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I do not travel light

I used to travel light. In my early twenties, while overseas for school, I grabbed a bag, put a few things in it, and traveled to Scotland for spring break. I’ve always thought of myself as a light traveler, taking only what I need.

Then I went to Portland last week to wrap up things on our new house and realized I have lost that gift.

I won’t bore you with the clothing half of the packing – who cares how many socks or shirts or underwear I took? No, it was the entertainment portion of my packing that I failed to keep a good grasp on.  I left California with all kinds of visions of what I would do with a week alone. Sure, during the day I’d be working or managing house related tasks, but at night I was free! I’d write, obviously, and when I wasn’t writing I’d read. Worst case, I could watch any one of the dozen or so shows I’ve been meaning to try out or catch up on.

So I packed. First, I packed my journal, because I wanted to get that going again (that was actually a success). I packed three books to read – The Warded Man (re-reading-ish – I’ve listened to the audiobook), The Temporal Void, and The Lost City of Z. In the weeks preceding my trip, I was reading an average of a book every three or four days, so this didn’t seem too ambitious. I had a flight out and back, plus all that free time for the week in between. I also brought my Fire, filling it with graphic novels and comics, figuring it could also act as a video player for Netflix, Hulu, Xfinity, and of course, Amazon Video.

None of that quite worked out in the end.

My flight out was probably great. It was my birthday, and I flew out first class. I’m only vaguely conscious of most of the hour and a half because after getting up at 3am and being on the move all morning, I passed in and out for most of it. The rest of the day was social meetups, which I’ve already blogged about.

The problem became that the rest of the week, I was never quite at a point with enough down time to read much. And why watch a small seven-inch screen when I had a large screen TV in my room?

So there I was, in Portland, with three books, a notebook, a Kindle Fire, and all of it for naught. Even the times I did have legitimate down time, I found myself doing other things. Sometimes, that was just sitting and thinking. Sometimes it was daydreaming, which if you haven’t done in a while, I highly recommend.

Why physical books instead of Kindle books? Lately I’ve had trouble with screens later at night (when I typically read). The good news is that while on this trip, I confirmed it’s from a lack of solid sleep. The bad news is the biggest interruption to my sleep is the big furry baby.

So it turns out I could have traveled much lighter, because I don’t need to be entertained as much as I thought I did. On the upside, I have plenty of reading material for the next few weeks before the move. What I found most interesting is that within hours of being home, I was back to sitting in a chair and reading. The mind is a mysterious place, my friends.

I am full of words

Flew up to Portland today to deal with some new house related paperwork over the next week. I’ll skip over the joys of getting up at 3, flying first class (worth it, probably more so if I hadn’t passed out for most of it), and my first Lyft ride (yeah, I’m an old man, I know).

Why was today full of words? I didn’t actually write any, let me start there. But I did get to have a nice, long lunch with Ken Scholes. I don’t know if I could recount half of what we talked about, partly because I was operating on less than three hours of sleep. I’m glad I was coherent. I think I was coherent? The best part of meeting with Ken was that it was like we were old friends reuniting.

Then came dinner.

Jennifer Willis and her husband took me out with Curtis Chen and Laurel Standley for some great Lebanese food. Did we maybe over stay our welcome a little after we paid the bill? Sure. But we had a blast doing it. Like lunch, there was talk of writing, along with everything else.

Today was the first time I felt a sense of community. This was one of my first in person, extended visits with other writers. It was illuminating, enlightening, and occasionally humiliating. I definitely walked away feeling more inspired, more motivated, both to write and to submit. And so as the end of my first day of my forty-second year comes to an end, I am full of words.

The Effect of Seasons

I think the seasons affect my writing, and a lack of them is a detriment to my productivity.

Looking back, I have almost four years of data on daily word counts. Like any activity, there are ebbs and flows in my productivity, but before our move to California there was a definite cycle to my output. Fall and winter I produced large volumes of fiction. Springtime I slowed down to a tickle, and summer’s were typically quiet until I ramped up again in August/September.

I think a lot of that was the psychology of the seasons. The problem is, once we moved to California, we have lived in a near permanent spring. I can see that in the tracking of word counts – since our move, I have large stretches of low to no word counts. The few knolls and hills in the chart are short-lived.

I’m not trying to imply that you can’t be a writer and live somewhere like California, or a tropical island, etc. Plenty do and are far more successful than I am. I am only suggesting that something in my conditioning – winters being a time of holing up, reading and writing and playing games so that you’re ready to stretch your legs again in the spring – precludes me from successfully writing now.

While it’s been nice to not have to ever deal with snow, or a cold snap, or random road conditions, I’m not sure my brain has adapted. One of the appeals to our pending move to Portland is that there will be seasons again. I really hope that means you’ll see more from me on writing. At the very least, more than these almost but not quite weekly blog posts.

 

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