Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quarterly Update

Every three months or so, the president of the Great Books Foundation informs me that its time to send him a quarterly update, which basically means: summarize all the shit your department has been working on the past three months so that board members and have an inkling what it is you're doing. (The Production Department, which I run, is a department of one, by the way.)

I thought it was time for my own quarterly update. OK, that's not entirely accurate. I thought it was time to write one several weeks ago when I began to write this blog entry, while on the Amtrak train from Chicago to Kalamazoo for Cheryl and Brock's wedding.

I love train rides. Much nicer than planes. You're sitting in a comfortable seat, with all the room you need. You can watch the world fly by without a worry in the world. You can read if you like, or, since there's an outlet in every seat, you can also watch a DVD on your laptop.

And if you're like me, you can write. Which is what I did. After typing out a 1,000 good words for my book that morning, I thought I'd type out a bit of a entry for my blog.


Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the entry that day, and so, here we are, several weeks later represented rather sadly by ellipses above. Summer has said her farewells and we're in the midst of a brisk Chicago autumn. I feel as though there are so many things to talk about. Work. Marathon training. Paying off debts. Writing a book. Where to begin, where to begin?

I had a lot of fun this summer. Many good adventures. But as fun as they were, I cannot escape the fact that I'm getting older. I see it in my face, feel it in my body, and know it in my heart. Hangovers hurt more. Weight seems to be harder to shed. Work actually stresses me out. I can't read as fast as I used to. And for the first time that I can recall, I'm a little scared of this. Its been six years since I moved to Chicago. Six years. I don't want to to look back in another six and wonder why it is that I haven't grown up yet.

I don't feel older. I just feel more tired. In the past, when summer turned to fall I used to wonder what the next season's adventures would bring. Who I'd meet, what I'd do. Now everything just seems stagnant and the same. I used to think I still had time to learn to play guitar or maybe go out to Maine for a fall and live in a cabin. At 25, you still have the luxury of unrealistic dreams. Of inner fantasies that pass the time and make the mundane bearable. At 29, they seem to weigh heavier, to become burdens rather than escapes.

In fact, my three resolutions: 1. finish book 2. run marathon 3. pay off credit cards were created in large part to fight this growing fear.

Of course, the summer where I decide to run a marathon has to be the one where Chicago gets the worst heat wave its had in five years. God running in hot weather sucks! I'm naturally warm-blooded anyway, and the air was so humid this summer it felt like I was swimming instead of running.

And here's the thing, when my running mileage gets up there, its bloody HARD to find the energy to write.

I remember this happened round the same time when I trained for the marathon five years ago. Once I started running into the double digits on the weekends, all my creative writing basically went out the window. It was not until the marathon was over that I was able to get back in the saddle. I thought I was prepared this time to face that. And I was wrong.

Writing stories comes in such odd spurts for me. Everyone always spouts bullshit about waiting for the muse, and while that has some truth, (there definitely is a muse (who's awesome, btw)), the thing that no one likes to talk about and no one likes to hear is that it takes a lot of discipline, A fucking ton of discipline, actually, along with hard work, a bit of talent, and a smidgen of luck.

I'm usually lucky with stuff like that. Mostly. I think I have talent. A bit, anyway. The big problem is my creative discipline, which is about as dependable as a bipolar leprechaun on crack. Sometimes its there, in full force, jumping on my shoulder, shouting “GET 'ER DONE!” and other times its just gone. Probably in a back alley doing crack somewhere with the other leprechauns.

So I'll go for a week or two, writing most days, some decent, some amazing, some shitty. And then, I just... stop. Its as if it becomes terrifying and impossible to sit down and write. And this lasts for weeks. And that is sort of where I'm at right now.

The marathon is a few days away. I'm prepared for it. It actually should be almost fun. But I haven't written anything substantial in weeks.

So, I'm writing this to say that once I've ran it (and I will post about it) its time to shift back into writing mode. If you've seen a leprechaun running around with bloodshot eyes and powder around his mouth, please let me know.

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