Monday’s Theme Music

You’d think that today’s song, with a cat in the title, was inspired by an interaction with a cat. Nope; didn’t happen that way.

“Honky Cat” by Elton John (1972) came to me because of the line, “Change is gonna do me good.” I was asked to help another. Helping them would force a change to my comfortable, protected routines. But I wanted to help, hence, I told myself, “Change is gonna do me good.”

Turned out, my help wasn’t needed, etc. By then, though, “Honky Cat” was roaring in the stream. Not that I mind that. Its jaunty sound fit my mood.

Now I’m gonna go look for gold in a silver mine, then drink a little whiskey from a bottle of wine. Always enjoyed those lines.

Unchanged

She’d thought about using a computer but decided that she didn’t want to. That would have been cumbersome to learn, as would changing her phone. The green wall phone with its rotary dial and long cord was sufficient.

She kept her old color console television, bought from Sears in 1969, because it still worked, so why buy a new one? She had to buy new furniture in 1969 because the old stuff fell apart, but once the gold and green brocade stuff she bought started falling apart, she kept it, even though the fabric was torn and worn, stuffing was coming out, and the frames were coming apart.

Her hair-style was unchanged from 1968, which is also when she started dying her hair brown, so she looked much the same in this century as she did the last. She loved Campbell’s tomato soup and had it almost every day for lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich using Kraft American Cheese Singles, along with a Heinz dill pickle. Her breakfast was Quaker Oats followed by two cups of Maxwell House coffee that she made in her old percolator.

Days were spent reading Dick Francis, Nancy Drew mysteries, or Agatha Christie while watching Fox News. In the evenings, she watched The Family Feud and The Price is Right followed by Murder, She Wrote, The Andy Griffith Show, The Big Valley, and Perry Mason. Once in a while, she watched a movie, like The Sound of Music. For treats, she ate Little Debbie Cakes.

Not much had changed in her life, and that made her happy. Being happy, she saw no reason to change.

Back in the Writing Groove

Ah, sweet comfort. I’m back in the writing groove again.

Thinking about it as I made coffee this morning, I recognized how fiction writing every day helps me be more mindful. To understand characters’ motivation and behavior, I look to myself and other people that I know. I think about what I’ve done and what drives me, along with my inherent contradictions, and search for understanding of what I do, and why. And I do the same with other people, and the characters that I encounter in novels, short stories, movies, and television shows. All that is so that I can create richer characters and tell better stories.

Going through that thinking exercise as the darkness swept through me this week, I saw how my daily writing provides me structure and goals. Those structures and goals give my life meaning. So when I flail through the darkness and don’t want to write, my structure comes apart.

It isn’t just about feeding and satisfying the muses, telling stories, or pursuing goals of writing novels and becoming published. My writing is a tangible part of who I am. When I can’t write, I feel incomplete and adrift. I feel like I’m not me.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Riddled with Variations

In a day of routines dribbling into a week of routines which flow into months and years of routines, I hunt variations.

Most of these come through my daily walks. I wear a Fitbit. My goal before sitting down to write each day is to achieve six thousand steps. Six thousand steps will provide me a comfortable start to the day’s walking goals. The steps, while a carrot, aren’t the day’s goal. I strive for seven miles plus.

Walking to the coffee shop where I write would help me with my walking goals. It’s two miles in either direction. I’ve walked it, and therein found why I don’t like it: it’s a boring, tedious, mundane walk. It’s literally a straight walk. To reach the coffee shop, I make two turns before walking one point nine six miles. Then I make another turn to enter the coffee shop. It’s a slight downward grade on the way into town, and an uphill walk in the other way. The monotony of this route throttles my senses.

To counter this, I drive three quarters of the way. Then I park and walk the downtown areas of Ashland. In this way, I can change routines on whim, and see variations that I’d not otherwise encounter. The variations stimulate my imagination, creativity and productivity.

That’s more critical now. I’m cop- editing a completed novel and just finished publishing a paperback edition of one of my previously published novels. These are not creative outlets. I invent stories as I walk, stories lost to the mind stream by the time I sit down and embrace the business of novel editing and publishing.

Sometimes my need and desire for routines sicken me. It seems seem unhealthy. On the other hand, the routines keep me on a sane path, pushing toward my goals.

Now, with my regular quad shot mocha in hand, sitting at the table and my documents open, it’s time to edit like crazy, at least one more time. It’ a grind, but it must be done.

Routine Changes

I like patterns. I dislike calling them routines.

They probably are routines, or habits. For writing, I go to the same place at roughly the same time every day, and order the same drink. It might also be a habit. As parcel to this pattern, I walk.

Variations exist. I prefer writing in mid- to late-morning, so I tend to arrive between ten and eleven. A musician friend of mine is usually leaving as I arrive, so we have a private comedy routine we engage in about changing shifts, ha, ha. Sometimes, I don’t arrive until early- to mid-afternoon, driven back by other commitments.

I sit in about the same area, but at different tables. Yes, I do have a favorite and try for it.

This was all deliberate. When I began writing in earnest, I needed a structure to encourage discipline. Now the structure is just comfortable, and convenient. By engaging in this process, I free myself to write without letting small details interfere.

None of this is new. What is new is that potential change is crowding the horizon.

This writing location isn’t my first choice. It’s a decent coffee shop, with decent writing vibrations. Service is wonderful and the owners are pleasant, polite people. Prices remain shocking, but that’s the modern world’s nature, what with supply and demand, wages and energy costs. Overall, it works.

I came to this place when my previous writing location abruptly ceased doing business. That forced me into a hunt. I tried every coffee shop in town to begin in search of my new haunt. After narrowing the list down from seventeen to three, I frequented each several times.

I have a set of requirements for my writing place.

  1. Space to write
  2. Good writing energy
  3.  Wi-fi
  4. Good mocha drink – something chocolately, with three or four shots of espresso
  5. Reasonable prices
  6. Decent service
  7. Convenient location
  8. Clean enough not to be offending

All of this has come up because a new place is to be opened. After three years of inactivity, a new coffee establishment is opening where my previous preference was in business.

Friends familiar with my routines want to know, “Will you start going to the new place?” Well, if it meets my eight needs listed, probably. Right now, this location falls short on good writing energy and convenient location. A little over two miles from home, I often hop in the car, drive closer, and then walk.

This is a compromise. I’m not fond of it. But I have other things to do and can’t always plan to consume that time to walk down there and back.

That’s excuse number one. Excuse number two is weather. We have many days over one hundred degrees in the summer. Winter walking meant enduring rain, snow, ice and wind. It just wasn’t pleasant, and was countering my desire for a walk to shift into the writing mood.

Mind you, my coffee drink’s flavor is important. I’ve tried multiple drinks before deciding that mochas work best for writing. I think that the coffee, sugar and chocolate combo stimulates my creativity and focus.

The new place is much closer. At just under a mile, it’s a fast walk. Variations can be followed to extend the walking time. I found that walk down was perfect for setting the mood to write. Then I could trudge and tramp around afterward to decompress, think and shift back into the real world.

I will try the new business and see if it works. I’ll do back to back comparisons between the two.

Space to write and writing energy are the most critical components. Everything else pales. So we’ll see.

I’m going to do what works for me.

These Days

These days are like and unlike other days. Days are like people and snowflakes, so similar on quick glances and shallows assessments but unique under study.

These days are wearying, grinds with the same sense of repetition and routine found in many livelihoods. That it is my choice mitigates some of my complaints but add some bitter flavoring in acknowledgement, this is the culmination of my efforts, dreams, thoughts, planning and decisions. Passing people working in the thirty-two degree sunshine, I know I have it fortunate but I still complain. Complaining seems to be my essence but I’m solidly stolid and stoic in my demeanor. Yes, I readily smile to address the world and otherwise seem affable. Under this is a worn and brittle sense that I’m hanging on. I don’t know what I’m hanging on to, for or why; I sense that’s pretty normal and a large part of our standard quest to learn why we’re here.

These days of wars, lies and misinformation are actually much like many days of other eras. There is always contention between classes, nations, parties and individuals about humanity’s course and about what should be done, with more and less callousness extended toward the general human condition, and more and less need for some to be powerful, wealthy and worshiped. These days, we’re not really sure what’s going to happen next but these days aren’t much different from other days. Our children are no longer practicing duck and cover at school so they can survive nuclear, biological and chemical attacks as so many children did in the 1950s in America. We have that going for us, these days, although the weapons and capabilities remain, ready for release when orders are given, codes are verified and buttons are pressed.

These days I take a deep breath and mount the stairs to the coffee shop. I find a table and set up shop. Order my drink and banter with the baristas. I collect story points and scenes in my mind, bringing up the things I thought in bed last night, in the shower, and during the drive and the walk today. Scenes gain momentum in my consciousness.

These days, I question myself, is this how others write? Bob Mustin offered a series of posts about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize. In the series conclusion today, Mustin included the text of Dylan’s speech and a video of the US Ambassador to Sweden making the speech. Bob Dylan thought about and expressed what such an honor means, but more, Dylan wrote about his early hopes and expectations. He just wanted someone to hear him and get enough reward to do more of the same. As Dylan does and did, he gathers insights and neatly sums them up: that’s all we want, to find what we want to do and gain enough reward and recognition to carry on. Everything else is an unexpected benefit.

It’s a good grounding reminder. We don’t know what the future will bring. We can expend energy projecting and forecasting, striving to understand every nuance of nature and events to ensure we’re as prepared as possible, but we just don’t know what will come. We don’t know what dreams will be fulfilled, nor where we’ll fail. We can only decide to try and press on.

These days, it’s helpful as encouragement to keep going. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time. You never know what will come of it.

Not in these days.

 

Today’s Theme Music

We’ve survived the initial shopping volley.

Actually, I went out yesterday and discovered it wasn’t that bad. We did our usual routine. Went by CostCo because we needed to fuel the car. Ended up with a cart load of other necessities, like tp, soup and wine. Then off to PetSmart where they were severely understocked for kitty litter and food for our (grit teeth) furry beloveds, followed by Trader Joe’s for some items (like my shaving balm), and then to Shop ‘n Kart for our produce, cheeses and essentials.

The routine nestled us with familiarity and grounded us, needed after the interlude of Thanksgiving shopping, prepping and socializing. Each born under the astrological sign of Cancer (I’m a Leo rising), we’re like hermit crabs, preferring solitude, home and routines. My wife wants to be a social queen but it empties her energy tanks and then she crumples for a few days.

Still, it’s nice to visit with others and go where everybody knows your name.

By the way, my wife despises the television show ‘Cheers’ because of their portrayal of women. I see her point but I enjoyed it back when it was on.

One Leg

One problem with growing older (which some like to call aging, a disgusting term, makes me feel like cheese), is that the manuals regarding this are so poorly written.

For example, I’ve learned through my years of training, practice, and experience, to put my shorts and pants on one leg at a time. Been doing it that way so long, I don’t remember when I started.

But in the last year, I realized that I always put the same leg on first, left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg. And that was causing my left leg problems because it trained a limitation into its motion and strength through this unchanging and repetitive motion. Drawing the garment over the first leg is easier because it begins lower, requiring less combo of bending and stepping.

Discovering this wasn’t an accident. A right hander, I began using my left hand to do routine things a few years ago. It surprised me how challenging it was to use the other hand to do things. Brushing my teeth with my left hand, my right hand stood ready to leap in and save the left hand. Conscious effort was required to lower my right hand and disengage it from the activity. In weird ways, the right hand, normally used, shadowed the left hand’s motions.

Wiping my derriere after my business was amazingly strenuous. My body was built to pivot, angle and balance in certain ways with that act and bucked against the mirroring process I was trying to follow.

These efforts and observations made me more mindful about all my activities and behaviors. I quit taking it for granted how things were done and forced myself to do the opposite with everything I did.

Some were more easily accomplished. In the past few months, as I painted trim and walls in the house, I came to tell my body and mind, treat your left side like it’s your right side. Surprisingly, that’s very effective. It’s like the mind heard the words and somehow rewired itself.

There are exceptions, and putting my clothing on with my right leg first is one of those areas. My left leg, in conjunction with the bending required to offer the pants and shorts to the leg, is troubled by the activity. I definitely have reduced mobility, flexibility and strength in that knee. Thinking about it, I’m not surprised, as I played sports, particularly racquetball, baseball and football for years. Everything was geared toward being right handed. But being aware and mindful about it, I’m addressing it and I’m confident I can make changes.

One leg at a time.

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