I can’t write. I’m struggling again. That’s what my life seems to be all about these days. Struggling. Most times I’m penned into a corner in my room –sweating buckets, rushing deadlines.
The rest of the time I have my nose in a glass of vodka. And as I write this, I really can’t help but think back on the first day of May last year.
I call it May Day. That morning I sat on the couch and decided I’d get my writing off the ground. So I put all my plans in a 1000 word document. And at the bottom of the page I even sneaked in a little prayer.
I was still unemployed. Deadlines were only a vague concept, and never in a million years did I think someone would pay me to write about breasts.
This was pre-Craft It. I had little prospects. I was only getting used to a morning routine that demanded I sit my ass down and bang out a few hundred words before doing anything else with my day.
Sometimes when I’m barreling through one of these phases, and the words aren’t coming –and I feel as though my world is falling apart- I always think: “I really should have given this more thought.”
“What devil led me to pick writing?”
“It’s not too late to turn back, is it?”
And then I remember I can’t do much of anything else, and that writing has become such an integral part of me.
(Such an integral part of me? Yikes! What a textbook phrase)
Not writing would be sacrilege. I won’t have anything to tie me to a desk. Not writing would mean that I slowly slip into anarchy. It would mean I bottle up all my thoughts. Eventually I’ll start to hear voices in my head, and then one day, out of sheer boredom, I might just start pushing pins through my nipples. Like Cleopatra.
I read that she did the same thing to her servants. They say she derived some pleasure from the servants’ screams. It’s a sick thing to do, but I doubt she’d have done any of it if she had kept a journal.
Also, more critically, not writing would mean I don’t have an excuse for drinking at 11 in the morning.
So a few days ago I went back to that May Day document. And it was fascinating to see how much has changed over the months.
At the time I was still getting over my ex. I wrote about her every time. I wrote about the things she said and did, and how she made me feel. I laid out all my frustrations on the page, so that, by the end, I wasn’t so heartbroken anymore.
Now it’s one year later and the only progress I seem to have made is getting over the girl. I haven’t done half of the things I outlined in that document. I’m still bent out of shape. I don’t run as much as I hoped. I’m still having doubts about my art.
You’d think by now I’d have grown a pair and stopped whining. But it’s very hard to keep your head straight when the editor is at your door, waiting for copy.
And it’s even harder to write when you’re nursing a hangie.
This year, May Day started rather pleasantly. I went out for a morning stroll. I was feeling a bit reflective, thinking ‘bout how far I done came. But I quickly got bored. I was gone for only ten minutes.
And then, because I thrive on self-deception, I thought: “Well, it’s only the first day”
I thought: “Tomorrow I’ll run.”
I thought: “Okay. Maybe just a slow jog.”
Later that day I would find myself at a family gathering. There was a tent and a hearty lunch, and plenty of laughs. A stew of uncles and aunts and cousins, and it was all very jolly.
In the evening someone brought out some ale, and as I poured it into a tumbler I could already feel the day slipping from under me. I was standing on the brink, and it would only take one sip to toss me into a whirlwind.
Which reminds me: I was once seated at a restaurant with a bunch of friends when one of the ladies in our group began to regal us with a drinking story. She was slim-faced and her hair was tied in a bun.
She was at some house party, she said. But I wasn’t paying much attention to her until she said,
“Eh, I’m telling you. Si we kunywad”
I don’t know why, but I just loved the way she said ‘kunywad’. I really didn’t expect a word like that to fall out of her mouth. Kunywad. It just melts in your mouth, doesn’t it? Kunywad. Suddenly I could picture this girl bringing a can of beer to her lips.
You guy, si I kunywad that image.
Hehe. I digress.
So on May Day this year I kunywad, all the while telling myself that ‘tomorrow I’d get back to work’. Tomorrow I’d be back to my ironclad routine. And I was still thinking the same thing when, later that night, I stumbled into bed with only one sock.
(In fact I’m so good at self deception that I’m assuming you’re still reading this)
Needless to say I woke with a bad start yesterday. I wasn’t going to write with a splitting migraine. And, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t too worried. Blame it on the alcohol. Blame it on the sock. Tomorrow I’ll be better off.
Then I tottered over to the living room where –instead of reading a book- I watched a movie called The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn.
It’s about an old carpenter who does little else but work. He lives alone, on a 35acre farm, and his dedication is so impressive that the whole town knows him.
Noah Dearborn, local hero, built most of the town. Seventy years old and still fit as a fiddle. He lives in a two-storey shed with no electricity. If he has to work late he uses oil lamps.
Noah Dearborn is a man completely uncontaminated by modern life. He’s never even heard of The Beatles. His life is his work, and vice versa. He keeps cows and horses. He tills the land with a tractor. He uses a squeaky water pump. He doesn’t have time to get sick, or to beat stories with the town folk.
And he also makes apple brandy, which he stores in barrels at the back of his shed.
Enter a greedy land developer.
One day Noah gets a call from Mrs. Peggy down the road. Her table leg had come off and she needs it fixed. Could Noah come over?
Mrs. Peggy always has a pie in the oven. And Noah is only glad to help.
But when Noah comes back home he finds a strange man outside, looking at his farm. The man says he’ll give Noah 300,000 bucks for the farm.
“This land isn’t for sale,” Noah says.
The man tries to haggle with him. “Okay. I’ll give you 350.”
Noah wouldn’t budge. The place holds some sentimental value for him. It’s where he grew up. It’s where his uncle Silas taught him everything about woodwork, and the importance of hard work. It’s his only home.
Then the strange man goes back to his corporate world. He sits in a boardroom with his fellow henchmen and says the old man must be off his marbles. It’s impossible how anyone can refuse that much money. This was back in the 20th century. 300k was simply unimaginable.
So the strange man sends his girlfriend, Val –a psychiatrist- to find out what makes the old man tick. She drives to the farm in her blue BMW. And Noah tells her,
“All you people come out here dressed like lambs but you smell like foxes.”
When I watched that scene I was like: Eish! Sawa.
Trouble is, though, Val gets completely taken by Noah. His discipline stirs something in her. He inspires her and, by and by, they start to spend more time together.
Predictably, the strange land developer finds out about it. So he cooks up a plan to put Noah in a mental institution. He hires some goons to put Noah in the back of a van and take him away. But, predictably, Val comes to the old man’s rescue, and it’s all very happy clappy.
And it made me think: What if I was as disciplined as Noah? What if I spent more time at the desk than I do goofing off? How much more work could I get done in a day? What if I didn’t have to wait until the last minute to start writing?
Maybe I’d be more comfortable with the craft by now. Maybe writing would come easy if I stuck to the damn routine. Maybe I wouldn’t have to put off everything until the next day. And maybe, just maybe, I might have had a better way to end this post.