A Change in Focus

A few weeks ago I had a realization: I haven’t been writing. To most people, this probably does not sound like a bad thing. But I’ve always felt like I have a talent for writing and a potential to do good things with it, and not following through on that is a kind of self-betrayal. This knowledge of my failure to write is always in the back of my mind, but my new realization/kick-in-the-pants came in part as I attended the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers and gained knowledge from the fabulous authors and illustrators that spoke there. Then, that Sunday in church the cognizance of my dereliction was again brought forward when my Primary co-teacher in our class of 10-11-year-old boys gave this lesson. The time had come to think seriously about writing again, and develop a plan.

As an undergraduate in college, I was somewhat sure that I would go forward to obtain an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing, and become a poet and college professor on some fine campus somewhere. Although I did well in creative writing in college, after graduating I failed to follow through on this goal. I didn’t make the networking connections I needed to make, and I didn’t say the right things politically that I needed to say, and I didn’t apply to enough schools, but far more essentially, I failed to follow through and continue writing poetry after graduation.

Later, while working as a substitute teacher in public education, I wrote myself halfway through a novel meant for middle grade readers, became frustrated and unsure of where I was going with it, and put it aside. I stopped writing again. In intervening years I’ve made a couple of abortive, guilt-ridden attempts to participate in NaNoWriMo that led only to stress and failure.

But I discovered blogging. I never was that great at it, from a standpoint of consistency, popularity, or monetization, but I did it occasionally. A couple of my blogs have come and gone before the establishment of this site, Josh’s Froz-T-Freez. One of my reasons for having this site is to provide myself a motivator to continue writing as well as a venue to share that writing. As it turns out, it only sort of works to these purposes. Although I don’t post regularly on this site (and although I do occasionally make these grand bogus claims that I am finally going to commence doing so), I still think about what I might post on here or hope to post on here a great deal. It takes up a significant piece of my mental life, even if it never converts to actual posts. My mind is filled with albums I feel I need to review, restaurants I want to visit or visit again and write about, mixtapes I want to put together, pictures to take, random ideas I would like to explore through essays, etc. All of this stuff, even if it’s only half-baked, half-finished, and never posted, still takes up a lot of time. It is also crippling in its failed ambition. Self-expectations that my site be filled with reviews that are thorough and comprehensive have prevented me from even posting so much as a list of my so-far-favorite albums of 2011. My idea of what would constitute a “written blog post” has become in my mind somewhat overblown and unwieldy to do on a regular basis, and because of that high expectation I rarely follow through.

As I considered my desires to write and my failures to do so, I began to question the amount of mental energy I devote to this oft-times derelict site, and to social media in general. If I truly think about my aspirations in writing they have little to do with the content of this site. I have the aforementioned half-finished novel that I set aside four or five years ago, ideas for other novels, and a desire to try writing picture books and maybe get back into writing poetry, which I haven’t done for years but used to love the most. I’d maybe like to try my hand at some well-crafted personal essays. These are far different projects than writing lots of reviews, regardless of whether I am reviewing drive-ins, middle grade children’s novels, or rock albums that I like. There are plenty of people out there writing book and album reviews, most of them better at it and/or more successful or persistent at it than me. My true aspirations are not necessarily to become a great record reviewer, but to write some things that no one else in the world would write.

Writing regularly requires dedication and planning, so I recognized that I needed to refocus and re-prioritize some areas in my life, and let some things go that are less important to me. So in my mind I tried on the idea of killing this site and pulling away from social media in general. I told my wife that I might do it, so as to instead make a plan to devote consistent time every day to this other writing I have been neglecting – the extended, laborious process of writing novels, stories and poems that must occur off the grid. Unlike writing on a blog, this writing has no easy payoff from hitting the “publish” button, sometimes receiving one or two comments from family or other nice people. Instead it is a commitment to work in total darkness and obscurity for months and years, only then to undertake the stressful endeavor of convincing someone to read and hopefully buy and publish your manuscript. Scary.

But the day after I had this discussion and declared I might unplug, I went bonkers on Twitter. I wrote mini-drafts of record reviews. I made threats that I would blow up the Internet if I could not figure out a way to publish my every idle thought easily, stylishly, instantaneously, and simultaneously to all the various social media networks in current or future usage. I thought of all the other intended items I had yet to post on this site. I did not dig out my old novel. I did not write a poem. And furthermore I didn’t feel that badly about it.

My conclusion from this experience of the past week or so is that I’m definitely not ready to give up on social media, and particularly on this site. I’m just finally ready to simplify it and streamline it in my own mind, so that I can share the things I would like to share easily without a lot of pressure or expectations for myself, writing-wise. I will devote most of my writing energies to those other types of writings, and leave this as a casual sharing of interests when I have time.

For example, it turns out I don’t need to feel bad that I never wrote that exhaustive and now hopelessly untimely review of the Springville Art Museum’s Spring Salon that I had intended to write; I can simply throw up a picture from the show every now again with a quick shout-out to the artist, and that will probably be more fun and interesting for everyone anyway. I don’t need to write an exhaustive review of every restaurant I like – I can just throw up a picture or two and write a simple paragraph or sentence highlighting the place. “If you’re interested you go try it yourself.” Basically what I am saying is that the Froz-T-Freez is going into more of a curation mode. There may still be longer written pieces from time to time, but this will now morph into a place for me to quickly highlight and share things I like and that I think other people might benefit from.

On Failing to Reach the Summit of Mount Timpanogos

Yesterday I attempted to hike to the top of Mt. Timpanogos, and I failed.


For several years I have had the goal to reach the top of this mountain, and time and time again I have put it off, thinking the weather would not be good, or I was not in good enough shape to do it yet, or it was a holiday or Saturday and too many people would be on the trail, or there were more important things to do that day. Whatever myriad excuses.

But yesterday I decided it was time to just do it. Virginia had to work both Friday night and Saturday morning in Orem, so I suggested we camp out Friday at our little house in Provo Canyon that we are trying to sell, and that on Saturday I would hike while she worked (she is with child so this kind of hike isn’t really a temptation for her right now). To further impel me to finish the hike (so I thought), I decided that I would hike up one trail and down a different trail. So, before her work Virginia kindly double drove with me to park my car at the Timponeeke trailhead, and then dropped me off back at the Aspen Grove trailhead where I would begin my hike. I assumed I would have no cell phone usage available to me except for perhaps at the summit of the mountain, so I would have no choice but to follow through and reach my car on the other side of the mountain.

[Some background on Mt. Timpanogos: The second-tallest peak in the Wasatch mountain range, Timpanogos towers over Orem and the other Northern communities of Utah County. Numerous schools, businesses and even an LDS temple in the area are named after the mountain. The hike up Timp is extremely popular; I easily encountered 50-100 other hikers during the several hours I was on the trail yesterday. For more info on the hike, some great descriptions and photos of both trails to the summit of Timp can be found here.]

The main difference between the two Timpanogos trails is that the Aspen Grove trail is shorter but steeper, while the Timponeeke trail is longer but allegedly more moderate a climb. Against all my prior daydreaming and planning, I decided yesterday morning that I would begin at the Aspen Grove trailhead. Descending steep terrain is hard on my knees and I don’t find it very fun, so I decided I would climb the steep trail and descend on the more moderate trail.

So I began my hike. I didn’t see anyone on the trail for the first 30 minutes or so. I passed the two waterfalls and left other people there to gawk at them and take pictures. It was 10 AM and I still had a long way to go to and must be on my way.

As I later stopped under the shade of a pine tree for my first real break at 1.5 miles or so, I began to encounter people coming down the mountain. They were almost universally younger than me, most of them probably BYU and UVU students. For one of the first times in my life I became fully cognizant of the reality that, at 30 years old, I am not in the same peer group as these kids, and at this point in my life I would never be mistaken for a college student. I’m an old man now. In retrospect this realization may have added “weight,” as it were, to my pack for the rest of the trip. I don’t know.

I continued on. For a half hour or so I totally zoned out from the trail. Suddenly the terrain changed and I realized I had traveled a fair distance without even paying attention. This made me happy because I thought it meant I had found some kind of rhythm, which could only bode well for my journey. Having once again noticed my surroundings, I stopped to take a look at the impending topography. From the outset of the hike I had noticed this imposing, impossibly high cliff ahead of the trail. I had actually noticed this feature many times while simply driving by the area on the Alpine Loop road. Most hikes I am acquainted with rely on some sort of side canyon or fork to lead the hiker up to the summit, and I had taken it for granted that this hike would be the same. Now as I looked at my environment and tried to determine where the trail would next take me, I saw that there were no side canyons ahead, no ridge to go around; I was already on the side of this cliff and there were only more switchbacks up this cliff ahead. It was the path of the trail, and it was unavoidable.

The long, gradual switchbacks that I coasted through had ended and now the steep climbing began in earnest. In places it was hard to tell what was the regular trail, what was a shortcut trail, and what was a dried up stream cascade or waterfall. People began passing me on a regular basis, some of them scurrying up or down steep shortcuts with which I wanted to have no business. I was slowing up. I had to stop a lot. I heard people above me on the trail, far away but directly above me, still on these same switchbacks on this same cliff.

I sat down on a rock and drank. People passed me. I ate a sandwich. People passed me. I stood up and walked about five steps, and found I wanted to stop again and look. I did this several more times, gaining an altitude over the course of 20 minutes that others had attained in a mere 1-2 minutes. I turned on my cell phone to check the time, and I beheld full bars with 3G? Was this a trick? It was 12:45 PM. At my one-step-per-minute rate, I knew that even if I did manage to push through and get to the meeting-place of the Aspen Grove and Timponeeke trails (all hope of reaching the summit had evaporated at this point), it could well be midnight by the time I reached my car on the other side. My wife would be off work in less than an hour. If I turned around it would not mean attempting to hitch a ride on the Alpine Loop with some shameful tale of slothfulness and failure (that’s what I have this blog for, after all); I could just call my wife to come save me!

And so that is what I did. I made it back down off the mountain safe and healthy, save some serious sunburn. TOTAL FAILURE. And yet, I had hiked enough steep miles to have more than answered any number of other hikes with a summit reached and unqualified success on the return. Mt. Olympus, for example. So where was my failure? Failure to pick the right trail? Failure to plan appropriately? Failure to persevere? Failure to bring a caffeinated drink with me?

TO BE CONTINUED, hopefully . . .