I’m applying for a fellowship. There’s a book I need to write and it’s not getting written. My hope is that the chance to carve out a small amount of time and space dedicated to this book will move it along to where it needs to get to.
I’ve not mentioned the book before, but it’s been on my mind for some while. It’s a memoir, with the working title The Toolsetter’s Son. My father was the toolsetter, and I am his son. Not unlike Romulus Gaita, my Dad was a man of character; informed by his trade. For years I failed to realise the significance, often seeing him as a tyrannical patriarch intent on instilling a work ethic into me that I could never achieve. Yet now I realise his profound influence on where I am today, what I do, and how I see my world. He was extremely proud of my achievements, having first set me on my own course towards (some semblance of) craft and selfhood. Perhaps though he saw the course I have followed as different to his own. He practiced, but I observe. He was unquestioning of his work and life, while I perpetually seek meaning from it. This is why I must write this book.
For a few months now, I’ve been scribbling thoughts, ideas and ponderings in my notebook. Often they meld into questions about my Dad and I. To bring them together, I made a blackboard, hung it on my wall, took some chalk and lifted my questions off of the page. My time at the blackboard came together as a short film you can see below. I first took this film to an unconference to share and seek acceptance. Having gained the confidence to begin the project, I awoke late one night, about a week after sharing, to write my first paragraph. I next revisited this first attempt on a sleepless long haul encounter some weeks later; redrafting, adding to it, and revisiting my questions to discover the book’s structure. I then realised this project is not to be a monologue but a series of short stories. Various nostalgic, yet unromantic, reflections on practice, craft, work and identity in a time when few of us stop the merry-go-round to consider who we are, where we have come from, and where we are headed.
And this is as far as I’ve gotten. I hope to revisit this project through the Christmas holiday, finding moments of solitude away from the revelry. Though to have a time and a place to write without the intrusion of other demands and distractions is what I hope to gain.