Earlier today, when I was on a hike, the phrase “If not now, when?” went through my head.
I’d been thinking about how and when to take the next steps in life, and about barriers and fears and uncertainties. And then I remembered that the phrase “If not now, when?” was something I wrote on this blog, in one of my first posts. Actually, that was the title of the post, and I wrote it on January 14, 2014, nearly 5 years ago. I’d been learning all about the Camino de Santiago and thinking that I might want to walk across Spain, but I hadn’t fully decided that I’d do it. Or, maybe I had, I just needed to push myself through the questions and into decision.
And a big part of making that decision was asking myself, “If not now, when?”
I’m thinking about this again because I’m feeling ready to take another step. Lately, over these past nearly 5 years, my walking/writing adventures have followed a similar pattern. I plan some big trip in the summer, spend at least part of that trip walking a great distance, and then spend a lot of the following months writing about it. Though the rest of the year, I work on writing my book (about that first trip on the Camino Frances), and I research other walks and start thinking about the next journey.
It’s been a great pattern, and it fits nicely into the rest of my life. My work counseling teenagers gives me two months off in the summer, so it hasn’t been hard to take a long trip every year. I’m careful with my money and sacrifice certain things so that I can afford to travel (the top sacrifice might be fixing the air conditioning in my car, eek).
And the writing fits in, too. Sometimes I blog while I’m on my trips, lately I’ve been blogging about these trips in the fall and winter. I work on my book during the week, in a small pocket of time that I guard as my ‘writing time’, often in the early evening twilight hours. I published an e-book last year, and also started sharing photos from my walks on an Instagram account, but otherwise I just keep plugging away at the blog and my book and it all still feels very quiet, and slow, and nice.
But I’ve always wanted something a little more. I keep saying that my book might only ever be for me, but if I’m being really honest, I would love to publish it and work hard to connect it to its audience (many of whom are you, you who are reading this blog). I still have work to do, but I’m getting closer to needing to figure out next steps: to have some friends start reading pieces of it, to search for an editor, to work on a book proposal.
And when I think about moving this book from just this thing that I’ve been slowly working on at my kitchen table… to a real thing that others might see… it both terrifies me and thrills me.
It also ignites my dreams. Because writing a book has been a dream of mine for a long time, and when I think that I’m actually doing it, that it just might happen, it seems like all of my other dreams flood in and I can’t ignore them.
I want to travel all over the world and walk in places other than Europe. I want to try to climb Kilimanjaro and trek the Annapurna Circuit and lately I’ve been reading about the Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. And there’s this little trek in Guatemala that I researched a few years ago, and the Lycian Way in Turkey, and the list goes on and on.
I want to walk and walk and write about it all. I want to take beautiful photographs and sometimes I wonder if I can create a book where I can put it all together: the walks and the stories and the photographs. Or, if there are more of these longer stories in me, if the story of the Camino de Santiago is just the first one, the first one in the series of my walking years.
I’ve realized a few things in these last few years, because these ideas and dreams aren’t exactly new. I wanted to quit my job and go off and walk around the world and write my stories ever since that first Camino in 2014. But I also knew that it would take a lot to get to a place where I could do this for a year or two, and that maybe I’d never be able to get myself to that place.
So I’ve worked hard to accept where I am and what I’m doing with my life, and all of the beautiful little pieces of it. There are still so many things that I love about the way my life is arranged: the work with my students and my little apartment and my clunky car without AC, and the summers of European travel and long walks and my writer’s community at La Muse, and the writing at the kitchen table in the twilight.
My way is to move slowly. It’s just my nature and that’s something else that I’ve learned to accept and embrace. I’ve learned how to be patient with myself, patient with my dreams and my motivations and my desires. So I’m still here, still moving slowly towards my dreams, but trying to take steps when I can. Begin with that first, single step. And then take another, and another.
I’m not sure where, exactly, these small steps are leading, but right now I feel like I have to take another. I mentioned, in a post a few weeks ago, that I was considering setting up a Patreon account, and asking for your sponsorship and patronage. I’ve hesitated, I’ve thought and thought about it, I’ve read a lot and looked at other accounts- at other writers and bloggers to see what they were doing- and I’ve sat with this idea for little while.
The idea behind Patreon is that it’s a way for artists to get paid for things they’re already creating. Fans, or followers, or patrons (I love saying patrons! I reminds me of all the art history classes I used to take) pay a few dollars every month for the work you’re creating. It’s a way to show support for the art you love, and it helps artists to continue to create their work. In some cases, it enables artists to do and share even more.
I’ve set up a page and you can go there and check it out; I explain more about my work and how and why I’m using Patreon. I’ve even made a little video so if nothing else, you should go watch it! (It’s only a minute long and one of the few videos I’ve ever put together, so don’t expect much!).
The idea of putting out a call for support makes me really nervous. It’s not even a product that I’m putting a price tag on, not here anyway. It’s something looser, it’s like a call for encouragement. It’s a dollar a month or three dollars a month but it’s something more than that too. I’m starting to recognize that all of this work that I’m putting in IS worth something. It always was, but over the years it’s become part of my art; my writing here on the blog is intentional and the stories of these walks- while always true- are also shaped and formed. My photographs are, too. I work to create something beautiful to share with whatever audience I happen to have. It’s something I value highly, it’s something I’ve set out to do with my life.
So I’m going to keep blogging and taking photographs and sharing them in the ways I always have, regardless of what happens with this Patreon. I’m going to keep going on long walks, too. But I’m curious to see what might happen with a Patreon, if it could help support some of these ventures, if it might lead to other opportunities or possibilities. And the thought of that is really exciting.
And really, if not now, when? It’s been tempting to continue to think that I need more time, that I need more practice and skill and that what I create should be kept small, and easy, and quiet.
It might be that way for a little while longer, but I can feel things stirring. I want to see what I can make, where I can go.
Thanks for being here, or on Instagram, or wherever you happen to be. It continues to be such a pleasure to have this small audience. I’ll be back to the regular program soon- I’m determined to keep these Pennine Way recaps coming! Its been fun to dig back into the walk and relive those glorious summer days, so stay tuned.