Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Writing on the fly . . . flying to write

It's October and that's roughly the middle of my semestral calendar. It's at about this point in time when I should be adjusting to the rhythms of academia. But I haven't. Many things are on my plate. Many hats are on my hat rack waiting to be rotated into use.

Sally Keith, a fab poet, came by to give a reading down here in Utica and we had a long chit-chat about writing, jobs, living as a writer. First off, she doesn't have a television . . . or at least, she doesn't watch television unless it's to watc movies or something. I've known many artists/writers who have no television. How many of you turn off the tube and keep it off? Meredith and I have a MEGA television perched in a pine-shrine at the corner of our living room. When we get home from our long days of teaching, we kick off our shoes and veg in front of the screen. But Sally's chat with me is making me think that I need to re-think that ritual. Trouble is, I love TV. Particularly SportsCenter in the morning. I watched the VP debates last night, despite Meredith's groans. Earlier, I had watched In a Fix on TLC. When I lived in Gettysburg, PA, a ritual of mine was waking up on Saturday mornings and watching This Old House. I don't know if you consider what I watch to be crap. I don't know myself. All I know is after I'm done teaching, advising, going to meetings, grading . . . I'm dead tired. But I also know, that's a perfect time to be doing something active.

That leads me to this idea of writing. I'm usually multi-tasking all day. Not only am I preparing my classes, but I'm also doing things behind the scenes in terms of the cultural programing at my school. I'm basically at school from Monday to Friday. When I'm not in school, I'm doing things for school. So when do I write? I had thought to make a rigid writing schedule which had me waking up early in the mornings everyday. That failed miserably. I wasn't getting enough sleep. I knew this because my left eye-lid would twitch all day when I did this schedule. I then thought to write exclusively during the weekends. That bombed too, as soon as the papers started pouring in.

So now, I'm looking for an end to excuses. I'm designating one day a week. That's all, but I need to hold myself to that day. What do you fellow multi-taskers do? Do you designate a few hours each day? Do you designate a particular day? Do you resign yourself to not working until you have a holiday break or something? Give me some ideas.


bino said...

dear fellow tv lover, i love tv too. i love cable. my tv broke though. since i came back from pr, my tv has been fuzzy. the other day, tired of not being able to see a clear screen, i banged the clock on top of it. tv is clear again, perhaps temporarily (old pinoy fix-it). i know a lot of writers who dont watch tv. they dont know what theyre missing. --el serenito

Charles said...

I limit what I watch an TV for this reason--it used to be only Buffy & Angel, and now it looks like I'm going to be all about Desperate Housewives and Lost. Granted, I'm sure I don't have the strict schedule you do with grading & teaching, but I do work a second job at Gap, which can interfere with writing.

The thing I've always felt that as long as I'm journaling, blogging, or reading, I'm writing. It's just not the kind of writing I do on the page. It's more like charging the batteries.

barbara jane said...

o, so my apt. unit used to get free cable til very recently. before it was cut off, i was watching all kinds of stuff - trash or not - all the time, and i was almost dependent upon its noise in the background, which meant i didn't read and write as much as i should. in my previous apt. i only got fuzzy local channels so it was easier to balance reading/writing/tv time.

but now w/ absolutely no tv at all, it's actually not so bad, much more time for reading. i don't miss it so much, but if i cd only get the fuzzy local channels, i think i'd be ok.

ver said...

So, I've stopped waiting for optimal writing conditions. I have surrendered to the fact that it's just not gonna happen in my situation (3 kids under the age of 5 blah, blah, blah). Instead, I wait for chunks of time to emerge—twenty minutes in the dentist's waiting room; a super-efficient run through Target, thus giving myself half an hour of writing time before the babysitter leaves; adobo or pot roast for dinner (so that I don't need to stand at the stove for any extended length of time). Like that. It's not the greatest, but it's what I have for now.

And, yeah, minimal TV. In the past few months, it's been Six Feet Under exclusively. And soon it will be Sopranos. The less you watch, the more you wonder why it used to be so captivating...

Gura said...

I've never had cable, at least cable that I paid for. At most I had cable for a week. The fiance used to have cable, but then hated AT&T he quit paying. When we visited NYC our first time out, we almost stayed in our hotel room watching a Harry Potter movie on tv, cuz well, we had cable.

I get fuzzy tv now, but watch the evening news, Fear factor and Amazing race and Enterprise when it's on. After the wedding, we'll probably get cable. The SO misses Sportscenter. Between work, teaching kali, sleeping and eating, I don't have a regular schedule for writing, though I never really did.

I agree with Ver, it's the pocket moments when you find it, a phrase here, a quote there. I find I've got seasons for writing, reading, performing and other-arts phases. Right now I'm into other-arts, like painting and such.

Nothing wrong with watching TV. I think there's a difference between being entertained by it and being controlled by it. Besides there is some really good writing on some of the programs when you can find it, and I find that inspirational.

Susan Allspaw Pomeroy said...

I have a husband who doesn't understand much about the writing life, except that I'm happier when I've had writing time. He forces me in the chair by taking away all my excuses: "I'll cook dinner. I'll clean the dishes. You go write." I consider myself very lucky.

Otherwise, I also buy myself time by working a 9-80 schedule--which means every other Friday I have off from work, which means on for writing... at least in the morning before I feel the need to get dressed and do other things. Sure, it's not a lot of time, but it works.

On TV: TiVo was the best thing for me: I only watch shows I want to watch, and only when I want to/have time/as a reward for having done other things. I'm not at the mercy of of the TV's schedule.

Just do it, Oliver. Remember who told me "Do, or do not. There is no try."

Anonymous said...

Hey Honey,

As we mentioned earlier (about the former students I had), limit yourself to one hour a day watching television. When you're done with that hour, go directly to the computer and start WRITING. Do NOT check your email!!! If you'd like, I'll give you some wacky phrases to start you off on the long journey of poetry-making.
Love, Mere :)

Radish King said...

I listen to Bach, or watch cartoons while I write. Or both. If I had cable, I'd be sunk. I've heard rumors of a cartoon network. I'd never leave the house.

Oliver de la Paz said...

Rebecca, those rumors of a Cartoon Network are true. They recently had a Looney Tunes marathon. Cable is pure evil.

Nick said...

hey oliver

this summer at the vcca we met a composer who claimed the last thing he saw on tv was the apollo moon landing and he and his wife still don't have a tv. in all the artist colonies denise and i have been to tv sets are banned. yaddo doesn't have a working tv in the library while macdowell has a crappy tv for video/dvd viewing at colony hall. a few summers ago i remember taking over the tv during the nba play offs with the poet stephen dunn while other residents wanted to use the tv to play movies of stan brakhage.