I clean up
like I’m going somewhere
and dress up
like I’m going somewhere
and then sit down
like I’m going somewhere
and surf the net
like I’m going somewhere
The keys go in this drawer so that they could always be found
(alongside his Fitbit, wallet, and pens),
the shopping bags were stored in these cubbies so all knew where they were
(it was automatic to reach for them when walking out the door),
the sunglasses and reading glasses were set where they were always expected to be
(so that exasperating searches could be avoided),
and the refrigerator and pantry were kept ordered, to minimize searching,
processes meant to reduce the chances of forgetting and losing anything.
It mostly worked.
Feeling like a bit o’ rut had overtaken me, I sought changes after leaving my writing time. Writing time had been productive and left me with that sense of magic, that anything was possible. Now, walking again, I faced the boring and mundane, the same old shit – trees, house, and streets. My mind is screaming road trip. Get thee somewhere with a fresh view. Been a while, I thought with first world sniveling, months since I’ve gotten away to somewhere else, which is the primary problem with being in a rut.
Out of this, or into this, streamed Green Day’s 1994 offering, “Longview”. Why not? It’s a song all about being bored and doing the same thing hour and hour twenty-four seven.
|Sit around and watch the tube but, nothing’s on
Change the channels for an hour or two
Twiddle my thumbs just for a bit
I’m sick of all the same old shit
In a house with unlocked doors
And I’m fucking lazy
Bite my lip and close my eyes
Peel me off this velcro seat and get me moving
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Space to write
- Good writing energy
- Good mocha drink – something chocolately, with three or four shots of espresso
- Reasonable prices
- Decent service
- Convenient location
- 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 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.