Has my writing changed any since the world started burning at our feet? Is a question I’ve been asked a few times now.
My process has changed, because it takes more effort to find inspiration these days, worry continues to eat away at the inspiration, so new content hasn’t been at the forefront. But I have been editing works that need to be edited. So there is work being done.
As far as what new content I’m producing, in March I began keeping a historical journal, a place to talk about the weekly trends I saw, the latest horrors, the cause and effects of some of the horrors and of course my perspective of this whole situation. I started the journal as a historian and for my kid.
I also spend a decent part of my day trying to find the good. Hell, even Anne Frank was able to find it.
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” – Anne Frank
When I say I’m not producing, I think of the days when I would average 3000k a day. Now, I average about 150, but it’s still something. However, I never stop thinking about writing. As that’s my chosen vocation, it continues to be a topic my self and I bat around a lot. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how villains might have been forever changed by this era of our history.
Eddie Izzard said it best, “We (British People) play bad guys in Hollywood movies because of the Revolutionary War. Yes, there’s no two ways about it. And the French, who were on your side in the Revolutionary war, they play more esoteric characters.” (From his show Dressed to Kill).
In the Star Wars movies, most of the people working for Darth Vader – British Accent. Bad guy in Die Hard – British Accent. Bad guy in Lion King – British Accent!
Now, if you really want to have a bad guy with no questions asked, you give him a German accent, because of Hitler, right? It’s a story telling ploy that’s worked in Hollywood for a long time. However, I think these old tropes are on the chopping block because it’s a form of racism. But this is a subject for a different day.
What I’ve been wondering, is this. The new villain of the future, will they be shown as hoarders? Stealing the last toilet paper and bag of flour while an older couple on a fixed income look on. You know someone will write a villain coughing and sneezing without covering their face, an obvious dig at anti-mask wearers. Just as times are changing, I think our villains will evolve as well.
Back to my writing process, why is it so hard to be inspired? I have all this time on my hands. So I thought I would steal this exercise and look at my day, see if I could find where it is I’m missing the intersection of inspiration and writing.
6:45am: Wake up and I’m not even groggy. Just wide awake even though everything in me screams to go back to bed and hibernate for another year.
Trip to my stove top espresso maker which hasn’t been washed and is mingled with all the dirty dishes. No one feels like doing dishes anymore because we keep cooking/eating 3-10 meals a day at home so there are always dishes and no matter how many times I go to bed thinking magical beings will appear and clean my house, it has yet to happen.
7:18am: Having shuffled around the house and opened the blinds and windows (because quick it’s 61° outside and let’s let the cool air in before we close the house up again and it’s 100°), I was able to bring myself to make enough space in the sink to wash the espresso maker and French press. While the espresso does its thing I locate my laptop, charger, journal, the notebook I’ve been using to keep track of people and timeline of the book I’m working on: Secrets in the Sand (It’s about an archaeologist who is working with the CIA in an informational gathering role while on digs in the middle east. There’s romance and adventure and an archaeological find that rocks the very foundation of our world and maybe aliens? I might leave out the aliens, not sure yet.)
I also grab the book I’m reading, Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. This amazing book is so dense and thought provoking I pretty much read about 5 pages a day and then try to digest it. Because I’m really trying to figure my shit out and let go of all that crap that no longer serves me. I mean, I’ve got the time right? And what better time to try and face my deepest fears than in a time when I’m involuntarily steeped in and faced with fear and anxiety.
7:29am: Okay, got all my crap gathered and cappuccino made, I take everything out and sit on my back patio, adjust the umbrellas to keep the hot sun at bay for a bit.
If it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, I bring out my portable speaker, because most of my neighbors have their lawns mowed on Tuesday before garbage collection on Wednesday. Otherwise, I listen to the birds gossiping about the previous evening happenings and the chirping of squirrels as they scream at our dog for chasing them out of our yard.
7:45am: Okay, I’m comfortable. I turn on my computer and click on my email. Why did I do that? The newspaper is delivered to my email. It’s not going to be good. It’s not a good way to start my day. I won’t click on it.
I clicked on it. So I’ll just give it a quick once over, I won’t react at all. Somehow I convince myself it will be different this morning.
7:51am: It wasn’t different. (I told you so!)
7:59am: I pull up the article about how news organizations are using my fear and outrage for profit.
I’m okay. It’s ok.
8:25am: Finish reading my three pages of Women Who Run With Wovles. I’m inspired and on fire for my life and have a lot to unpack. So I’ll just let those words marinate and journal about it for a minute or two.
8:38am: Hey, dad should be up by now. I’ll call and say ‘Hi’. We talk almost every day. Just riffing about the things we’ve read and watched. How was physical therapy? (We’re both going for different reasons), we theorize about the human body and muscles and what we’re learning in PT. Then it’s on to yard talk. Everything I learned about maintaining a yard I learned from my dad. (And the garden center Zamzos.) Uh oh, somehow we got on to the state of the world, and the phrase “You’re preaching to the choir” is thrown out by both of us as we argue the same side of a situation. We turn the conversation and end on a joyful note: Italian grammar. Finally, with an ‘a piu tarde’ (it’s the Italian version of ‘talk to you later’) we hang up because I have to get some work done.
9:15am: The kid is hungry and there are no clean bowls. I think about adding disposable bowls to the shopping list as I wash out a bowl. Cereal poured and a kiss on the head, I wonder if I should be doing more than plugging my kid into technology all morning. There’s nothing else to do. I mean, we’re going to go to the lake tomorrow and I’ll enforce the “two hours” off technology rule this afternoon, but should I be doing more? I walk back and sit down at my lap top and shake off the mom guilt.
9:36am: Okay, time to get back to business. Let’s edit!
“You should never have come to Italy.” Yasmin said. “You should have left when they told you to.”
A car came to a halt and two men with guns climbed out and leveled their aim at Sophie. She slowly raised her hands and looked back at Yasmin.
“She has an ear piece.” Yasmin told the men holding out her hand to Sophie, “who’s on the other end?”
“Insurance.” Sophie said.
“Not very good, is it?”
Sophie didn’t move, she studied Yasmin in the low lights of the villa garden. Was she working with Robert? Was she the reason he’d faked his death?
“Are you taking me to meet with Robert?” Sophie asked.
Yasmin didn’t answer, her hand went up an inch, a demand Sophie take out her ear piece.
“Aristotle was right after all.” Sophie said the phrase that was meant to confirm the operation had gone sideways. Only there was no answer in her ear.
“This is not the time for lectures, professor.” Yasmin said, “hand over the ear piece or I fear they might take your ear when they attempt to get it.” She nodded toward her two goons.
“Where’s my colleague?” Sophie asked as she took out the earbud and dropped it into Yasmin’s hand.
Yasmin dropped it on the ground and crushed it under her shoe. “I’m sure he’s suffering from a devastating headache.” She nodded toward the men, “hands behind your back please.”
Sophie complied. Her hands were bound with a zip tie. She had placed her hands together they way Thomas taught her, and when the tie was in place, and no one was looking she gave a little wiggle, she would have enough room when the time came to get herself out. It would hurt and scrap the skin, but it would be possible.
One of the men grabbed her and led her to the car, the trunk opened and there was Richards crumpled form. The rise and fall of his chest verified his still living status. Sophie was awkwardly forced into the trunk next to Richards, Yasmin repeated her sad threat, “You should have gone home when you had the chance.”
“Well, I seldom do what I’m told.” She muttered more to herself as the trunk was slammed shut. Sophie strained to listen to anything Yasmin and the men said, all she could make out were the directions, in French, for the men to “take them to the house.” She was pretty sure Yasmin didn’t get in the car. Only two car doors closed.
“That wasn’t much help.” She whispered.
“You okay, Doc?” Richards voice rumbled and his breath brushed her forehead.
“I thought they knocked you out.”
“So did they.”
“They took my ear piece.” She wiggled around, an attempt to get more comfortable.
“They jammed the frequency before they attacked me. So what kind of theories you working with now?”
“I’m not sure what to think.”
“You worried you killed a good guy in the bathroom?” He asked.
“Why would you ask me something like that? I was trying to incapacitate, not my fault she slipped and brained herself against a porcelain sink.”
“Aren’t you glad I sprang for the upgraded Romeo? This has an impressively large trunk.” He changed the subject.
“Let’s be sure to write the company when we get out of this mess.” She bit.
10:32am: I’m hungry, but don’t want to cook anything because if I do I’ll need to do dishes. The husband comes out from his home office/work cave, he gives me a hug but then starts in, “did you see what that monkey ass did now?” I hate this conversation. I hate that I look up what the monkey ass has done. (You can opt out of checking, you know.) I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but I’m always a little shocked.
I still want a t-shirt that says “This is not Normal”. [Of course, recently, in my free time (which isn’t free time as much as it’s time spent trying to “virtually” run away) I’ve been looking at graphic t-shirts.
My top three t-shirts I’d like:
A yoga shirt of a woman turning into a tree or a tree of a woman standing strong.
One that says “Spiritual Gangster”
And one of Freda Kahlo.]
I point out that the husband is up and since he is, could he do dishes? I offer to empty the dishwasher first, which is a joke because it’s almost empty. Though we both use this excuse so that we ‘take turns’ doing dishes.
10:48am: I shuffle into the kitchen to cook some breakfast, but the recyclables have stacked up on the counter, so I finish their journey into the garage recycle bin. On my way back into the house, I pick up a few stacks of things off the kitchen table and put them in their proper rooms. In the bathroom is a new leave on face mask and I like the smell, so I put some on my face. I slap it on and make eye contact with myself; when was the last time I put on makeup? I think it was the end of February when I went to coffee with a few friends. When was the last time I was in a coffee shop? I think it was that same day; end of February. I drove through one of my favorite local coffee shops the other day, but they aren’t wearing masks and I just don’t know about anything anymore.
11:22am: Breakfast is served. But while it sits on the counter getting cold, I stand in front of the open freezer and try to decide what I should pull out for dinner. It’s going to be 100 degrees today so it should be something we can either grill or crockpot. I’m not in the mood for anything. I think about the open freezer door and the planet and quickly grab the stew meat. Broccoli beef in the crock pot! There we go.
11:34am: back to the computer. Okay, I’m really feeling this story and it’s not finished, and I think I know where I want to go with it so I’m going to push through and write. I’m going to write new content.
Richards sat down on the sofa in the living room of the house they were staying. It was a one-bedroom hut really, worn out, functioning furniture, but no sand in sight. Richards had taken a shower and changed into clothes that finally fit him. A light blue polo and a pair of light washed jeans. He stretched his legs out in front of him and put his arms behind his head, “God, it feels good to sit on furniture.”
Jace frowned at him from where he sat behind his laptop at a table across the room.
Richards didn’t miss the frown. He sighed, and reluctantly left his comfortable seat for the chair opposite Jace. Once he was seated he leaned forward and said, “I like her.”
“I don’t give a shit if you like her or not, you need to end it. Now.” Jace shot.
“Whoa buddy,” Richards gave a gruff laugh and held up his hands, “how long you been keeping that in?”
“Leave her alone.”
Richards tone was calm when he answered, “No.” Which might have pissed Jace off even more.
Jace pushed himself into a standing position and leaned across the table, “You’re not good enough for her.” He seethed.
Richards nodded, “I know.”
The honest admission knocked some of the wind out of Jace.
12:01pm: I like it. I can work with this. It’s a first draft, so it doesn’t matter what’s going on. I try to live by the advice Stephen King gives, write the first draft with the door closed; just for yourself.
“Mom, Ethan blocked me from his world.” Comes the cry from the kid.
Why? I ask.
“I was blowing up his house but it was supposed to be a joke.”
I’m not a fan of the Minecraft. I don’t understand it and I’ve gotten to the point when the kid explains it to me, I make eye contact and insert the proper responses depending on the kid’s expressions, and I start to let my mind wander and then think I’m a bad parent because I’m not really paying attention because I don’t like video games.
We have a conversation about friendship and what friends might think is funny and not funny. The friend in question Skypes and they hash out their issues and I pat myself on the back because I chalk up these instances as teaching the kid how to self solve problems. Or some shit like that to make myself feel better.
12:33pm: Okay, writing is over. I’m not feeling it any more. I decide I unplug everything and go put my books and computer in my office. My yoga mat is still out. I might do a quick little flow. That always makes me feel better. I’ll pull up a nice 30-minute flow by a gal I like, but it’s on YouTube and there’s the latest late night talk show clips on my home feed.
2:32pm: I’m caught up on all the previous nights’ talk shows. Nothing has changed, the world is still on fire and getting more disturbing each moment. Late night talk show hosts and their funny antics no longer give me a cushion of relief to the reality we’re immersed in. I think they are getting tired too. I shoot off a letter to my governor and Senator, but know it won’t do any good in the long run. Still, it’s an action to take. Maybe I’ll take a nap, then when I wake up I’ll do a little yoga and have a coffee. That sounds nice.
2:36pm: “Mom, what’s for lunch?”
A quick glance at the clock. We are so off schedule. I’ll do a course correct later.
“What do you want for lunch?”
“Zio noodles.” (Zio is Uncle in Italian, and Zio Piero makes pasta with olive oil, salt, pepper and freshly grated parmesan. Yes, it’s the Italian version of buttered noodles.)
“Okay, but you have to have oranges or apple sauce with it.”
Might as well throw the contents of dinner into the crock pot. We can eat at 8pm. That’s our new schedule anyway.
2:58pm: Nap time. I walk to my room and find the two laundry baskets of clean clothes. No magic nymphs folded those last night. Shit, I forgot to switch the other load. A shuffle back to re-start the load of clothes that are probably souring. I set a timer for 4pm so I’ll remember to switch the laundry. I’ve been setting a lot of timers in the past 5 months, forgetting a lot of little things lately. It’s the constant worry and fear. Or I’m getting old. Or both.
3:02pm: I’ll fold the laundry and then maybe a nap. Oh crap, forgot to water my flowers. Chore time for the kid. “Go water all the flowers on the patio and check the zucchini.” I also forgot to check the garden.
The kid asks to stay outside and play in the sprinklers. You bet! Vitamin D!
3:04pm: got a drink and laptop set up so I can watch a show and fold laundry. I’m sticking to really mindless content so I’m re-watching my favorite adult cartoon show called Venture Brothers. This show cracks me up. Which is good, we all need something that makes us laugh.
3:46pm: It’s okay if all our clothes continue to be wrinkled, right? I mean, when we go out we’re fishing anyway and we’re not wearing our Sunday best when we do that.
3:47pm: Finally! In bed for nap time. Gonna sleep away this crap. Just a quick check on my phone of Instagram.
Man, such cool artists and writers, they’re creating content and doing the work. Okay, maybe I won’t nap. I can go write another paragraph. That would be good. Oops, I swiped on the news feed. (Why would you do that? You know it will just upset you!)
4:09pm: The news upset me. (Told you so.)
4:11pm: Okay, not napping. Going to make the most of this life. I can write from anywhere at any time. I’ve spent my life proving that. (But what’s the point? What good is a story about an alien archeologist digging for love going to do?)
I thought we were going to nix the aliens.
(We were but then I watched Marvels Agents of Shield and I think it could work. It all comes down to conviction. Think about all the books and movies and shows that should be ridiculous, but the conviction of the writer makes them believable.)
So does that mean all writing comes down to conviction?
4:15pm Change the laundry. Thank you timer.
My guitar is sitting on my chair in my office, I pick it up and turn on the guy I’m taking virtual lessons from. Day three into Quarantine, I decided to “Ground Hog’s Day this bitch”. Aka: Learn to do a few things while I had nothing else to do. I’m horrible and the guitar is twangy sounding, but it’s still fun. Music is good. It releases some of the fear and anger. I play and think about history and how somehow, human nature pushes forward and survives.
5:16pm: Oh! We haven’t checked the mail yet! I’ll get it! I’ll get it!
5:22pm: The mail is all bills.
5:23pm: I want cookies. Time to weigh the dishes I’ll create and the heat it will require to make cookies against the momentary satisfaction of eating cookies. Of course the challenge is that I’ll eat all the cookies.
6:31pm: Cookies are ready! I’m going to have some coffee and cookies. I should probably make decaf.
I make regular coffee.
7:00pm: “Mom, I’m hungry.”
“Do you want a cookie?”
“Can I have a bagel?”
“Will you be hungry in an hour when we eat?”
“What’s for dinner?”
“Broccoli beef and rice.”
“Can I just eat the rice?”
“No, you need protein.”
“I don’t like broccoli.”
“Okay, eat one stalk of broccoli, you like the beef and then have oranges or a banana.”
“So can I have a bagel?”
8:21pm: “Babe, what did you do for dinner.” The husband asks.
Wait, where did the last hour go?!
8:40pm: Thank god the sun sets in my corner of the world at 9 pm. Light until 10!!! So dinner at 8:40 is al fresco and very European of us. I lean into my Italian roots.
9:32pm: We still eat dinner together and play a game after. We did this before quarantine and I’m kinda glad it’s our normal. But we’ve played a lot of games the past five months and have a ‘time out’ corner for games at this point. Sometimes if I continue to lose a game again and again and again, said game goes into the Time out Stack.
10pm: Finally, it’s an acceptable time to watch TV and veg. But the kid should unplug. Okay, I declare it time to cuddle and read.
I’ve been reading all the historical romance novels I grew up loving. No worries about toilet paper and no one is going on vacation or going on dates to restaurants or coffee shops, so no need to be jealous. These characters are trying not to get a little scratch that will become gangrenous and kill them.
11:08pm: I vow to get the kid to bed earlier tomorrow night.
11:15pm: Time to veg!
12:32am: We should go to bed.
6:45am: Let’s do this!