Writerly Routines

Oak tree in winter

I’m staring into the fridge. It’s like staring into the paucity of life. There are three eggs, the makings of a green salad, half a broiled chicken thigh, and a slice of roast beef Phil brought home from a dinner out. I regard the last with hostility, do not believe beef should be in the same fridge with food. I pinch the foil to be sure its beefness is not contaminating everything else.

It’s Thursday and I’m now four days from my blog deadline with not a clue what it will be. This thing with the blog deadline is serious. I stake my writerhood on it. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: four days of researching book markets, grading student papers, eating leftovers for lunch, cooking dinner. I already looked at all the bright blog ideas I have on file: they stink.

There’s also enough fajitas left for maybe one taco. The fridge beeps at me. I’m holding the door open too long. I tell it to shut up. Assorted condiments. And a small bottle half full of sour milk. I wrinkle my nose and dump it down the sink.

I have an idea, close the fridge and approach my husband warily. “There’s nothing to eat for lunch.”

Phil looks up from his coffee break reading, a story about George Herriman. I’m not sure yet if the look is “hell-no-I-got-work-to-do,” or “tell me more.”

“Yes? And did you have something in mind?” His face is still noncommittal.

I propose lunch out, stipulating that it should be quick, we’d come home and get right back to work, because we have to go to the gym at 3 and an art opening at 7.

Phil sighs. “A shame about the gym. If it weren’t for that, we could go to lunch and then see The Lost City of Z.” He pauses, contemplating the sadness of it all. “I know,” he shrugs, “there’s some theory that going to the gym will lengthen our lives…”

“But by how much?” I pounce, liking where this might be going. “And we did promise to see The Lost City of Z this week, didn’t we? We talked about it on Sunday.”

On Sunday, you see, the entire new week spread virginally before us, untouched by aborted ideas, unsullied by a sudden power outage causing us to lose whatever we were working on, unlimited by an enjoyable, but time-eating birthday celebration with my sweet daughter. On Sunday the week ahead was an empty plain waiting to be peopled with brilliant accomplishments. On Sunday, we looked over that vast space and said, “Sure. We can do that. Let’s go see a movie.”

Here’s the thing about having your own work—I don’t like to say “being self-employed,” because that implies we earn money. Having your own work means the days run away like wild horses over the hills. Bukowski said that. You talk to those who still have jobs, and they tell you about the three movies they saw in the last two weeks, and you ask, how the hell do they do that? Because here it is Thursday—Thursday!—and we haven’t done half what we proposed in our eternally optimistic day minders.

Nonetheless, Warren-like, we persist. We did promise ourselves a movie. Our show’s at 4, so we revise our plans. Movie, dinner, the art opening. No time for the gym. How much sooner does that mean we’ll die? If it’s five minutes, I’m O.K. with that.

One speck of spoiling guilt in this emerging indulgence plan. I confess that I haven’t a clue about the next blog. Phil knows this thing about the blog deadline is serious. “Output, output, output, that’s all you’ve been doing,” he exclaims. “You need to take things in.”

This, I reflect, is exactly the problem with standardized testing, but that’s another story. “Good advice,” I decide. “Let’s do it.” I feel daring and young for about thirty seconds.

Then I’m faced with having to figure out lunch from the available options after all.


Postscript: The opening, which included our friends Sylvia Montero and Tony Ortega, was at the Art Gym, a huge former grocery store supplied with Adobe Suite large screen computers for photographers and designers, a full range of printing presses and a coffee shop. It’s shared, not co-op. For $100/month you get to pull your prints or whatever. Writers join too, bring their laptops. “The writers,” a member tells me, “are the most disciplined, come at 9, go to lunch, come back and work till 4 or 5.” It was news to me. I am a writer, but I’m not familiar with that behavior.



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5 Responses to Writerly Routines

  1. Denise Gibson says:

    Wonderful, as always.
    You can turn moments of nothingness into very relatable somethingness!

  2. Bob Jaeger says:

    Yes, here we all are in the same leaky boat, chained to the oars of our to-do lists. With all that exercise who needs the gym?

  3. Barbara Fairchild says:

    Those impulsive indulgences are the best. Schedules are meant to be broken when you are our age. Good for you.

  4. I’m still out there workin’ and haven’t seen a movie outside of the house (i.e., outside of Netflix) in a month of Sundays. Just sayin”….

    • Pat Dubrava says:

      Joe, in the interest of full disclosure, I should have noted that those working friends who manage so many movies are not writers, although a couple of them are musicians. But I’ve always suspected that writers work harder than musicians anyway.

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