hard to get anything other than surface-level knowledge after simply hearing a few tweets. Just as a bird’s song is rich and full, so are the lives of our friends, families, neighbors, and the strangers we pass by everyday.

So, here we go. There are stories to tell. People to know. Songs to sing. 2011 brought axes and hard hats and saws. I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store.