The Things I Left Behind

I’ve plotted out a 3-book arc for my life. Because that’s what writers do.

It’s actually a very good gauge for writing, a test that I use on my students to see which of them has the bug and which of them is simply — to paraphrase what my mentor Bill Drummond said the other day — passing time. We see our lives as one chapter after another in a finite story that will, most unexpectedly but also assuredly, end.

My books: Objects in Reality, Samurais in Austin and The Things I Left Behind.

I’m 50,000 words into the first book, although I haven’t written on it in two years. I’m staring at it right now as it sits, lonely, in a binder. Waiting to be moved. And loved again. Which it will be. Soon.

There’s no sense in hashing out the stories with you now. If you know me, you already know them. Unless, like me, there are some parts you’ve forgotten. Either way, the plots aren’t important. Not to this story.

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A Great Deal of Maintenance Required

“You don’t know me very well, but if you get me started I have a tendency to go on and on about how hard the writing is for me.” — “Californication”, Hank Moody

The trouble with summer is that I have time to write. To sit for long periods of time, wringing my brain like a shammy, squeezing out every word on to the page before wiping the next thoughts away like water droplets on a newly washed car.

Which seems ideal. Being a writer and all. The problem — and there is always a problem — is the wringing. The squeezing. The wiping.

The process is a daily deconstruction. An exploration through the parts of myself that are, at times, quite unpleasant. Not simply remembering the moments of rage, of desperation, of love, of joy. Re-living them. In slow motion. Rewinding. Stopping. Examining. Repeating.

That is the process. The relentless repetition of the days that are gone. Like the choppy ocean, lapping against rocks as the sun peaks over the horizon on an overcast fall day.

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The Fedora

fedora It’s been a long time coming but I finally hit Kohl’s and got myself a fedora. I am not sure if that is going to make me a better writer. Actually I know that it won’t. But I don’t care. I like hats. I like fedoras. And I think writers should wear them.

So I am.

You Need a Bigger Theme

A long time ago there was a girl.

And the future wasn’t something meant to be made. We were just waiting for the thing we could already see, arrive. We lived our lives together. That way. With few doubts. Directed.

It was the first time I’d ever experienced that inevitability with someone else. My parents would tell you, if you knew them, that I’ve rarely lacked for ideas. I am — and have always been — sure. (As my dad says: “Rarely right, never in doubt.”)

I don’t know any other way to live. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t changed over the years. My ambitions have shifted. My lifestyle has surely turned. My sense of knowledge and art and intelligence are radically different today than they were 19 years ago when I first met the girl.

And for a long time, the ending of that first inevitability — the crushing, mind-warping, heel-to-neck strangulation — haunted me. It stayed with me, fortified a sense within myself that the inevitable required a sense of loneliness. Solitude. Otherness.

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Hank is Going to Hell

I’ve been hearing about this show for some time. Since I don’t have cable I missed out until it hits Netflix Instant Streaming. (Because I would never advocate going to Bit Torrent and downloading — illegally, I might add — material that should rightfully be controlled by companies, you know, just like the Founding Fathers believed. Happy Fourth.)

Now I’m 2 episodes in and fairly certain I’ll spend another night on the couch, watching the greatest show ever made. Wondering why I am not in L.A. writing for Showtime. Or in New York writing self-referential novels. Somewhere writing.

Either way it’s nice to be around people I know. People I like. People I get.

Thanks Californication. For reminding me about all the things I love about being a writer. All the things that I’ve forgotten in the last few years. The things I’m starting to remember.

(And mom, dad – DO. NOT. WATCH. THIS. SHOW.)

My Infinite Jest

I’ve been wandering around the city, looking for places that inspire me to write because I find if I go to the same place too often — if I repeat the same patterns — I begin to find my mind in an infinite loop.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, one I wonder if other folks have. I don’t get the idea that they do but not living inside their heads, I can’t say for sure. If I don’t bump myself out of the rut, if I don’t consciously force myself to go other places and experience other things outside my routine, I find myself spiraling into a creative void.

I get stuck on one point. I get locked into one idea, scribbling and scribing on it until it becomes something different entirely, something new and so far removed from its origins that only I can understand the thought train.

It happens in my life as well. Patterns are important for my sanity. It’s part of a little thing called Obsessive Compulsion Personality Disorder, an issue that I’ve been dealing with (consciously) since 2001 thanks to a great therapist in San Francisco.

According to Wikipedia:

a personality disorder which involves an obsession with perfection, rules, and organization. People with OCPD may feel anxious when they perceive that things are not “right.” This can lead to routines and “rules” for ways of doing things, whether for themselves or their families.

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Writing Days

Jenn came down from Indianapolis yesterday for one of our writing days.

She arrived around 11 am and we wrote until 445 (with a short break for lunch at a bistro down the street), followed by some reading and some chit-chat. My writing time with her, like it is with John, are quite precious to me. I look forward to those times because while writing is a solitary endeavor (we sit across the table from each other and write without much talking), it’s — for me — done and shared in the company of writers.

There are few people I share my work with on that kind of personal level (although I do have my draft work floating around in various states). And those who I do share with are people whose work I need to be around.

I can honestly say that one of the reasons that I took the job in Muncie was to be closer to Jenn, which will increase our frequency of working days.

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Moving Day: A Retrospective

I spoke with the town home complex where I’ll be living and received my actual move-in date: July 24.

What a load off my mind, as strange as that seems considering everything in front of me. But I feel strangely comfortable when I have large projects in front of me. I love breaking down the details and plowing through the tasks that eventually lead to something bigger than I could even imagine.

I’m more excited, though, because I’m ready for the next phase of my life to get started. I’m so glad I came home for this job. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to see my old friends and my family. I’ve reconnected with so many people from my past, people who I haven’t seen — or spoken to — in years who helped me piece my life back together.

And along the way, I hope I’ve helped them with a thing or two as well. I don’t know that I have. I don’t know that they care.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some new friends as well. Some who will stay with me. Some who won’t. And some who have already gone. All of them have, in ways both good and bad, helped me find my way. For that, I’ll always be grateful. I know that things rarely end the way you want them to. But I also know that most things end regardless.

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Settling back

I’ve been back for just three days but it already feels like way too long.

The next 8 days are going to be a whirlwind of activity. I’m trying to get everything wrapped up for the big move, which looks like it might take place a bit early now. There was a SNAFU at work and my summer class was canceled for some reason. That throws a serious kink into my plans (and potentially takes a big chunk of money I was depending on for the move, trip and healthcare), but there’s not much I can do about that.

On days like this, it’s good to take a step back and focus – at least for a bit – on the brighter side of things.

This weekend, I got to hang out with my family on Father’s Day. And the weather has been spectacular (even if a bit muggy), allowing me to bop around town writing and such things. It’s also allowed me to dream a bit of next year’s adventure in London, which is still in the gestation phase right now (although I have about 3 pages of notes to write up).

And today I had, serendipitously, a wonderful chat with a friend this morning book-ended by a great dinner with another friend and her kid along the river. Those things make it easier for me to keep my eyes on the projects I’m working on even though it’s hard to do when half my stuff is packed away, my office is mostly closed down and I’m trying to get the mundane details on this move finalized.

One step at a time.

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Home…For Now

I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I woke up in Kentucky this morning.

Not that it’s bad being home. I love the fact that when I say hello to people on the street, they smile and say hello back. I love hearing the sweet twang of my life echoed in the voices of the people around me. I love walking the banks of the Ohio River.

Heck, even the adjustment home, time zone wise, was much easier coming West than it was going East. Despite the 14 hour travel day, I fell asleep soundly at 1045 pm and was up moving at 7 am today.

I do love the life that I have here in the CVG even if it’s not as glamourous as country-hopping through Europe.

Now I’m faced with the reality of life though.

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D&D Podcast

One experiment I’m going to try this summer is to record the entire book, broken up by chapters and as a whole book. It’s ours now, so I’m interested to see the traction we get.

Plus, it’s always fun to sit in a room by yourself and just record things, right?


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