GUIDE BOOK WRITING
Dancing in a Straight Jacket
The blank screen is a horrible hole. So deep it may as well be black. Though it is a white hole of antimatter; it does reflect the blank stare of the writer. I have always wished for a desk with a view out on to something, anything. How beautiful a desk that overlooks a lake, a thick forest or quiet stream, maybe corn planted on rolling farm land. Somehow life has only dealt me walls, white walls that back a white plastic monitor, which frames a white Microsoft Word page. A silly little square that one must start to fill at once or suffer the clock’s deafening tock as time slips into oblivion, flowing like an open faucet that no one can bath in.
The only thing worse than this blank screen is a white paged framed by regulations, pre-set formats and long lists of rules. To write a guidebook one must digest and organize this utter oblivion, so when the writing finally begins, it is not in vain. Once the music of the keyboard begins, that plastic clatter of beige keys, the music must be channeled into neat little categories, divided and subdivided, checked and re-checked. The notes can only play in rooms of endless labels of set length, subject matter and backed by facts. Dancing in a straight jacket I have often called guidebook writing and once again Footprint Handbooks in Bath, England has called me to the dance floor.
The 2005, second edition, of the Footprint Nicaragua Handbook hangs like an immense cloud, with silver lining, above my every move these days. The first edition which I wrote in a harrowing 3 months, while swimming in hundreds of thousands of words, was a fantastic challenge. I can recall how two entire Mozart piano concertos would pass, as I wrote with out hearing a single note, only the CD player grinding to a halt could bring me out of the trance. The insufferable racket of the keyboard ground to a halt when the newfound silence of the stereo drowned it out. The challenge of that first book, that humungous blank slate has now been renewed.
Nicaragua has changed quite a bit since the first book’s text was finished in August of 2001. Footprint Handbooks has also gone through changes, with new editors, new management and a new format. Now I must dance again, though with a different style straight jacket, to familiar yet new music. What a pity that these very words are a way of avoiding the waltz, driving around in circles outside the dance hall while my partner sits inside patiently waiting for my irrevocable arrival. She waits to strap on the new jacket, fire up the old record player and put fire under my feet.
I am thankful for the job and hope to make the little book better than it has been. Like a coal miner who clears his lungs before going into the hole I sit before this little white box, in front of my white wall, and prepare for the journey. If the next few newsletters on this web site appear to be filler, a dash of words or useless rhyme, I am sure the reader will understand. Perhaps you can accept them as distant postcards from a pure white dance floor, where endless pages drip with time.