Writer’s Schedule

I enjoy learning about how the creative process works for a lot of people. No two are alike really, and no process is consistent between works in progress I am discovering. I like reading about how Hemingway would start each day off with reading a stack of newspapers from 6am until 10. Of course he followed that up with prolific drinking and by the middle of the afternoon he would be done, as well as wasted.

Hunter S. Thompson maintained a steady rhythm of drugs, pills, booze, and blacking out throughout his work day. It seemed to work for him. Until it didn’t.

So, for posterity, here’s what I do.

Wake up in the morning. Raise my weary head. I’ve got an old coat for a pillow…

(Ten points to Hufflepuff if you get the reference).

Wake up. Grab my brush and put on a little makeup…

Okay, for reals this time.

Wake up with the sun. Take the dog outside. Check my triumvarate of procrastination for anything new overnight: Facebook, Instagram, Email. Message my VIPs. Make coffee. Make oatmeal. Consume mass quantities. Wake up with a shower. Check social media some more.

Procrastinate.

It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s all part of the process. Procrastination is what other people call “chores” or “things I have to do so my life doesn’t fall apart around me.” It’s a matter of symantics. It’s usually laundry or dishes or cleaning the house. Sometimes it’s taking the dog to the park and throwing the tennis ball for twenty minutes. Wearing her out means she will leave me alone when I need to work.

Write. Sometimes I write a blog post here or on the travel site. Sometimes I just jump right into the book. I try to get at least 1,000 words down before I stop.

Clean up dog puke. You’d be surprised how often this happens. I guess it keeps the blood circulating from sitting on my butt all day.

Have a snack or eat a late lunch. Make more coffee. Write.

Or take a nap. Yes, even after drinking coffee. I think I might have ADHD.

After the nap, probably visit with some friends on the phone or text. By now it’s late afternoon, the son is getting mighty low. Make a snack. Make more coffee.

Write. Write for hours.

After that, it is probably around 10 or so. To make my brain wind down, I’ve been reading before bed. Recently it has been The Night Circus. I didn’t like the book at first but it was a slow burn in the beginning and now I’m enjoying it for its world-building and sense of wonder. It reminds me a litte bit of if Ray Bradbury had written Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Reading someone else’s words usually has one of two effects on me. Either it makes my brain shut up or it inspires me to write more. This one has been doing the former.

Rest. Repeat. Squeeze in some therapy, allergy shots, and other various necessities. Sometimes I take the day off to get more ideas. I take a drive. I visit with family. I might even just binge watch a show or play a video game. I’ve being playing Conan Exiles lately.

That’s it. It’s not knife tricks and absinthe with Gertrude Stein, but it’s a process.

Happiness in a New Normal World

“It’s all good.”

Why does everyone keep saying that when I know good and damn well it isn’t all good? I remember when hippies used to say it in their tie-dye and drug-rugs, baked to the gills and it meant something different back then. It meant they were so high that nothing was going to bring them down. It was a Zen state back then. Now it has become the Diet Coke of my least favorite expression:

“It is what it is.”

I hate that expression. Fucking hate it. Why is that? Because two kinds of people use it.

  • Someone who has given up and resigned themselves to their fate of being miserable.
  • Someone who already has everything they want and they aren’t sharing.

Even though Dylan Thomas was a complete prick, he had one thing right.

“Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas

We waste so much of our lives saying things like we are “surviving” or “tomorrow I’ll do X” or just biding our time until the Big Black Car comes to pick us up one last time. Or waiting for things to improve. There isn’t tomorrow. There is only today, what we do right now. Whether it is laugh or cry or work our asses off, tomorrow does not come with a guarantee and for whatever reason even though we are living in times when people are dying all around us from an engineered cold, we still just keep grinding.

Why can’t we just be happy? Why don’t we just do whatever the hell fills our tanks?

Right now we are living in a time when people should realize that a big chunk of what we do can be done differently. People could work at home instead of fighting rush hour traffic. They could be comfortable. They don’t need some Overseer staring down at them in a cubicle maze. They don’t need to feel the stress and frustration of the day to know that they have earned their paycheck.

I did that shit for over twenty years. At the end of my job, my bloated waddling supervisor acted like I did nothing, and what I did was never good enough. My pay never changed, but they were happy to heap more responsibilities onto my list of duties. Things really got shaky when they wanted me to do training on some ridiculous LCD TV bulletin boards in the hallways. A university that was $10mil in debt every year decided we needed monitors in the halls to display things that were going on in the college. You know, like those corkboard thingies that had been there for 40 years did for free.

Not only did the refusal to pay me more for constantly updating that shit go against the standards I valued when I accepted the job, but blowing money on stupid shit while they were laying off 70+ people (myself included I would find out) seemed to go against any sort of logic.

So, I said, “No.”

The job was bullshit. So, on top of being exposed to asbestos, lead paint, no raises, inept leadership, gaslighting, watching administrators and faculty flaunt their wealth (and cry about it), I knew that place was just polishing brass on the titanic. Why did I stay?

It was a comfort zone.

“It is what it is.”

Right now, being self-employed scares the absolute shit out of me. I don’t know when my next paycheck is coming. I have to push myself every day to create content, to pitch, and then there is the frustration of knowing that almost nobody is going to respond. So, yes, I’m hemorraging money, trying to build something for myself. I’m taking advantage of this “New Normal” because working from home is suddenly on the table for a lot of us.

I hate that when I pitch an article to a magazine, or I query a venue to ask them if I can write about what they have going on, not only is there rejection, but more often than not (about 95% of it) there isn’t even a response. I can’t help but wonder what they hell they are doing over there at their job when they can’t even respond?

But you know what I hated more? Having someone drop a steaming pile of bullshit on my desk, tell me it’s all my fault, and then flounce off to go jabber about some show on TV or talk with the other mucky-mucks about their last trip to Thailand. Or complaining about how expensive something is when they make four times what I did.

So many of my friends (and believe me, it’s a decent number of them) are struggling right now and are absolutely miserable in their jobs. It’s the constant influx of bullshit they are dealing with. They aren’t respected. They are taken for granted. And because everyone has bills to pay, they don’t have a lot of choice on what else they can do. It’s the return of the Company Store.

Well, there is always a choice. I had a choice at UNC, but it offered stability in exchange for just suffering through asshattery. Along with the promise of hemorrhoids and ulcers and constant stess and stiff necks and weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart problems and knowing that you are a parent who has provided for others and kept them alive and somehow some fuck who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel comes in and degrades you for not doing a good job were just a small price to pay for stability. Taking that every day or scaring the hell out of myself with doing something else was my “It is what it is” moment. Until they laid a bunch of us off and started paying new people half of what we were making.

We need to be better.

Our leaders are no longer leaders. They are nitwits living in positions of privilege. The metric of their leadership is putting their employees on blast and not even knowing what they do. Our “essential” employees are burning out. Most of them could quit and get a job at McDonalds for better pay. We are working for other people who aren’t even paying us enough for a decent funeral, which most of us will have to call in sick to have ourselves buried when the time comes.

But here’s the thing. My “job” right now doesn’t pay a lot. And sometimes I have to remind myself (and my family) that I’m not unemployed. I’m just not punching a clock and getting regular checks. But I am self-employed. And I am trying. And I am struggling–mostly with just finding a rhythm. And when everytime I turn around and somebody wants another $1000 and I watch my savings evaporate, yes, it would make sense to chuck this dream. But that’s a lot like running a marathon and getting to the halfway point and turning back because it’s so hard. You might as well keep running the race.

I have something right now that 20 years at a university NEVER gave me: Fulfillment.

If I’m going to have crippling and anxiety and fear, I might as well have it because of something I want to do, instead of being afraid someone is going to come around and fire me on a whim.

So, I might starve. But I might also get everything I ever wanted in life too. It’s all good.

Why can’t we be happy?

That’s just the thing. We can. Keep fighting. Keep striving. Keep going. Fuck the haters. Get out of your own way and fly.

You want happiness? Reach out and TAKE IT.

Emotional and stuff

I just finished writing a very emotional chapter and decided I needed to decompress here a little bit, so I’m going to talk about that.

Writing is more than just characters and plot and pretty language. Sometimes you have to dig really deep inside yourself and pull something out of that murky well of your heart. With this project I have felt that a number of times. Tonight was such a night.

It can leave you feeling unsteady. It can make you feel like you’ve been hollowed out or it can bring up with it a whole bunch of other feelings. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but it’s all a process. It allows you to put your mind in different scenarios and based on the personalities of the characters the outcome may vary.

Most of today I did things around the house that needed to be done. I weatherized the windows for winter, I did dishes, cooked, and a few other things got done that I had been putting off. I didn’t expect to sit down and write a scene really, but I did. Luckily it was short. Sometimes I have those on the agenda, when I can just sit down and work something out that has been on my mind.

Tomorrow is a chapter that encompasses a lot more time. It will require more planning and structure and probably not as deep a well to dip into for the same type of emotion this scene required. This scene really needed to pull at the heart strings. Tomorrow, hopefully, won’t be as deep.

So, for the rest of tonight, I’m going to read and decompress. The scene is done and I’m giving myself the rest of the night off.