103 Days – Not meeting Coetzee.

I stood up author J.M. Coetzee and now he is ticked. Photo from Reuters. Reuters editors, don't worry, I am not making money off this photo, but if you want to bill me or send me threatening lawyer note, please write through this blog-site's contact form.

There are some things I thought I would do while in Europe (go to cool writing workshops) and some things I knew I would not (high-altitude skiing). It turns out my Do list is sliding over on to my Don’t list.

This epiphany has come to me twice, most recently this morning when another Zürich Writers group email popped up in my in-box informing me of a writing workshop in Amsterdam to which it is almost certain I will not go, and a few months earlier when I decided against a 90-minute-train-ride to meet J.M. Coetzee.

That last line would make some of my former editorial colleagues gasp and burn my form in effigy. Passing up a chance to have coffee with Coetzee is about as heretical an act as a professional writer can go, but I have my reasons. Coetzee was drifting through Switzerland at the same time I was in the final throes of writing my novel so the balance scales were Coetzee versus Completion.

In making my choice, I let former university creative writing instructor and author Peter Such be my guide. In class he surveyed we eager, insecure budding authors and said, “What are you doing here?” What followed was a brief lecture on how writers write and doing anything else is a supreme waste of time, including taking his class. You have to love Peter, a fascinating, generous kind of mentor who was raised in one of England’s post-WWII massive orphanages.

I was in the writing homestretch, and if you will forgive my race analogy, there is no moment of more intense focused energy in a race than in the final 100 metres. I worked seven days a week, five-to-10-hours a day at that point and breaking off to see Coetzee would have thrown me clear off the tracks. No good.

So, I did not meet Coetzee, but I did finish my novel. Peter would be proud.

In the meantime, there’s this Amsterdam workshop email for me to consider.

The countdown continuation …

On March 23, this blog celebrates its first birthday. Since then:

250 posts have been tapped out, of which 221 made it to publication.

350 comments were submitted of which 345 were approved. That puzzles me – what were the five unapproved comments that I deigned not fit for readers’ eyes? I will do a search on those later.

1,203 spam comments were filtered out, thank you to WordPress’s gatekeepers

815 tags were attached to the posts, proving that I am a lazy blog-tagger.

10,972 people have visited HoboNotes

67 nations visited (it’s getting crowded in here)

10 Top Countries to visit are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Switzerland
  4. Mexico
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Australia
  7. Indonesia
  8. Morocco
  9. Italy
  10. Slovakia

10 most infrequent country visitors are:

  1. Ireland
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Moldova
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Syrian Arab Republic
  6. Viet Nam
  7. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  8. United Arab Emirates
  9. Lithuania
  10. Georgia

The most popular post of all time is (drum roll please)(click on titles to read): Paris food – Can you eat lamb’s kidney without having to sell one of your own? At 405 hits, it outpaces the second most popular post by a whopping 145 hits. The second was Switzerland’s “Toronto” (260 hits).

This surprises me, but if I learned anything in my tenure as a reporter, it is that boredom has no correlative factors between the writer and the reader. I once wrote a story on the social ramifications of high winds sweeping through our neighborhood on the day we put out our recycling bins. I didn’t think anyone would read it, but it turns out that having one’s neighbor’s personal mail getting snagged in the shrubs is a topic of endless fascination to Canadians.

But I drift from my numbers game here.

The least read post was Swiss air quality not as pure as the government says, which garnered only two hits. I guess only two other people are as repulsed by the copious cloud cover of cigarette smoke on Switzerland’s streets as I am.

104 is the number that most fascinates me today. It is the number of days we have left here in Switzerland, and in the spirit of writing anything that comes my way, no matter how boring, I am going to post something every one of those 104 days, even if it is just a photograph. It is not that great an accomplishment – I wrote almost daily for most of our time here up to January 2012 even while writing a novel.

This will be of interest only to writers, but whipping out pages of fiction did nothing to slow down my blog-posting, however, the minute I turned to editing and then agent-searching, finding something to blog about became more challenging, likely because those are very inward mental tasks focused entirely on the novel and how to present it, whereas fiction-writing is at once all about memory, interpretation and observation – very outward-looking brain functions.

And so 104 days, here we come. Or as they say in Japan where my readership numbers are weak:  104日は、ここでは来る