The short week…

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.

Garden of Allah…

Don Henley released the song In the Garden of Allah in 1995. That would have made me a high school junior or senior depending on the date. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it before. I’m willing to bet that most people haven’t. I spent a lot of time driving around – because that’s what you do when you grow up in the sticks – and there was almost always music on the radio. It was a catchy tune back then and mostly I forgot about it until about two years ago when it started popping up when I told iTunes to shuffle. I must have been listening to a lot of Eagles tunes then, because it kept coming around. It’s one of the very few seven minute songs I don’t get bored with halfway through. After a few times through, it really got stuck in my head… and that’s about the time I started writing.

It wasn’t anything coherent at first. Maybe a few scribbled notes, a sentence here or there, but nothing with substance. Then a funny thing happened. It evolved and coalesced into the nucleus of an idea. I started off with the idea of writing something political and ended up with something clearly more religious. Blatantly so as it turns out.

So there’s the inspiration behind the short story I’m heroically trying to edit. It’s all there on paper now not because I wanted to explore than nature of good and evil, but because a really liked a quirky Don Henley song back in high school. Clearly the muse works in strange ways.

Connection…

I think I’ve made a connection. Maybe it’s just in my own head as a I struggle this Sunday morning to figure out what to write about, but I have a sinking feeling that my snap assessment is right. While I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with piping hot coffee, two dogs snoring, and the soft hum of the morning news yammering in my ear, it occurs to me that my posts are more interesting when I’ve been forced to deal with stupid people. That’s what spurs the best rants out of my head. After two blissful days of not leaving the house, I’m beginning to wonder if I might not need those interactions to keep things fresh. They give me perspective, because nothing seems so bad, wrong, or stupid as it does when it’s happening right in front of you. Is it possible that I need to be out there if for no other reason than to find new material like so much grist for the mill?

If it’s true, I should go out today and immerse myself in watching people. I should seek avenues to maximize that connection in service to the blog. I should do a lot of things, though. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the balance of my extra long, long weekend and not force the issue. There will be plenty enough time and cause to be out in the world dealing with people when I can’t otherwise avoid it… because really, if that’s the price of keeping this blog fresh and interesting, I think I’d rather just bore you to tears.

Best efforts…

This was very likely to turn into a long, rambling collection of words that wouldn’t end up saying anything at all. It felt like that kind of night. Actually, it’s felt like that all day, maybe even longer than that. Despite my best intentions, it may yet turn into a bit of a ramble. It certainly feels like it could.

The good news is that the Muse hasn’t left me high and dry. I’m still sitting down every night and making progress on the short story in waiting. I sit down as close to 7PM on the nose as I can manage and don’t get back up until there are at least 300 fresh words sitting in front of me. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes, other times closer to three hours. Admittedly, sometimes the words that end up there just plain suck. More rarely, the ones that appear are actually rather good. Like Gump’s chocolates, when I sit down I never know what I’m going to get.

As far as I’ve been able to tell, the quality of the output doesn’t particularly matter. What seems to matter is the routine, the habit of writing consistently day in, day out, when you’re sick, when you’re tired, when there are a dozen other things screaming out for your attention. What matters is sitting down and letting the words flow – or sometimes forcing them to flow against their will. It can feel like that a lot.

What I’m going to end up with 4000-odd words and 14-ish days from now is generously called a first draft. I know that draft is going to suck… and I don’t mean just a little. It’s going to be God awful – full of half formed ideas, words that aren’t really words, and phrases that are repeated on at least every fifth page. That’s fine. Not fine for public consumption fine, but fine by the standards of the first draft. It means finally there’s something there that wasn’t there before. Something that I drug into the world kicking and screaming out of my own head and onto the form of evil that fills me with the most dread – the blank, white page with its solitary flashing cursor.

Even after it’s no longer a first draft – maybe a 3rd or 4th version – after it’s been anointed as “final” I know I won’t be entirely happy with it. I’ll want to change and tweak and craft just a bit more. Right now I know it’s not even in the realm of good enough, but it will be. I think. That’s the theory I’m working under, anyway.

OK, yeah, so maybe this did turn into a long, rambling collection of words despite my best efforts to the contrary. Sorry about that.

Feeling…

One of the great problems of running a blog as a one man show is that sometimes, no matter what’s going on or how many topics are buzzing around in your head, you just don’t feel like writing. Sadly, there’s no one stepping up to stand in the breach so the best you can do is drag the laptop towards you and tap out a post about how much you don’t feel like writing. Yeah, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it too… but since there’s now a post where there wasn’t one before, I’m going to just consider the effort a success and move on. Hopefully tomorrow the muse will get off her duff and give me something in the same zip code as inspiration.

Feelings…

Sometimes it feels like I can’t get the words down on the page fast enough. This isn’t one of those times. Every word this week has been a struggle. Somewhere between the brain and keyboard most of them seem to get lost. Most of the “how to be a better writer books” tell you that you just have to push through these times and keep doing it. I take the more pragmatic approach. If my inner muse isn’t being very helpful, I just do something else until an idea jumps out at me. That might not be the professional writer’s approach to getting the job done, but conveniently I have the excuse of not being a professional writer. It also has the benefit of letting me sneak away to do things like laundry and mowing the lawn without feeling guilty about not hitting mu daily word count. Maybe it’s not the best approach, but it seems to work for me at the moment.

On an average week, I try to write at least 7000 words with an outside goal of 10,000. The blog here usually accounts for 1500 of those words. The rest go towards different book ideas and occasional contributions to other blogs. I’ve cracked 7000 a few times, but I’ve never come close to besting 10,000 words in a week. Maybe if I got really focused, didn’t go to work, and spent a week doing nothing but having good ideas, I’d hit the target. In a world that wants me to keep doing those other things, though, I suppose I’ll just have to leave it as a goal.

What was the point of all this? Well, with only 2500 words under my belt for this week, I’m feeling a little less than productive. Maybe a nice rainy weekend will be just what I need to kick the writing bug back into gear. It’s either that or lose an entire weekend to Call of Duty. Sigh. This is one of those times when being easily distracted sucks.

Missing Muse…

They say that writers generally have something that drives them to write. They have some kind of muse that guides the creative process. Regrettably, any kind of muse that I have ever had is eluding me at the moment. I can’t think of any new ideas, let alone any that might be marginally interesting for someone else to read. I guess this is the infamous writer’s block. It’s not like I’m trying to churn out the great American novel or even less than insightful pop history. All I really want to be able to do is sit down and pound out a few pithy words on the day that was. It would be helpful if this happened about four nights a week, but I’m willing to settle for three.

So, yeah, when it comes to blogging, I’m almost completely blocked. If anyone has any recommendations, I’m entertaining all ideas at this point. Fortunately, this block hasn’t impacted my ability to churn out page upon page of policy, recommendations, and email, so work proceeds unabated.