Friday, July 13, 2012

Thoughts for a Crazy Day

Since returning from my trip last weekend, the week has been rather chaotic.  Today (or possibly yesterday, by the time I post this!) was definitely the craziest.  Besides this blog post, I got exactly zero writing done – and I’m not even managing to start the post until quarter past ten at night. 

First I had to call upon my dad to help me fix my sunglasses (a screw fell out, and all the optometrists in the world can’t seem to produce a replacement - neither could we, actually, but superglue covers a multitude of breaks, it turns out), but because we had to go in search of the right materials, the task ended up being no less than a two hour adventure.  It was good to spend time with my father, but I did have other things to do….

My dessert did turn out pretty at least!
For example, there was my laundry, which I managed somehow to squeeze in between trips hither and yon. I had a school meeting scheduled with one of the home-room teachers about my classes next year.  I had to make dessert for company I’m having.  There was the need to clean up around the house at least a bit in order not to amaze said company.  My father is also helping me replace some lights in my bathroom, so I had to consult with him periodically. 

I managed to finish all this, but not before 9 PM, and then to top it all off the internet was down in my area, thanks to heat-induced thunderstorms, so there wasn't much chance of relaxing with something off Netflix.  I suppose it was good for me, though, because if there was that chance…I admit I might have postponed writing this!

Anyway, in the midst of scurrying all over town today, I thought regretfully of my plans to edit at some point, or perhaps even finish the latest chapter in my novel, which has been languishing half-done, due to my topsy-turvy week.  I got plenty of things done, but writing had to be set aside because of the chaos. 

Can any book reveal the secret of NYC?
To console myself, I reflected during my several car trips about the book I read most recently.  It had the somewhat presumptuous title of ‘The Secret of New York Revealed,’ but nevertheless was truly excellent .  My reason for reading it was that a) Vasnefy gave it to me for my birthday, and b) the author, Dr. Thomas Howard, was a visiting professor at my college and taught me an in depth course on Milton’s Paradise Lost.  (It was somewhat wasted on me, because I cannot love Milton, no matter how I try, but Dr. Howard made a pretty valiant effort to win me over, thanks to his enthusiasm and charm, so I remember him fondly.  Also he used words like bilious, Rosicrucian and antediluvian in his speech, quite without self-consciousness: what’s not to love?)

The book contains a series of autobiographical reflections about life as a young married man in New York City, during the 60’s.  After rambling around the city and recalling various events, the narrative concludes in a discussion about what method can preserve a person from dissipation, especially in a great city with its glamor and diversions and free spirit.  The solution he offered was basically what you might call ‘routine,’ but of course he phrased it much more beautifully than that.

Routine is a word that sounds dull, after all.  It only reminds us of the daily schedule - the daily grind, for some.  Since that's the case, he redeemed it with the name of ‘ritual.’  Basically he wanted to suggest that we can invest our lives with a certain ceremony and significance if we regard reoccurring, normal events not as a dull burden, but as a rich pattern unfolding around us.  Investing in such a pattern gives us an anchor, a sort of center to hold our lives in place.

Isn’t that a beautiful idea? 

Everyone has a schedule, after all, some more rigorous than others.  Artists, especially, who often have another job besides their art, have to pay attention to time and allot themselves periods during each day for their projects.  I know from my own experience that following such a routine can be tiresome.  Sometimes I’d much rather just goof off – and sometimes I do, which is excusable, and even good, but it can’t be done every day, or I’d never complete any writing at all. 

Therefore, it’s my choice to lay out a certain ritual for myself, to follow every day that I can (which is most, besides chaotic ones like today!).  It’s other writers’ choice too – a recent blog post from Saskia Akyil mentioned that she has trained herself to write in very short spurts, whenever she has a moment.  Some might find that annoying, but if you have the need to write, but also must balance that with other obligations, then you can invent the personal ritual of writing for any ten minutes which may suddenly present themselves.  Those ten minutes become something beautiful, a bright spot in your life, where you validate yourself as an artist, but also have the satisfaction of knowing that no duties are being neglected in the meantime. 

Living with a schedule is like growing flowers on a wall!
My ritual of writing every day this summer was interrupted today.  However, since I’ve made the choice to follow the pattern faithfully, I know I’ll return to it without fail tomorrow.  Having a routine or a schedule might seem crippling to the artist, but in fact it liberates me, because it gives me a structure to live around.  I’m like a vine, curving this way and that, sometimes branching out in unexpected directions, but I’ve always got the trellis of my routine – my ritual – to support me.  After being a writer for ten years, I can’t really do without it!

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