It was super-hard getting out of bed before 6:00 am to do this writing-thing. I’d taken notes the night before to help the process along this morning, but had stayed up pretty late taking those notes. Very counter-productive, especially since I took one look at the notes I’d made and thought, “These are great notes – I really wish I had time to work with them.”
But I didn’t have time to work with them because I’d kept hitting the snooze button before I finally got up.
Then I had to make my bed.
Then I had to wash my face.
Then I had to feed the cat.
Then I had to make a cup of tea.
Then I had to eat something to keep my mind off hunger while I was writing.
Then I had to take my B12 and eat my Vitamin C gummy and swallow my Zinc tablets.
I didn’t sit down at the computer until 5:45. By then it almost felt useless to start typing.
After getting such a late start, I knew that if I really gave it my all I would have to stop just as things were getting good. There are few sensations worse than breaking your creative flow.
Of course, Hemingway thought it only made sense to do such a thing. In A Moveable Feast he said, “…I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”
This wasn’t useless advice by any measure. However.
In my experience the narcotic of “flow” is something you can’t get enough of once you’ve had it in your system. That particular “high” is slippery and elusive; it’s hard to tap into and difficult to sustain once you do. But it’s always, always worth the trouble you go to, whether it lasts for five minutes or five hours.
I heard a loud groan from outside, and glanced up at the window facing my work table. There stood Citizen Jim.
He made a big production of placing an imaginary gun right above his ear and pulling the imaginary trigger.
I motioned for him to go to the front door.
He pretended to stick his head in a noose and yanked the imaginary rope upward.
I waved him away and went back to typing.
He slapped the window with one of his hairy paws. When I looked up he drew an imaginary knife across his throat.
I closed my eyes and counted backwards from five, hoping he would be gone when I opened my eyes.
He was still there.
He yelled, “Oh my God! NOBODY CARES! Get on with it!”
But I couldn’t. Not this morning. I opened the door for Citizen Jim, and he strolled in, throwing himself on the futon beside my work station and burying his face in a pillow.
He groaned again.
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.
“None of your business!”
‘Okay,” I said, and went back to staring at my computer screen.
“All right, all right – I guess I’ll tell you if you’re gonna start crying about it!”
I wasn’t crying.
“Ugh! If you must know, I’m tired! I was up way past 7:30 last night, and I’m beginning to feel it for sure,” he said. “I’m just glad I took the week off.”
Citizen Jim has to report to his job by 5:00 every morning. I’m not sure what he does for a living. Whenever I ask him what he does for a living, he says it isn’t my business.
“Are you going to work today?” Citizen Jim asked me.
“Yes. I have to work today but I’m off Friday,” I said. “Then I have to work this weekend.”
Citizen Jim sat up. “I didn’t ask for all that! I just wanted to know if you were going to go to work even though you’re dragging your feet on with writing today,” he said.
“Of course – I can’t just decide not to go to work because I’m not getting enough writing done,” I said.
“And that’s why you’ll never get anywhere,” Citizen Jim said.
“I have to live,” I said. “I have to pay my rent and my bills and feed my cat and donate money to people’s GoFundMe campaigns for medical expenses because we don’t have universal healthcare in this country.”
“See, now, you’ve just arbitrarily decided all that stuff is important – but I’m here to tell you it isn’t, not really,” Citizen Jim said. “You have a degree in English. You’ve worked in bookstores, met writers, watched from the sidelines. You’ve read hundreds of memoirs and biographies and interviews and magazine profiles of famous writers. And yet! AND YET!”
Citizen Jim stopped. He stared at me, flaring his nostrils.
“And yet?” I said. “And yet what?”
“And YET, you still won’t accept that nobody ever does their best work until they’re too cold or too hot, starving, drowning in debt, and close to being evicted from some reeking hovel in a sketchy part of town. Pathetic!”
“Precious Lamb, you know I’ve been there before and it didn’t make me write,” I reminded him. “It only made me want to sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping I wanted to jump off the Million Dollar Bridge.”
This was true! Good times!
“Yeah, well, if you’re not serious enough about your writing to call in sick to work so you can write I don’t know what to tell you except, ‘Enjoy your continued wage slavery, sucker!'”
“I know, I know,” I said. “But.”
“But nothing! You need to make the rubber meet the road, Missy! Go big or go home!” Citizen Jim said. “It’s time you either shit or get off the pot!”
“I appreciate every bit of your cliché-laden input,” I lied.
“No you don’t!” Citizen Jim said, lying on his back, now, with Chrissy sprawled out across his chest. “You’ll probably be mad if I tell you I think you need to cut out this Citizen Jim nonsense for a while and start writing something real.”
“Actually, I agree with that,” I said. “That’s something I’m definitely going to talk about with my life coach on Tuesday when we have our first session.”
Citizen Jim sat up so fast he almost crushed Chrissy, who jumped off his chest and fled the room in terror. “Your WHAT?”
Uh oh. Dang!
“What?” I asked.
“That’s what I’M asking!”
“What are you asking?”
“Did you just say you had a LIFE COACH?” he asked.
Instead of answering him I inspected my fingernails, turned my hands over to stare at my palms. “I think I might have just said that,” I finally said.
That was a lie. I knew I had just said that, and I regretted it before the words finished leaving my mouth.
“And when were you going to tell me about this life coach situation?” Citizen Jim asked.
I finally looked at Citizen Jim, and drew in a deep breath before I said, “Never.”
That was true. I’d been keeping it from him for a very good reason.
“Never! Well, now, that’s a nice how d’you do, isn’t it?” Jim said. “You don’t need any stinking LIFE COACH! Whenever there’s anything you need to know about your life and what to do with it, you just ask ME!”
See? I told you I had a very good reason for not telling Citizen Jim about my life coach. I’m sure he would create many more good reasons as time went on.
“I’m sorry,” said.
Boy oh boy! You kicked me in the balls so hard with this LIFE COACH bullshit,” Citizen Jim said, making a show of being unsteady as he stood up. “I don’t even know if I can walk to the door, now!”
I checked the time. It was almost 7:15. “You need to go,” I said. “It’s time to get ready for work.”
“FINE!” Citizen Jim shouted. “But I’ll be back tomorrow, and you’d better tell me EVERYTHING!”
Maybe I would.
Maybe I wouldn’t.