Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors, was so dedicated to his craft that he would rent a typewriter in the basement of a college library everyday to keep himself free from everyday distractions. At last count he has published 11 novels, 21 plays, 44 collections, and over 400 short stories, so he must have been onto something.
I admire disciplined writers, although I am not one.
Sure, for the last 4 years I have contributed 3-4 columns each month for the Times Observer, but that all happens on top of my regular duties at Family Services. I have good intentions to write a column a week, but the reality is that I get busy organizing support groups and working with clients (as it should be) and the columns get pushed off until there is just one left on file at the newspaper. Then I sit down and write a whole month's worth at once. That is as disciplined as my writing gets, although it doesn't seem appropriate to classify "utter desperation" a system.
7:40 am The columns for October, which will unfold over the coming weeks, are still unwritten as I type these words at the end of September. I have pulled a few late nights this week, so I arranged to work a half-Friday at home to minimize distractions. Hidden away in the quiet of my home, I figure I can get the columns finished by mid-day and then get an early start on my weekend. Before embarking on my writing, I drive my son to high school so as not to throw off the rest of the family's normal routine. Now I am back in front of the computer, topic in my head, and ready to write.
8:00 am "Dad, can I check my Facebook? I need to coordinate my ride to school and it will only take a minute," said my daughter. Not wanting to interfere with higher education, I trade the computer for a yellow legal pad and begin a column longhand. The awareness finally comes over me that I've been at the kitchen table for a long time, so I head back to the computer in the other room where my daughter is looking at pictures of cats in tuxedoes. She vacates the computer so I can type up the column and mentions that her ride fell through.
10:00 am After a quick trip to Jamestown Business College, which was somehow routed through the Tim Horton's drive-thru, I am back at the computer and ready to write. It is still pretty early in the day and I have one column written (sans typing). It is not inconceivable that I can still get everything finished by 1 pm. I get into the next column and then the telephone repairman comes to the door. I am not aware that anything is wrong with our downstairs phone as it was my wife, I find out, that put in the service call. I go up and down the steps trying our other lines for dial tone. When they all check out, I hold the dog by her lead as the service man goes outdoors and indoors a half dozen times. He eventually discovers that someone just unplugged the answering machine. Perfect.
11:00 am As I ease back into the groove of writing, I cave into the temptation to check my email to see if anyone at work needs anything. I regret doing so when I see the following two phrases in my inbox: "Gary Lester" and "computer problem." Don't misunderstand, Gary is a great guy-although his computer apparently doesn't think so. It is as if Gary puts off some sort of mysterious electrical field that interferes with its wiring. Exotic computer ailments seem to manifest when he simply presses the "on switch." A long cell phone call later, both Gary and the computer are back in business. At least until their next round of man versus machine.
12:00 pm It is now lunchtime and I can't comprehend how quickly Friday is passing by. I have made some headway, although meeting my target deadline is unlikely. "I can still pull these columns off by early afternoon," I tell myself as I wolf down a sandwich. The next hour or so is pretty productive. The quiet of the house is suddenly disturbed by a sound like pat, pat, pat, thump, scrape pat, pat, pat, thump, scrape There is only one member of the family capable of causing this kind of commotion, a certain black and white beagle named Aggie. I call her and am greeted by a perplexed doggie -pat, pat, pat, thump, scrape- who is staggering around with a glue mouse trap stuck to her front right paw. The sticky mess is dragging along a random assortment of household objects, including a dirty old sock and a plastic grocery bag. I carefully remove the glue trap, etc. and carry the dog to the bathtub. I wonder if Ray Bradbury ever had to stop writing to give a dog a bath.
1 pm onwards For consideration of space, I will omit detailed descriptions of the unbalanced load of wash that refused to balance, various telemarketing calls, and a trip to the supermarket to hunt for a critical ingredient for dinner.
3:30 pm My son returns home from a day at school. He looks enviously at me typing at the computer and says, "It must be awesome to get your work done at home." It's going to be a long night
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that helps people solve problems and be happier through counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups. Learn more about this important work at www.fswc.org.