December 30th, 2012


It's Sunday in Cape Town!

And for all my dear friends in the Northern Hemisphere, I am absolutely NOT GLOATING about the sunny, breezy days and cool evenings around the fire pit. I’m sure your snowmen, frosty windows, and slushy roads are BEAUTIFUL.

This week I was debating whether or not to buy It Chooses You by Miranda July, and while the eventual answer was “look in a used bookstore” and also “McSweeney’s, don’t make me register and create an account to buy” and also “What the fuck do you mean $1.70 for HANDLING on top of $6.95 shipping for a $5 book, maybe this is why Amazon is wiping the floor with you?” I did like what she had to say about getting sucked into the internet.

“I was writing a screenplay in the little house. I wrote it at the kitchen table, or in my old bed with its thrift-store sheets. Or, as anyone who has tried to write anything recently knows, these are the places where I set the stage for writing but instead looked things up online. Some of this could be justified because one of the characters in my screenplay was also trying to make something, a dance, but instead of dancing she looked up dances on YouTube. So, in a way, this procrastination was research. As if I didn’t already know how it felt: like watching myself drift out to sea, too captivated by the waves to call for help. I was jealous of older writers who had gotten more of a toehold on their discipline before the web came. I had gotten to write only one script and one book before this happened.”

It’s been tough to write this week. It’s Christmas (EXCUSE). I’m on holiday (EXCUSE). What it really comes down to is:

I haven’t been in control of my schedule, and
I’m mildly addicted to the internet.

Note, I do not mean to trivialize actual addiction of the kind that leads to begging at one’s dealer’s door, or squatting in a dumpster thinking that maybe there will be a vial with a little tiny crack rock leftover in here somewhere, or losing hair and teeth until one is a billboard of caution and Nancy Regan-ism, Just Say OHMYGODTHATSGROSS. I mean that when I get online, I habitually first click “Mail” and “Facebook” and even “LiveJournal” where I can convince myself that reading about other people’s lives and leaving comments is actually networking, and being a good friend. I mean that I get anxious, possibly even irritable if I know I will be without internet for several hours. That I am, ridiculously, hoarding—opening ten or fifteen windows of things I think I’d like to read later when I don’t have internet, and keeping them open for weeks without getting around to it or closing the tabs.

My internet is at least somewhat limited in South Africa, as I use a USB stick to connect, and if we use too much we use it up, so no videos. Yesterday I added to my list app (God bless the list app!) “check email” three times, and told myself that when they were checked off, that was used up and I had to wait until tomorrow. It worked about 60%, enough to try it again today.

The schedule thing is a little trickier. I am reminded of grad school, a group of students and faculty going to dinner with the guest writer who had just given a reading, and whom I sat next to. I do not remember her name or what she read, but I remember that she had a toddler, who was at home with his other parent. I was at the age where having a child was still a possibility, and I asked her how she managed to still write, as I had only thus far heard horror (to me) stories about how having a child pretty much sabotaged your entire artistic life, that women artists were either unable to put out any materials, beads, paints, whatever, the child was a tornado of destruction and disarray, or they just didn’t have any time, they were a milk factory/tired vagina and could only lie on the sofa like beached manatees, longing to be mistaken for mermaids again.

The writer said, “Being a mother has made me more efficient.”

Every woman student at the table leaned forward.

“Before having a baby, I started my writing by reading the New York Times, thinking about things, making a cup of tea, looking up a few words, whatever. Now, my writing time is, ‘he’s down for a nap I have twenty minutes GO.’”

This is my problem.

When I am at home, or alone, I can drift down to the coffee shop around 9AM, do a whole crossword puzzle, check Facebook and read Slate, and if I finally start actually writing at 4PM, well, that’s fine. Right now I am in residence at my boyfriend’s house, and he has an erratic sleep schedule. And some days we lounge around all day being holiday (possibly without even donning pants) and some days we spontaneously eat lunch or dinner at the family house for several hours. So if I wake at 8AM and want to write, I may have four uninterrupted hours, or he may be up in twenty minutes and it’s nice to spend time together. When he naps in the afternoons, again it may be hours stretching before me or surprise, he’s up and we’re leaving the house immediately. But even at home, even on my own, it would be better if I got down to writing faster—I certainly do this when I’m on a writing date with another person, so there’s no actual reason not to do it on my own.

What’s the take-away?

- Control my internet dicking-around prior to writing.
- Get started faster (I can do a thousand words in 45 minutes once I get going).
- Start saying, firmly, “I’m putting my headset in and I’ll be available again in an hour.”
- Start putting my headset in earlier in the process, because I need the thinking time for a few minutes before writing, and JUST BECAUSE I AM SITTING IN THE LOUNGE DOES NOT MEAN I AM AVAILABLE FOR CONVERSATION, not that anyone else would, should or can know that.

It’s so easy to say it—just write.

It’s so true.

But it’s also so hard, and every time I think to myself, “Well, are you a writer or not? Just fucking do it. Dig the fucking coal,” I do not feel fired-up, I feel like a failure.

Bird by bird.

Banares Hindu University (India) does not have any creative writing or journalism courses and recommends I try the drama school in New Delhi. Otherwise, I have about ten submissions still out there and none of them are quite at the “nudge someone” stage.

The Head of the English Department at the University of Mumbai responded to my initial email, saying that she would like to arrange a workshop with her students next year. I followed up by asking if there are any guest lecturer/semester adjunct positions available.

The International Herald Tribune is looking for stories of memorable expatriate New Year’s Eves. Are you having/have you had one? Post your story in the comments here (this is my essay, and the call for stories is in the italics at the beginning). They are using some as guest posts on the main site through the New Year.

Emails to the English Departments at Patna University (Patna, northern India), Banares Hindu University (Varanasi, ditto) and the University of Mumbai (southern India), asking if there are any positions for guest lecturers or visiting writers.

I’d like my next trip to India to be a longer-term stay with work and daily life, living in one place. I very much enjoyed my time at Charles University in Prague, as a grad student in a summer program, and I loved having a reason to be there beyond tourism.

Checked out their websites, picked out department heads.

Just a preliminary email asking for more info.


kathrynrose is doing an awesome series of posts on goal-setting, including assessing where you are now and where you’d like to be. It’s a very New Year’s thing to do, and you can join in any time—it’s all at your own pace.

Highly recommended, and you don’t have to be an LJ-er to join in, the posts are public. Read them here.

What makes you efficient?