...volumes of time

It was back six months ago that I was awarded a grant to write a book. That, in and of itself, is an easy enough statement to just type into the application that I'm using to compose this article. How many times in my life has someone uttered the words to me, or to you..."Hey, you know, you should write a book!" Well, just crawling out from the other end of just such an experience, I can now share with you that in the future my retort to that comment will be, "Yeah, why don't you!" Writing a book is probably not as daunting a task to someone who authors for a living, but to an average Joe or Josephine it's another story. Sure, I write this column every month or so that is usually 800-1000 words in length, but to have to "go the distance" and write a book was, I realized shortly after I stared, overwhelming. I got to page one-and-a-half and became completely devoid of words, thoughts, clues and ideas. Let me start at the beginning.

First there was the idea. I received an invitation from the Maine Arts Commission to apply for a grant whose only stipulation was that one have a good idea. Well, I have plenty of those...though all may not agree that they all are good ones. My good idea was that I would write a book about my art. The Maine Arts Commission agreed that it was indeed a good idea and they gave me some money. They said I should finish my project within six months. "A snap" says I. A real snap, that is until I get to the end of page one-and-a-half and the bottom falls out anything more to say about my subject. Writer's block.

It comes to me that if I can only write pieces that are 800 to 1000 words long, then that is exactly what I will do! I'll write a book that is 30 chapters, each of which is two pages long. Hmmmmm, now I need to come up with 30 different subjects. This is just as hard as running out of words. I keep dividing the time I have left to complete the project by what I have yet to do and the ratio keeps adding pressure to the task because time runs out...not in. Other factors have to be considered. I decide that I will include an image of my work at the top of each chapter. An easy enough concept in theory, but now I have to start dividing the time it takes to produce the image without a formal studio to the time it will take to print, cut, and glue each into place. I did mention that I was self-publishing, didn't I? I had to compose, write, illustrate, print, collate, edit, assemble and bind 6 copies of this beast per the grant contract. Thank goodness for marriage. My wife was my editor and book-binding instructor. I take the writing portion of my time allotment right to the very last possible day. I have to allow time at the end to put it all together and bind it. The project hangs over my head like a fog. All my thoughts are on the completion of this behemoth. My printer is a small Epson...a real small Epson. By choice, the paper I'm using is index card thickness. Each sheet fed into this printer is a chore for it to spit back out. I have a second printer in my office, an old used laser writer that can't even handle this paper. I persevere. One boo-boo in a chapter involves reprinting six pages both sides on this thick stock(seven pages counting a back-up copy that I've decided to print). Another photo must be printed to replace the one that can't be unglued from the page that was deemed unworthy by virtue of the spelling error. I try not to make misteaks. Binding is fun. I start with the bare essentials. Matte board, fancy paper to cover said matte board, "special" archival glue, various nefarious looking implementia, to knead, gnarl, bowdlerize, massage, mitigate, and supine everything into place prior to sewing it all together into a cohesive mass. Once complete, the finished masterpiece is hand-carried to the Arts Commission at the State Capitol for it's final approval. It is deemed a success and given full blessing and all rights pursuant to such projects ascribed under the applicable laws and codes of said state and contiguous domains and escarpments longitudinally therein. I only overshot the grant by a paltry estimate of 5,580 or so dollars...not bad for a first effort. Would I undertake such a project ever again? Not on your life. Would I undertake such a project ever again? Well, now that I think about it, I now have first-hand experience in that area and they say the second time isn't nearly so hard as the first. Perhaps a compilation of the articles I've written over the past how many years. Nah, I got other things I have to tend to first, like my life.

J. Jules Vitali is a sculptor, columnist, inadvertent moral philosopher and poet (harumphf, and now, author) who resides in Freeport, Maine. He is the creator of the art form Styrogami which can be seen on the web at www.styrogami.com. He is also an Artist in Cellophane (www.artomat.org). He tries to have fun in life. His work can currently be seen at the Sangre de Christo Arts and Cultural Center in Pueblo, Colorado (June - Aug). His book can be viewed at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, Maine.