A Ragged Coda

In November of 2010, two months into my last year of graduate school and already deep into the dread funk of a Pacific Northwest winter, I lugged my laptop to the Capitol Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library to conduct an e-mail interview with a college friend. Adam Sjöberg (link) and I had both attended Biola University. Since graduating I'd putzed around a bit, then formed a rock band and moved to Seattle. After the band ended I enrolled in a master's program in counseling. Meanwhile Adam had been traveling the world as a photographer, seeing interesting places, conducting adventures, and living his life to the full. 

Since college I'd sheltered in my heart the smoldering wick of an impulse. This impulse didn't always take the form of a conscious thought, let alone an overt plan, but it was always there. As best as I can tell in hindsight, the impulse was toward storytelling. There was an attendant dream, although that dream has changed in some ways over the years. The dream went something like this; maybe I could do something meaningful someday with my storytelling. 

Music had been my first real push at telling stories. I'd taken a crack at overwrought poetry and already knew that I worked better in songs. As the years went by, and as my passion for playing music subsided into a deep appreciation of the form that was nonetheless divorced from any kind of implacable need to do it myself, I discovered a more primal impulse.

Writing.

It had always been there of course. You write poetry. You write lyrics. But it wasn't until this juncture that I had ever really thought, Wow, maybe I want to Write. I spent the next three years finishing a novel that, despite ten drafts, turned out to be weak and underdeveloped.   

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We were in the library. It's a rainy Seattle night and I'm pulling on my hoodie because it's cold and I'm typing out questions for Adam and getting back very honest answers. I'd asked him if he'd be open to being interviewed for a new website I was starting. We finish our interview and while I'm packing up I keep thinking about something he's said. It's stayed with me for years. I'd asked him if he ever struggled to stay grounded while flying all over the world, and whether he ever felt he'd become an object of envy amidst his friends. I omitted that I had at times envied him myself. His answer humbled me.

Why is it that I always stumble through this answer? I guess I feel some contradictory emotions. On the one hand, I’m humbled by the opportunities I’ve been given that I don’t deserve. But on the other hand, I don’t have a lot of patience for friends and family that act bitter or resentful towards me. I truly believe we are all called to find what we love to do. Though I know not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that, I do think that many people haven’t worked hard enough to do what they love. Perhaps we aren’t taught to value it as much as it should be valued.

It seems at times like we are cursed to toil and never find complete satisfaction in the work of our hands, but on the other hand I think our job is to overturn the curse, to flip it on its head, tip it upside down, shake its contents out.

If anyone has ever been resentful towards me for the life I live there are usually one of two reasons at play. Either I have been wrongfully boastful and overly vocal about my job and life, which is my fault, or they aren’t happy with their job and life, which is their fault.

When I started Ragged Band my goal was simple. I wanted to talk to people who were doing extraordinary things and find inspiration in their discipline, talent, and hunger. My head and heart were full of dreams and grand designs for my own future, and I wanted to figure out what it was that had allowed those further down the road than myself to get to where they were. In speaking with them, I hoped to find some wind for my own sails. I wanted to kickstart my own soul. Maybe rubbing shoulders with people who were Doing It, or had Made It would help me believe my own dreams were possible. Heck, I figured, maybe I could even get a magazine piece out of it. Stumble onto a story or a character big enough to charm an editor. 

I also genuinely wanted to inspire other people. And I hope I did. I was certainly inspired myself. A couple of favorite memories are the interviews I did with Rosecrans Baldwin and Eliot Rausch. Rosecrans was one of the most encouraging people I spoke with along the way. I had the impression he'd be a fun guy to sit around and talk about books with while drinking Arnold Palmers. And Eliot... what can I say? I was challenged and fortified by his vision of the life of a believer in the real world. 

Over the last six months I've come to a simple realization; as much as I've enjoyed talking with people about their art, I'd rather be making my own. I'd rather devote as much of my time as possible to creating something that will last, something that will affect other people. I want to tell stories that matter. I want to speak my truth. Many of you reading this are longtime friends and readers who've been with me on the journey for a while now. When I recently published True Stock, my first foray into the world of self-publishing, many of you bought the piece and gave me great feedback. You're also the people who encouraged me throughout my time publishing Ragged Band. Without your support I would have stopped a lot sooner.

Rather than writing a final post on RB explaining why I'm stopping, I decided to turn that ending into a new beginning. Moving forward, this site will be a place to get all the latest news and info on what's going on with my writing, including the next installments in my journalistic fiction series and developments with some longer projects that are in the works. It feels good to start fresh. 

Ben Bishop