Killing Time
September 13, 2009

When I was a temp, I learned about killing time, or rather, I learned that I couldn’t kill it.  I worked for the head of Athletics at a private college in Poughkeepsie. When the woman from the temp agency called, I wrote down the assignment and directions on a piece of paper and then looked at it for a while, panicking. Athletics? I had never done anything athletic in my life, and I tried hard to avoid athletes. Now I was going to be among them, and not only that, I was going to work for the head ATHLETE. 

For a couple of weeks, I just sat, filling the space left by his receptionist. Her name was Sandy, and I would get calls, the person on the other end saying “Sandy?” in that way people do when they know you can’t possibly be Sandy. I stared at the computer, aching for work. I went through files on the hard drive and found nothing of interest. I read rules and regulations and NCAA guidelines in PDF format. I read and refreshed my email fifty thousand times a day. I got to know the staff a little, and they were nice. Athletic and nice. At lunch, I walked around the beautiful campus.

The office was located across from the Olympic sized pool, and three or four times a week, the divers would stand by the turquoise water and swing their arms around, stretching. I looked at bodies that were exceptional. The girls would slice through the air; they were small but not rail thin like you’d imagine. The boys (not really boys, I guess) were muscular, of course. I surprised myself by watching all of it with great interest, and not just for the beautiful muscled bodies. That was part of it, but it was also great motivation for physical excercise. At one point, I deluded myself into thinking I could become a swimmer.

After a couple of weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore. I brought a book to work and tried hiding it in my lap as I read, but after a short time I gave up on the charade that I had anything else to do. I went through three collections of stories: O’Connor, Yates, Marquez. I reread a series of books by Poppy Brite. I read Shirley Jackson and James Baldwin. And I wrote.

I read and got paid for it. It was surreal. I wrote long hand in a small book. At the time, what I wrote felt important and special because I had never written long hand before. I look at that writing now and realize that it was really nothing, well, nothing but practice anyway. I worked for five months, and read five months’ worth of books. It was a taste of what I wish my life could be. Go to the office, remove your coat, switch on the light over your desk, and open the book. Like most people, I have to go to work and sell my time. When I get home, it’s a lot harder to turn the lights on, go to the desk and start over again. When you are alone in your house, it can feel like killing time because time ticks by in silence. You can fill it with TV (and I do that sometimes), or chopping veggies, or working out, or whatever. Or you can teach yourself, or write something, even though it won’t get you a new and better job, it won’t get you much of anything. But you do it, because you are building a career in your own mind, and always have been.


Very Serious
September 2, 2009

Truman Capote wrote lying down.  I like this, but can’t do it myself, as I don’t write longhand and I don’t have a laptop. All the writers I know enjoy hearing how other writers work, especially successful ones or masters of the craft. I was thinking about it today, how much like learning magic it is. We want to know if there is some kind of secret. I know, I do. I always did. Through college, I tried to get it out of my teachers, and assumed they were holding back when they gave vague advice like, “It’s hard.” I have nothing to show for my years as a writer. Yes, I’m a writer, even though I haven’t published. I write and always will, so I’m a writer. Now, almost almost thirty years old, I realize there is no secret. No perfect way. Just your own way.

I don’t mean any of this as advice for anyone, and this blog is not going to be about writing instruction (though sometimes I instruct myself out loud and then it just happens to get written down.) Because I am an unpublished writer, I don’t pretend to possess a knowledge anyone would want to learn from. I have been writing since I was ten years old, that is almost 20 years ago. That’s a lot of practice. But writers are interested in publication, and I don’t have any experience with that, apart from some online publications. But I do love writing and reading. So, this blog will be about books and my writing projects, sometimes. It will be about my new desire to fill in the gaps in my literary education (hopefully with some help), to get some stories done and sent out. But it will also be about other things I like. If anyone besides me ever reads this, hopefully they’ll find something interesting: mythology, recipes, people I admire, my apartment . . .

I like unfinished things; I like finding ideas written on scraps of paper. Sometimes this will be like that, too.

Note: I think having a blog can lead to taking yourself really seriously, and I have a tendancy to do that. Though, I can’t stand it in others.

I’d like to take a page out of the book or blog of my friend Leigh She writes about the city around her honestly, and most importantly about herself honestly. And it’s great.