When the lights go out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpdcKmaHk_s We are almost two months into the year, and this daily writing adventure is starting to to hit its stride. When I sit down to write there is no fear that I'm going to fall short of 750 words to say. Once I get the old fingers warmed up the words start to gush out like I struck oil, and the hard part can often be getting myself to a point where I feel comfortable stopping. As I was telling a friend the other day, the hard part is no longer getting words on a page, it's getting good words on a page. This is an obvious, if not important, distinction. In the past couple of weeks I've been reading a lot of writing centric blogs, and there is something to be said about a well thought out blog who’s authors post regularly and stay on point -

-Hm. Speaking of staying an point, it would seem that the power has gone out in my neighborhood and I now have approximately an hour to write this before the battery in my four year old Mac Book Pro runs out. How exciting to have this new challenge heaped on my lap. I can honestly say that I am writing by candlelight just like the great authors of yore - except I’m also typing on a backlit screen, but close enough!

-So where was I? Oh yes, staying on point. I’ve never really had a stated goal with this website other than to write everyday. Things have been going pretty swimmingly on that front, but when I look back on the material I’ve been putting out over the last couple of weeks I can’t help but cringe a little at how scattered each post is. This can be attributed to my writing these posts at the end of the day, when I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for every last morsel of news I could find, and feel the need to use this space as a venue to have a show-and-tell of sorts. There is usually at least one news story that gets me riled up enough to want to talk about in a place that does not limit my output to 146 characters - or however many characters Twitter allows, you’ll have to excuse me for approximating, but I have no internet, from the power being out and all. I often wonder what my writing would be like if I took a long break from being online. I imagine that the writing would be a little bit more focused if I wasn’t jumping back and forth from my text editor to Twitter to the NY Times website to Facebook to Grantland to… you get the point.

When you read a lot of books that give advice to young writers, one of the first bits of wisdom imparted to would-be scribes is to seek isolation when you write. The idea is to find a place where that is isolated enough that you can hear your inner voice, and not be distracted when you work. I’m not sure how much I believe in that. I mean, Most of the great writers of the 20th century lived in cities, and many worked journalism jobs that required them to rush work out in a noisy news room, under deadline, with at least one editor screaming at him/her to turn in their copy ASAP. At least that was my experience, and I believe I did some of my best writing under those conditions. Where the advice does ring true is when I’m not under the pressure to get work done, and don’t have that level of focus that only a great sense of urgency can provide. When I ‘m working on a short story or essay that is not under some kind of deadline it is all too easy to peck away at it, little-by-little, in between generous breaks to check the vast wastelands of social media to make sure I’m not missing out on some urgent bit of news.

The obvious problem with this routine is that the whatever work I get done is often times an uneven mess, that needs a lot of rewriting before it is even close to being publishable. That’s also why a lot of these posts end up being shot up with typos like so many bullet holes through a wall. As much as I enjoy a stream of consciousness writing session, I realize that it is no fun to read a random wall of text that is strewn with bad grammar, and if I’m going to embark on a project that involves publishing material for public consumption, it behooves me to put out a more focused, polished product. It’s for this reason that I so zealously guard all of the first and second drafts of material I plan on sending out to literary journals/websites, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put out a product of lower quality on a website that bears my own namesake. In the future I am going to make an effort to  do a couple of passes on these posts before I send them out.

-Just called the power company and it looks like the power may be out for another couple of hours, which is exactly how long my computer says the battery is going last. I’m astonished at how much longer the battery lasts in this thing when the internet is turned off, maybe the whole answer to to my - how can I get serious work done when there is so many amazing things happening on the internet at any given time - problem is to drive myself out into a remote place everyday and just write until the battery dies. I don’t know, that seems like a lot of work. Perhaps a better idea would be to go to a coffee shop and not ask for the wifi password; now that I could do. One thing that thrills me about power outages is, for those first couple of minutes, I feel like something catastrophic is going down and it’s time to put all that knowledge I’ve learned from Survivorman, The Road, and The Zombie Survival Guide to good use. The first thing I need to do is fill my bathtub with water, then I’ll go to my neighbors house and borrow one of his guns because I am a liberal sissyboy who doesn’t believe in owning a weapon. It’s about at this point in my  thinking process when it dawns on me that there is probably just a power line down somewhere and I should probably just grab my tablet and get some reading down while there is nothing too distract me, or in this case, get some writing done.

-And, almost on cue, the power is back on. So much for two hours, that was more like fifteen minutes. Well, it’s been fun people. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have another power outage and I’ll have another, somewhat coherent post for the site. Now, back to that sweet internet wasteland.