What am I Doing Here? Editing My Garden like a Madman

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

16 January 2013
Sefrou, Morocco

The year is off to a magnificent start and I can’t believe how much I’m doing. I feel like it should already be February but at the same time I’m surprised when each day closes. I look at the computer screen at 5 am when I awake and then suddenly it’s 11 pm or 12 am or 1 am. My wife says, come to bed, shut off the computer, get some sleep – but I can’t. I”m in the mode. The madman editor mode.

In this life I do a couple of things every day.  I write, I do some yoga in the morning, I cook, I eat, I play with my daughter,and I celebrate at least one #microvictory every day. I also edit. I edit for Vagobond.com but my biggest and most challenging job is editing myself. It’s both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of being a writer. It’s like pulling teeth. Or doing exercise. Or, like pulling weeds.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the thing. It’s not the editing that’s challenging, it’s the getting started that’s difficult.  The editing itself is awesome, rewarding, and fun. Like seeing your garden blossoming and eating a beautiful salad from it or seeing your flabby belly disappear. Editing your own writing is like that. It’s hard work and it’s a process and when you see the results it feels good.

This week, I’ve been blowing it out of the water. Actually, I’ve been doing a pretty incredible job of it since the end of November when I finished writing the first draft of my most recent novel, The Keys to the Riad. Finishing writing a novel is a huge high, something like finishing building a house or a world. It’s easy to celebrate and do nothing but it’s better to channel that energy into something.

I channeled that energy into rewriting my first novel, Slackville Road – if you want to see the results (which I’m told and believe are  fantastic) I’ve serialized it as an email newsletter which you can sign up for here. I’ve set it up as a weekly auto-responder but am still making edits and tweaks to it based on feedback and helpful suggestions from readers. (an auto-responder is an automatic email so if you sign up today, you get the first one, then the second a week later, etc).  Finishing the first real re-edit of this novel in nine years pumped me up.

So I rewrote my first fairy tale and added it to the email list as I did my edits. When Slackville Road finishes – readers who are still signed up will get The Princess and the Vagabond. Again, I felt like the editing process energized me. That was when I saw a notice for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Each year, Amazon launches a writer’s career through this process. I decided to enter my second most recent novel (and best edited)  Douchebags, Fags, and Hags. As I read it, I realized it too was in desperate need of editing. Line editing, copy editing, and proof reading. I saw far too many errors and to use the gardening metaphor again – I saw a million weeds I hadn’t known about before that were strangling my beautiful vegetables.  What were the weeds? Overused words, badly used phrases, and a number of words that were unnecessary.  Here is a partial list: very, obviously, pretty, nice, yet, a little bit of, a bit of, some, things, every,only, stuff, that, got, big, little, massive, so, ….

These are all useful words but the danger lies in using them when you don’t need them and hiding the poetry and beauty of your prose.  There are better ways to get your message across than with those words. The challenge is to recognize that, pull them out, and replace them with beautiful tomatoes.  There was no way my novel would make it past the preliminary rounds unless I did some breakneck editing.

That’s what I did for the first two weeks of 2013. Every other project went on the back burner as I spent twelve to fifteen hours a day editing and reworking Douchebags, Fags, and Hags. When the time came to enter it into the contest. I felt ready and victorious. That was two days ago.  Since then, I’ve been working sixteen hours a day (32 hours in the past two days) to give a second edit to my most important project: Smooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond. 

eat my peppersSmooth Living picks up where Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond left off. This is the book where I share everything I’ve learned in the past decade about travel, life, and family. This is the book I am sharing all of my travels and adventures in (except for my life in Morocco which is shared in Not My Morocco – which is the next book I will be re-editing). Yesterday  I line edited sixty pages, the day before that I line edited 100 pages! My wife thinks I’ve lost my mind as I sit in front of the computer from the early morning to the earlier morning. She’s write…err right. I’m an editing madman.

But man, my fucking garden sure looks amazing! Come check it out. Eat my peppers.

Grey Danube Stroll – Belgrade

Grey Danube Stroll - Belgrade

Grey Danube Stroll – Belgrade

I’d love to visit Belgrade again but next time I’ll stay in a fancy five-star hotel and go when the weather is beautiful. Still, the Danube has a magic any time of the year and the casual way this couple is walking bellies the bitter cold of the day. Belgrade is called the Paris of Eastern Europe but it might better be compared to Boston for it’s winter cold.

The Visayas : Ati-atihan Festival

The Visayas are the central portion of the Philippines. While Luzon Philippine travel festivalsin the north and Mindanao in the south are big land masses, Visayas is broken up into six large and several hundred lesser islands clustered around the Visayan, Samar, and Camotes seas. The main islands are Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Negros, Panay and Samar.

The ati-atihan (“doing the Ati”) festivals in the Visayas every January signal the start of the Philippine summer town fiestas and holiday vacations. Dance troupes with colorful tribal costumes and headgear, come out in the streets in choreographed steps  with thundering drumbeats. The dancers are painted with black grease after the Atis (the Aetas or Philippine negritos) who sold the settlement rights of the Panay island lowlands to 10 Bornean chieftains for a string of pearls and a gilded lady’s wide-brimmed hat (salakot) around the 13th century.

The event’s historical veracity is still in question. Yet, the townspeople of Kalibo, now chief city of Aklan province in Panay island, launched the weeklong celebration in the mid-1970s timed with the feast day of the widely venerated Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus). Ati-atihan (‘a-ti-a-ti-hän) caught fire and was soon imitated throughout the country.

Hence, Aklan celebrates the ati-atihan every third Sunday of January. Other Panay provinces followed: Iloilo with its Dinagyang festival every fourth week of January; Antique, Binirayan (“where they sailed to”) festival every third weekend of April; and Capiz, Halaran (“offering”) festival every second week of October.

Cebu, the central province of this islanded region, has its ati-atihan festival called the sinulog (“graceful dance”) every third Sunday of January. And Bacolod City, chief city of Negros Occidental, holds its Masskara (a combination of the English “mass” and Spanish cara or “face”) every third week of October.

January is the best time to visit the Visayas. Choose between Cebu and Panay. Arrive amid the color, excitement and pomp of the ati-atihan festival. After the street fun and spectacle, head to your next destination. The Visayas are right for nature trippers and culture lovers. Besides the underwater dives and white beaches, the region hosts a number of surviving Spanish colonial heritage sites.

If you’re in Kalibo, Aklan province in Panay island, Boracay is only 1½ hour away . But before rushing to a sun-and-sea getaway, take a day out to drive around the island. Historic Iloilo City has many remarkable period houses, buildings and churches lining olden Calle Real.

Situated 40 km. southwest of the city is the magnificent Miag-ao Church. Built in 1786, it is counted among the UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it’s beautiful façade. It has a bas-relief portraying St. Christopher, bearing the child Jesus, before a centrally-located palm tree, the Philippine “tree of life.” The local flora and fauna, as much as daily life, are sculpted in the background.

Just 13 km. southwest of Miag-ao is the similarly remarkable San Joaquin Church. Built out of coral rocks in 1859, its façade also features a bas-relief of the Battle of Tetuan in the 1500s.

The Art of Travel

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