Ok, it’s a short week. That’s at least one small detail working in its favor. I’m not over here trying to wish my life away or anything, but how fake would I have to be to pretend that I enjoyed these weekdays anywhere near as much as I do Saturdays and Sundays?
Telework Tuesday lets me ease back into the week without the commute and open bay cubicles adding insult to injury. That makes it hard to complain too much about the week so far. I’m sure Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday will more than make up for that, though. As always, my inner pessimist is ensuring that my expectations, even for a short week, don’t fly wildly out of hand.
As usual, coming off a long weekend there just isn’t all that much on my mind. Spending the majority of four days ignoring the news, buying up some books, cooking, reading, and spending quality time with the resident animals doesn’t lend itself to great storming posts. If you think I’m going to issue an apology for that then you’re stark raving, right out of your tree mad.
Maybe it’s time to branch out a little in order to head off these inevitable lull in material. Then again, I question how often anyone wants to read about just how many ear scratches were dispensed to the dogs or my opinions on the cathartic value of lawn mowing. Maybe we should just let short weeks be what they are, because soon enough something will agitate the hell out of me and we’ll be off to the races again.
I think I know why Hemingway went to places like Havana and Key West to do his writing. I can put more words on the page sitting in a dive bar perched at the end of a ramshackle pier than I can most days sitting in the comfort of my own kitchen. Working at home offers the distraction of the familiar and the hundred other things that need to be done to keep the household running. The dive is full of any number of exotic distractions, but they’re different somehow – almost inspirational in a way that your tired old Mr. Coffee and the hum of the refrigerator will never be. There’s something about being away from the familiar that lets the ideas come more freely. Who knows, maybe there really is something to being outside your normal box.
Plus, if only in my own deluded fantasy, when the inevitable leggy brunette slides in next to you with her CrossFit body and a voice of a 1940s Hollywood starlet asking what you’re doing, you can tell her you’re writing a novel… or a novella in my case… but you’re going to want to say novel because no one really knows what a novella is. Besides, chicks dig writers. Quiet down. I already pointed out this is my own deluded fantasy and not the real world where people stare at you blankly when you tell them your grand aspirations as a writer. Sadly, neither the fantasy brunette nor the writing career is really the point.
The only reason I bring any of this up is I’ve spent the last six weeks writing from notes I put together while I was at the beach. That’s six weeks working from material I put together in my spare time over three days and nights. I’d hate to think what my daily word count could jump to if not saddled by such trivial matters as having bills to pay and a full time job. Reality is an often troublesome taskmaster.
Tonight, much to my chagrin, I realized my bag o’ ideas was empty and what I reached for as a substitute turned out to be something I wrote extensively about in 2011. In fact that old post was so close in phrasing at some points that it was genuinely creepy to look at them side by side, but written almost exactly three years apart. I’ve always said that I value consistency, but in this one small area, I worry it could be too much of a good thing.
Aside from being damned inconvenient, it also means from now on I’m apparently going to have to search my own website to make sure what I’m having is a legitimately new idea before spending any time rehashing a chestnut from the past. New ideas get harder and harder to come by when you’ve strewn opinion online for as many as five nights a week for almost eight years. I’ll either need to change up the routine, start seeing different parts of the world, and interacting with new people. Or I’ll just have to spend more time at the beach coming up with ideas. When I put it that way, there doesn’t really feel like a contest about which I should do… because changing up the routine, seeing different things, and meeting new people sounds just awful.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred when you see me, I have a plan. It may not always be a good one, but it’s there informing the decisions I make throughout the course of the day. Even if I know the plan is going to be blown to hell and back by 9AM, I feel better starting the day with a semblance of an idea about where I want to be when the day ends.
That’s true except in the one part of my life where it feels like a plan is currently most needed – the writing part. You know, the part I really, really like. More days than not I find myself sitting at the keyboard after dinner flailing around hoping to strike on a decent topic for the night’s post. That stroke of good luck feels like it’s getting harder to come by lately. That’s pretty much how I know it’s probably time to sit down and look at this thing like an actual professional – planning out posts in advance, working to deadline, and generally not waiting for the good idea fairy to drop ideas in my lap at the last possible minute.
I think I’ve always worried that having posts pre-planned might take away some of the ebb and flow around here. It could make me less responsive to the breaking news of the day that’s just crying out for a heavy dollop of cynicism. It’s getting to the point, though, that I’m feeling like that’s an acceptable level of risk to take so I can try to get the most out of the limited keyboard time I have available. So from here on out, I’m going to do my best to see if the Six P’s are still true. I’ve I’m lucky, I’ll find all these years later it’s still a stone cold fact that proper planning prevents piss poor performance.
After spending two years milling about with Nobody Told Me… The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees and a few months hashing out What Annoys Jeff this Week: 2012 in Review, it feels a bit odd to be sitting here without a current work in progress. Not a bad odd, just a different one. I should be putting this time to good use on something, but so far I have no earthly idea what that will be at the moment. Of course there will be a 2013 eBook edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week, but with 24 regular weekly installments yet to be written, I’m nowhere near interested in putting the cart so far out in advance of the horse. In the meantime, I’ll just sit here hoping that inspiration strikes in a big way.
For a few weeks there I was tinkering around with the idea of working up a survival guide for new teachers, but that experience is so far in the past, getting somewhere beyond the obvious was a problem. I wish I would have kept better notes of the pitfalls and foibles of my brief brush with the teaching profession. Sadly, I didn’t start keeping detailed book until I shifted careers and realized the true value of documenting most everything. Since fiction doesn’t really feel like my genre and God knows I don’t want to get bogged down into a multi-year long research project, I’ll keep casting around until I land on something that can hold my interest for 20 or 30,000 words.
If anyone has ideas, consider this your opportunity to become part of the process.