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I have written this outdoors column each week since 2011. It began with two newspapers, grew to as many as 17 and is currently in seven. I never missed a week and have only been late once due to no internet while on the road, but eventually found a McDonald’s and used their free WiFi to get it transmitted to the editor.
And here I am, up against my weekly deadline, and I have writer’s block. Well, I did.
All I need is that first sentence, and I can get into the flow and put together 600 or so words, sometimes eloquently, sometimes not so, but usually if not always readable. While I have had some haters, I have had many more tell me how much they enjoy my little stories or commentary each week. And it isn’t always hunters or anglers, or hikers or campers. Sometimes it is just people that remember loved ones such as grandparents, parents or even siblings, kids or neighbors and their stories.
Now, I was going to take a jab at Groundhog Day. But back in 2015, I put together what I thought was a perfect Groundhog Day story with just the right amount of humor and tie-in to current events. Because of that, my column would have incorporated much of that and I didn’t think that would work.
So, what do I do?
I write about writer’s block. You saw my first sentence. Now I am piecing together 600 words that I hope you will read to completion. That is every writer’s goal. To get you, the reader, to stay on the page throughout the column until the closing sentence finishes out their message they are trying to paint. And with this paragraph, I have just hit word number 300 (actually, three words short).
See, now I am over halfway finished.
Honestly though, writing and the outdoors are so different. I mean, I have never had “hunter’s block.” If I decided to go hunting, I wasn’t in a funk trying to figure out where I wanted to hunt the next day. I have never had “fishing block.” Never have I had an onslaught of anxiety over where to fish, what to fish, nor how to fish. I guess you could say I already had that first sentence for the metaphorical story I wanted to tell that day.
But maybe writing and the outdoors do have some similarities as well.
I mean, while I may know the beginning of my column and the meat of my column, I don’t always have my closing sentence. Of course, sometimes I have the beginning and the ending, but the meat is yet to be filled in.
With hunting and fishing, or even camping and hiking, I often have that first sentence and closing thought while the only thing I need is the meat of the experience. My closer is seldom that I got the kill or the catch. It usually is that regardless of what happened between the beginning and end, it started with joy and ended with appreciation.
What I began with went full circle and finished the way it started.
Now, at times the middle can get fuzzy. You know, you head out, climb the stand, and a torrential rainfall hits so the story ends early. Or you take the kayak out to the water, grab your gear, and realize you left your paddle. It happens. As do columns in which I get a paragraph or two and then it falls upon itself and I start another.
But I always finish with something worthwhile, whether hunting or fishing, or hiking or camping, or even writing. I just have to find the right first sentence, the right first step. And here I am about to finish this column with 645 words. I hope you felt it was readable and can relate.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.