Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daily Rituals and Secret Rotten Apples

It is early in the morning and I'm in the midst of trying to form new morning habits. Naturally this means cramming in some blogging/writing time in the tiny corners of free moments. I've been reading a book called Daily Rituals by Mason Currey which details the creative habits of writers, artists, composers, philosophers and other people throughout history who became immortal through their work. I love this book. I love the glimpse into the human behind the creative genius of so many creators of art, not to mention how it satisfies the voyeur all of us has about other people when we observe them and think, "Just what the hell is it that you DO all day?" Am I the only one who thinks these things? Some of these artists were morning people, some had 9-5 jobs, some had no jobs, worked at home or in their studios or in cafes. Some of them drank booze all afternoon and night and worked like demons through the early morning, some slept a full eight hours, dressed and fed their families and managed to squeak out masterpieces while their children were at school and their husbands at work. Some of them worked for 12 hours a day, others for 2-3 hours a day. Some of them had truly bizarre habits. Friedrich Schiller comes to mind as he had a need to have rotting apples in the drawer of his desk at all times because the smell inspired his creativity. Patricia Highsmith bred snails. (Ew.) What ties them all together is that they put in the work, they sacrificed time and effort and they completed something. I find it inspiring that someone like Wallace Stevens could work his entire career at something as dull as processing insurance claims during business hours and then go home to write. Same with T.S. Eliot.

This book got me thinking about my own habits and routines and in doing so I hoped to understand why and how I went from writing every day and finishing things in my early 20s to only ever writing about beginnings and endings and/or writing about why I can't write. I don't have definitive answers yet but I'd love to be able to blame the internet and adult responsibilities and my delusional perception that time is on my side (despite knowing that time is never on anyone's side, ever and never will be.) In recent years, I've come to understand that I am thoroughly a morning person and am trying to form morning habits that will foster and fuel my creativity the rest of the day. This isn't terribly easy with such limited time and two jobs and all that other crap one is supposed to do as one becomes an adult. Yet I can no longer deny that I'm best on a freshly awake brain. The sunlight erases everything from the night before. So that's when work needs to be done.

I know my body will rebel against me on this most mornings. But frankly, if Toni Morrison can take care of her 9-5 corporate job and raise two children as a single parent and STILL manage to crank out her body of work, well that just proves it can be done.

And on another note, I would just love to find out the daily rituals of people I know. There is something so satisfying to me about knowing what all everyone gets up to on a typical day. I'd love to someday come to discover that someone with whom I share an office keeps a drawer full of rotten apples in their desk drawer at home or that the genial guy who serves my coffee at the local bagel shop is a ghostwriter for James Patterson. Until that day, I suppose I could just make it up...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Avoidance 101

I've been playing a game on my iPhone that is causing my brain to shrink. Or at least as I'm driving in the sunlight after longish bouts of playing this game I get this odd sensation of something constricting just behind my eyes and somewhere near the top of my skull. I can envision my brain's wrinkles. This could be deemed "a headache" but I prefer to call it "avoidance pains". I've never been a video game person, apart from that one summer circa 1992 when I played Sonic the Hedgehog in between trips to the library for more reading material. I never aspire to reach the next level or rescue the princess or find a beating heart in the middle of the statue of liberty (wtf is up with video games?). I can only surmise that this is because after a short while, well, shorter for me than most people apparently, all the colors and constant movement make me feel the wrinkles in my brain and not in a good way. In case you are wondering, there IS a good way to feel that.

Someone logical would say to me at this point, "Just stop playing the game." And I would just counter, "You are absolutely right." I'd definitely say that. And during the waking hours, when I'm up to here with things to do, menial tasks that need completing, people to watch and observe and frozen yogurt to eat, "just stopping" is easy. When it is 2am and I cannot sleep and everything is terrible in the half dark that dulls the edges of everything and my glasses are off and what I can see of the world is amorphous and I feel that dread creeping up on me with not one other person to distract me, it is less easy to just stop. It is a really stupid game but it keeps my hands busy and my eyes active and its clear, two dimensions are oddly comforting. And sometimes I just want to do really stupid things. Even if they shrink my brain.

Not helping my brain shrinkage sensation is the fact that I have some kind of blockage in my ear. It is a feeling that never strikes until after Memorial Day when the pools open and I'm overzealous about the amount of time I spend floating in chlorinated water or jumping waves in the Atlantic. It arrived early this year. What makes it different is that it is disturbing, since I have yet to go swimming and haven't dunked my head in any water that I can remember (I've cut back dramatically on my alcohol intake.) I tried that Debrox stuff where you put drops in your ear and then do your best "Detective Goren" while you wait for magic to happen.

I always expected him to keel over.

The process did nothing for me this morning, apart from being orgasmic and pleasurable. The "water" remains. I feel like I'm getting half the sarcasm of the library patrons today. Just as well, I'm working with a small amount of sleep.

I've been streaming entire series of shows, been cooking elaborate meals for one, been taking walks through town and drives around the block, been cleaning my closets, shredding old documents and giving things away and I want things emptied out. It's my mantra of late: Empty empty empty! I have scoured my kitchen and bathroom twice this week but there are little black, round bugs that sneak in on warm days and scatter, unafraid on the kitchen floor and sit immobile, in defiance of mortality, even as I approach them with a paper towel of death or a spray from the pesticide bottle. I am repulsed and humbled by their tenacity. Mostly I just want them out of my kitchen. I spend a handful of moments at work or driving in my car thinking about those stupid bugs. Wondering if they've gathered for a summit in my ear.

I'm definitely avoiding something. I just can't figure out what it is and the game, the water/bug summit in the ear, the incessant streaming of several seasons of shows at one time the cleaning and getting rid of...are just a freshman survey class in Avoidance. I've become so adept at this that I'm convinced that should I take the leap and strip away all the distraction I'd just end up hearing and old man's heartbeat under the floorboards. No one wants that.

And that's where I've been. Where have you been?