Fire up your carryall

Let’s talk about carryalls. There are many types. The carryall bag comes to mind. Search Google and you’ll find dozens and dozens. Golf-carts and John Deere Gators are also carryalls. Not to be outdone, Wikipedia includes horse-drawn carriages, automobiles, sleighs, and earthmoving equipment under its ‘Carryall’ title.

But, there’s more. Let me tell you about the one Jonathan spent weeks building while learning how to weld. Here it is, hot off the ‘press.’

Pretty amazing wouldn’t you say? Great job Jonathan.

The two of us plan on using his creation for hauling firewood from the woods. Although our carryall turned out bigger than many we’ve seen on YouTube, we believe it will be manageable in our particular forest. Hopefully, we can park it next to a fallen tree, cut it into eighteen inch chunks, and load without taking more than a few steps. The wood-splitting can wait until we return to the barn. Alternately, if by chance (and hard work) our inventory of fallen trees evaporates to zero, we can always cut down a tree that’s crying for euthanasia.

Speaking of death, or life, according to your perspective, the firewood, after burning, will become ashes. The gray and black powder is fantastic fertilizer for flowers, shrubs, and our vegetable garden. A tree dies, a bush or plant thrives. At least for a season or two.

There’s another angle here. We also use our firewood in our homemade smoker. There’s nothing better than slow-smoked meat. The heat and smoke (along with a spice rub) tantalize the pork, beef, or chicken, and titillate the palate. Today, we plan on smoking some drumsticks. It only takes three hours and they are fantastic. Not only are they tasty, but they are energy for the body. Thanks firewood.

You might be complaining right now because you thought you’d landed on a writing blog. Hold on. I’m getting to that. In fact, I’ll declare you and I have a built-in carryall. It’s also known as the mind. Let’s see if there’s an analogy lurking.

To repeat, our minds are carryalls. They carry all kinds of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. In other words, we, along with our minds, are surrounded by a forest of information. It is overwhelming and not all true.

We could say there are many points of light beaming their way to and inside our minds every second of every day (you might prefer calling them points of darkness). Whatever, we comprehend these ‘points’ about as well as the unknown beyond our headlights when we’re driving in a dense fog. In other words, we, at best, have only a foggy idea what’s in our heads. And, we have no clue where our thoughts come from. But, one thing is certain: there is a muddy puddle between our ears.

Good news. You don’t have to stress out or give up. There is a solution, partial though it might be, that’s a universe away from a magic pill. Although, on good days, it may feel like magic.

Mental thoughts, ideas, and opinions (including those verbally expressed) are like the new wood-hauling carryall sitting inside the hall of our barn. Alone, all it can do (allow me to give Jonathan’s creation some personal characteristics) is ponder and anticipate days and adventures in the woods.

Can’t you imagine the excitement ‘he’ feels when the old 2030 John Deere eases his way backwards for hookup and announces, “wake up, it’s time for some fun.” A newer, more modern tractor, educated no doubt, might say, “Buddy, it’s time for you to focus and do what you were made for.” New or old, it is the tractor, the engine, the power, that sets our carryall free. And gives our new friend a life worth living.

Like Buddy, disconnected from their power source, our thoughts, ideas, and opinions are alone in the muddy puddle between our ears, powerless to perform as intended. At a minimum, they are vague, unsatisfying, possibly debilitating. The solution? No, not a tractor per se. Actually, it’s something more powerful. It’s called a pencil.

The lowly pencil comes to our rescue. It enables us to walk into a forest of ideas and focus on the one that seems most pressing, most urgent for our survival. The pencil transports an idea to paper (you may substitute a laptop!), enabling you or me to start whittling away.

It’s like Jonathan and me walking into our forest and choosing one fallen tree to cut up into firewood. This tree, not that tree. This cut, not the one fifty-four inches away.

Writing is the solution. It is the clear water antidote to our muddy puddle.

I like what Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Read that again. It’s not that Joan’s thinking wasn’t happening as she looked outside her window at a forest of ideas. But, it wasn’t discernible. It was like her mind was thinking in a language she didn’t understand. It’s the same with us.

For Joan (and us) writing is a tool for thinking. It enables us (and her) to see through corrective lenses, to determine what we see and what it means. Writing is to thinking, what chainsawing is to firewood production.

As stated, it is an imperfect process. Sometimes, on our bad days, we don’t conjure up enough clear water to eliminate a fraction of our muddy puddle. Put another way, our best efforts burn up and create nothing but ashes. But, don’t forget, ashes become fertilizer for another day.

Other times are like magic, the clarity after even a few words, parts the clouds and lets the sunshine in. It’s as though a hidden pump removes the dirty water and fills us with the clear, sweet, and tasty water of a mountain stream.

Let’s talk a minute about other tools. I started this post yesterday. I wrote a few paragraphs and they were disjointed at best (not to say today’s finish is measurably better). However, there’s one thing I don’t want you to miss.

Just as a good chainsaw is a necessity for cutting trees into eighteen inch chunks for splitting, a good writing program can make your job so much easier. Yes, as for our forest work, I could use an axe and a cross-cut saw as my grandfather did when he was growing up in the early 1900s.

And, as for my mental work, I could use pencil and paper (as I sometimes do). But for production and publishing sake, I use Scrivener. It’s the best I’ve found and I’ve explored many a writing program.

One thing I love about Scrivener is that you can break your writing into manageable chunks (like those manageable eighteen inch tree chunks). You don’t have to look at the blank page and say, “this is too much. I don’t know where to start. I can’t see what I’m looking at.”

In Scrivener’s sidebar binder I can outline every chunk, whether it’s a main section, paragraph or sentence. I recommend you give it a go with a free trial. No, my recommendation doesn’t earn me a penny.

Finally, I encourage you to use your mind for more than a carryall. Choose a thought, idea, or opinion, grab a pencil, and start writing. Before long, if you stick with it, you’ll have a pile of words, stacked like oak and firewood, every one the right length and properly split.

Your muddy puddle will be a smidgen clearer. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll know what you see and what it means.

Photo by Brandon Montrone on

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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