Thursday, December 5, 2013
Ignore the pea pods
Work is always there. It waits for us, or sometimes doesn't wait. Sometimes it stalks us.
Lately it has been, not just stalking, but smacking the back of my calves with a stick whenever I've paused for breath. Not just the column four days a week, with additional days tossed in here and there as need be. That's a given, like getting dressed in the morning. Nor the book, which is actually done, but has entered into a tricky legal phase, securing literary permissions, which is even more arduous than writing it was. This daily blog, of course, but that's like the column, just part of the fabric of the day. Nobody objects to breathing, to brushing their teeth in the morning. You have to do it, so you do it.
That's the baseline work. Then other tasks are added,, it begins to pile up, and the extra load tends to make the old camel's back sag a little. In New York, Audible is recording an audio book of my memoir "Drunkard"—beginning today, in fact —and I had to work with the actor doing the recording, checking pronunciations and such. Plus —idiot that I am—I started sending him re-writes of sections that got changed in the book, parts that I hated being changed, including a new ending. So there I am, in the basement, dragging old manuscripts out of boxes. A normal person would have let it go, but as I always tell new writers, if you don't care about your writing then nobody else will either. Then add this -- better not say exactly, so as to not jinx it —big honking profile for a big honking magazine I've been writing for the past month, a story that just gets bigger and more honking as I try to make it smaller and smoother. The magazine says, "Great work, do this and that and this and that." By now, I just wish somebody would take the damn thing away from me, which probably means it'll go through another few re-writes. Then I had promised a pal in Paris that I would write a post to run on her blog next week while she's away in Sri Lanka, so I put together something on Com-Ed faux buildings hiding electrical substations. And....
This isn't complaining. At least I hope it isn't complaining, or bragging, at least not complaining or bragging too much. I like to work. This is what I built up my whole life to do, and I'm grateful and happy to be doing it, albeit a tad on the giddy, punchy, exhausted side for the past few days. When people ask me how I get so much done, I fix them with a steady gaze and say in a flat tone, "I don't watch television. I don't play golf. I don't have friends in the usual sense of the term. All I do is write." It is a joke, sort of, and they laugh, which they're supposed to, but as with any joke, there's a vein of truth running through it. Not regarding the friends—I have many good, old friends, so don't please, don't get your noses out of joint and stomp off, sulking for years, the way my friends sometimes do. No slight intended. Love you guys, the ones who are left, I mean. But they do tend to live in distant cities, which is probably how I've kept them as friends, and those who don't, well, they aren't bursting into the room like characters in a TV show to tell a few jokes and move the action along. Which is just as well, because I've got all this work to do.
One thing I've noticed about work, and this might be particularly true in writing, but I'm sure it applies to all professions, is that it's self-limiting. If you do it too much your quality breaks down. I hope my quality hasn't broken down too much. Though I woke up this morning and my head felt like an empty shoe box held on to my shoulders with Scotch tape. I waited for it to pass and it did, thank God, and I was able to get a good grip on the stone and roll it a little up the mossy, steep hill. But it also was a message to take a breath. Not here of course. These posts are fun. But time for a break from the other stuff—thank God my younger boy and I are going to Colorado to visit my folks at the end of the month, and even ski a bit. Can't wait. You need to know when to ignore the pea pods for a while, as this woman at the China Town Restaurant on Dempster in Morton Grove was doing on Friday. When I took the photo, drawn by the big pile of green pods, I assumed she was doing the books—my fault for stereotyping—but if you look closely, she's isn't doing work, she's playing some kind of video game.