Saturday Evening Post

Get it? Because it’s Saturday evening?

Last night I was pretty frustrated with myself. Two days and almost no writing. I’ve gotten to the point where I start to get a little squirrely if I don’t write every day. But this is my son’s last week of Summer Vacation, and not a very great summer vacation at that. Last summer, we went to hot springs and swimming and visited grandparents and so many other things to fill his mind with new experiences and broaden his horizons. This year, as all of us know, we blew through Spring and are finding ourselves at the end of summer vacation without having done much other than sit at home and gain weight.

So for the last several weeks, we have been using our time together to ride bikes, go places, spend time together, and not play video games as much as he would like. Much to his frustration and disappointment. $45 at a farm supply store got us inner tubes a few weeks ago, and since then, we have been hitting several places along the river, tubing! It gets us out into the sun, it gives us a chance to exercise, and we don’t have so spend much money, other than gas and snacks for the trip.

This week we did a number of things, which I will write about on my travel blog. Unfortunately we have been spending so much time together and I have put my focus on getting him on a river or a bike lately that I don’t get a lot of time to write. Usually after he falls asleep. The barrier I am running into though is by then, I am tired. If I start writing at 11:00pm, then I know that my brain will continue to keep writing until about 2 or 3am. Then we have to get up, I have to feed us, and the whole process starts all over again. I don’t have the luxury of writing all night in a cool, quiet house when he is around, so I tend to play more with him and work more when it is just me.

I didn’t work much at all for the last few nights, and to my mental state, it shows. The other night my brain decided to work, but it didn’t produce anything. It just fretted over structure and which chapter would come next. I still didn’t have any answers. Then, yesterday, a really bad burn on my right hand delayed my writing for late afternoon and the evening. Just a reminder: if you are using a steel skillet as a broiler pan, just remember it will probably be very hot even a few minutes after you pull it out of the oven. Use an over mitt to pick it up. Not your bare hand.

Raw aloe does help. But it only does so much.

Last night I was up really late, just scrolling through social media, then reading a little bit. I finally fell asleep at about 3:30am and woke up at 10am. I had a series of nightmares which are pretty common to me…and BOOM, that was it! This was the next chapter I needed to write! This was the transition in the story! I picked up my phone and went into Notes and just started Writing!

Tonight, after a cat nap post-inner tubing again, I sat down to visit with a couple friends online, and once they faded out (as people usually do when you are visiting on Messenger), I decided to transcribe notes from my phone into Scrivener. As it turns out, I had six or seven files to move over from the last few days. Mostly little snippets of dialog or a theme for a scene. But the chunk that I wrote this morning was 1600 words. Boom. An hour’s worth of work using just my thumbs on a Notes app.

Today I actually feel good about the writing.

There are some days I feel like the book is demanding that it be written. These sleepless nights are usually the confrontation between an active mind and an exhausted body. In my case, the mind usually wins, but the body is useless and painful when it doesn’t get sleep at night. Sometimes the boredom of solitude gets to be a little too much. There is also the problem of money and what to do when you are looking at quickly running out of it. I have to heed to call to write and put the words down. I can’t worry about structure and plotting and all that because that kind of thinking is actually getting in the way of how the story is asking to be written.

It’s weird as hell.

Muse

The other day I decided to watch the Leonard Cohen documentary on Amazon Prime, Marianne and Leonard. It illumated so much about Leonard Cohen that his music and even his poetry only really hints at. A colossus of sensual imagery, heartache, desire, longing, and bittersweet loss, Leonard Cohen’s work first struck me in the early 1990s as I was on my journey towards young adulthood, finding myself in a rivalry with one of my best friend’s for the affection of possibly one of the first girls to pay attention to me. What later became her game nearly ended a friendship that had endured to even today. I just wished him a happy 43rd birthday just the other day. I haven’t spoken to the girl really since she chose a third out of a selection of equally stupid and hormonal teenaged boys she had to choose from.

But as we both sat on either side of her in 1992, the only three people in her mother’s house, with her bare legs stretched across my friend’s and the rest of her lounging across my lap, we watched Pump up the Volume. It was a movie about teenaged angst, rebellion, censorship, and Samantha Mathis’s naked body. Quite possibly the first R rated movie I watched with a member of the opposite sex featuring nudity and atraction. At the center of it all was this song, a deep, resonant voice that began every pirate radio broadcast in the movie. Nothing really risque, other that than rumble of a voice that somehow evoked eroticism. It was a song about contrasts, betrayal, and irony; it was at the time Leonard Cohen’s most popular song: Everybody Knows. Since then I’ve seen this song played more times in strip club movie scenes than Pour Some Sugar on Me. Years later, a Jeff Buckley cover of Halleluja would overtake Everybody Knows as Cohen’s most recognizable song.

Later on, I got into Cohen’s music even more, with my favorites becoming Take this Waltz, and later the likes of Anthem, Suzanne, and the deceptively cheerful So Long Marianne. Marianne in the documentary is the same as the woman from the song. She was his Muse while living on the Greek isle of Hydra for a number of years throughout the 60s and 70s, all the way up until the end of their romance, as he ascended to the level of banging the likes of Janis Joplin and pretty much anyone else who feel for that velvety voice with the lyrics of a poet driving them.

The interesting thing about Marianne Ihlen was that she wasn’t just Leonard Cohen’s muse, but that of many artists and singers she encountered. Back in the extremely sexually liberal 60s, she had many lovers, some of which at the same time as Cohen. But as a tale as old as people have scratched each other’s names into stone walls or tree trunks, over time they drifted apart, though Cohen was involved in her life to some degree all the way up until the end of her own life. He even supported her financially as she drifted around the world like some unbound spirit, offering inspiration and encouragement to many she came into contact with.

Watching this documentary, I thought of the importance of the Muse to many artists. I think in my own process, I have had moments that have flooded my imagination with color, but no central person that has provided me with a continual source of inspiration. Unless you count the pain that has resulted from their loss. In which case, they aren’t really a Muse, are they? My muse would be like the ones I saw in the British Museum. Cold and broken figures carved from marble, existing now only as a pale semblance of what they once had been thousands of years ago. Headless. Fragile.

That’s okay, I guess. I do have good people in my life who continue to encourage me as I work. Some days I really don’t know what I’m doing or why. The words are just here and they end up on the page. Sometimes they don’t stop until I am exhausted, refusing to allow me to sleep, and even going as far as waking me early the next morning to start all over again.

The hardest obstacle I am facing now is wondering why I’m telling these stories. I think maybe because of those times I have spent around old people. Their skin translucent with age, the whites of their eyes spiderwebbed, the sheen of their pupils now glassed over a little bit with cataracts as they stare off into the distance, reminiscing about a battle they survived, or some great love affair. But now they have begun to wind down and they no longer tell the stories. They will eventually bring all of those tales with them to the end of their lives. You can’t take money, property, or wealth with you, and the same is true for the experiences we carry. Unless you tell someone about them.

So, I stay up late to tell the stories. They were wonderful to live, frightening sometimes, stupid even more often than that, but one day when I am gone, they will evaporate along with my spirit. Might as well write them down.

I don’t have a Muse like Leonard Cohen, not even the one whose suede jacket exuded the scent of her perfume like a storm cloud of flower blossoms wherever she went. Those are just the details that give everything dimension and life. But I do have the support of a few people who continue to follow my misadventures. I have those moments that I have lived and felt that my life was ringing like a bell, deep and resonant like the blown out voice of the Man himself, and those memories ignite something in me that should have been put out cold long ago. Those moments when someone has touched your perfect body with their mind.

Maybe that’s good enough. Sometimes this is more difficult than it seems. Those days when I question whether or not to write the stories down. These tales of heartache and love and sex and all the rest. Maybe those old people are right to let their memories die with them and I should just remain silent.

For now, I keep going. I think not putting those stories down would kill me faster than anything.

Distractifications

Last night when I went to bed, I had big plans for today. I was going to wake up early, sit down and really just go to town with writing. I should have known this morning at 8:40 when I woke up that all those plans were going to get blown to hell. I’m still working up to my routine. Yesterday, I felt that push of Resistance. I saw that long corridor of fear and that Sissiphysian push uphill with my rock, that I chose to see it as. Instead of seeing it as the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I wonder if this is what keeps stray dogs wandering around neighborhoods where they have been chained too long.

I forced my hand to make the words happen and it worked. It always feels good to write. Every chance I get to set down and snatch the words out of the aether and put them on the page feels good. What doesn’t feel good is sitting on my ass doing data entry. Listening to coworkers talk about ham or taffy for hours, or be regaled by the tales of recent surgeries or the medicines they are taking for something as stupid as being overweight.

This morning is a moment of resistance. The Newtonian law of an object at rest remaining at rest applies to the Creative mind as well. The unbalanced force is when we will ourselves to put our butts in the chair, pick up that artist’s pencil, start mixing paint, or turning off social media and turning on our minds.

But wait. There might just be that one friend on Facebook who says something witty, or maybe I can visit with someone to become motivated? Or maybe this book will write itself and I just don’t wannnnnaaaaa!!!!

These are all just ways to continually distract yourself. Binge-watching a series on Netflix, arguing with someone about politics/pandemics/Star Wars. I understand that I need to build a resume, that I need to build my website again–after losing a year’s worth of posts. I need to keep my options open for freelance work and have to check Indeed and LinkedIn and other sites for this. And I should set up a Fiverr account too to try to bring in more income.

But what I have had the opportunity to do for several weeks now, but haven’t because of distractions is work on the book. First it was the pandemic, then the layoff, then the breakup, then the…damn, I’ve run out of distractions…how do I create more? Why not work on the book? I can do that. I can do all the rest and still have time. Once you remove the time you piss away on social media and driving around to run errands, you free up a lot of time. Even the words I’m writing right now are a way to distract myself. So, why?

Because I’m afraid of that book. It’s one thing to write a paid blog post about why you should shop at a certain hardware store, or the dangers of toxic mold, but when that writing gets bought, you feel good. You get to put a little away in savings. You get to pay a bill. When they don’t sell, you shrug and just figure that was a small chunk of your time that didn’t pan out. When you spend YEARS writing a book, and people hate it, or worse yet, people buy it and never read it. Well, you wonder why you spent all that time writing it in the first place. You have made more money writing about rain gutters or dental implants.

There are worlds out there your mind is creating and it’s up to your butt (in that chair), your fingers (on those keys), and your caffeine tolerance (how much until my heart actually explodes?) to get those stories out.

You risk it all when you tell people your dreams.

But when those dreams don’t get to be born, they die inside of you. When they are on the page, they flirt with immortality.

Time to stop letting myself be distracted. Today, I get to do something about it.