Sunday, July 15, 2012

Extreme Writing

As mentioned in Bookworms Anonymous, extreme reading is a little recognized sport performed by reading outside.  I doubt we'll ever see it in the Olympics, or witness a district extreme reading tournament. It's not really a spectator sport; the reader/performer is the team, the audience and the coach. 

Extreme reading exercises the brain and can improve coordination when re-filling lemonade glasses require frequent trips into the house  (setting the book down isn't allowed;  the extreme reader can walk and read at the same time, navigating stairs and thresholds with ease).  After cocktail hour begins and vodka is added to the lemonade, the challenge of extreme reading increases.  Barked shins and bruised books serve as evidence of extreme reading while under the influence. 

This summer, with its sweltering, sweaty heat (yes, even here in the UP, we're stewing daily in 85+ degree weather), has forced me outside to work on my book.  The laptop runs hot, so I set up the extreme nerd outdoor office, consisting of a TV tray table and a shelf with my reference materials stationed at my elbow.  We don't have central air conditioning because we would only use it about once every five years, so we seek shade and air movement outside to survive the threat of heat stroke.  We dream of blizzards and icicles, hoping the mental images will trick our brains into cooling us off.  So far, it isn't working, but at least I'm getting some writing done. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The roar of the keys

Some days my writing is on fire. I can barely hear my thoughts over the roar of the keys. My focus is completely internal as I listen to my inner voice and close my eyes to shut out all visual distractions, determined to capture every salient phrase bursting from my brain. These miraculous times only last five to thirty minutes, but the resulting paragraphs and disconnected concepts are so rich I can build on them for hours. Word count doesn't matter; subject doesn't matter; personal comfort doesn't matter (I'll cross my legs for an hour if necessary to avoid halting the flow of ideas).

And so, I write. I write until my fingers are numb and I can no longer focus on anything beyond the computer screen. Sometimes I find myself wondering what is that object on the shelf across the room? Oh, its a clock. But it's stopped, so it must not matter what time it is right now. I purposely keep the clock there, in my direct line of sight, perpetually reading 6:00 and assuring me there's time to write, time to create, time to compose. A dead clock is very calming for my type A mind--there's nothing to race and I'm free to write slowly or quickly until the page is full or the chapter is finished.

Write on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

No time to read? Horrors!

"I don't have time to read,"  mused my friend.  I'll call her Dora.  Dora Boring.

I considered her statement, glancing around her immaculate house and yard.  She doesn't work more than 25 hours per week (I work 50 outside the home, not counting my writing);  she has two kids and a husband and never seems to play catch-up with her laundry or run out of vital household supplies such as toilet paper or beer.  She drinks gin and tonics on her front porch (without a book).

"Did you  hear me?"  Dora says.  "I want to read, I just don't have time.  I'm too busy!"

I contemplate this.  I'm usually too busy to read on the four days I work my full-time job each week, and I'm usually exhausted at the end of each business day.  This means I read while brushing my teeth and getting dressed, a skill I've perfected over the years, holding the book out while balancing on one foot, strategically jutting out one hip or the other so my jeans don't fall off when they're halfway on.  If I ever lose an arm, I'll still be able to dress myself.  I also listen to audiobooks in the truck, rarely driving longer than ten minutes without enjoying a story or a book about writing.

Back to Dora.  She watches the news, like a good citizen.  I don't watch the news because it would cut into my reading time, and I'm constantly pretending to know what people are talking about while I scramble to catch up.  "I just caught the tail end of the story,"  I usually say, "can you fill me in?"

Dora also volunteers for every committee, fundraiser, and community event, and gives her time and resources selflessly.  She misuses words and installs an apostrophe at the end of every plural word, but the only things she writes are checks and Christmas cards.  She decorates her house, passes the local homeless man gourmet sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and attends every school-sponsored event.  If there is a gathering of more than six people in our town, Dora's there.  She's involved.  Connected.  Vital.

I, on the other hand, am reading.  Instead of decorating, I wipe the dust off the walls (one handed, of course; the other hand is clutching a book) every three years or so, to discover the true hue.  I greet the homeless man, but never feed him.  I don't even fix myself gourmet sandwiches, as it's nearly impossible to spread anything on bread with one hand.  I eat only for maintenance, not for enjoyment.  I carry at least one book with me everywhere; right now I have one in my purse, one in my nerd bag, and an audio book ready to play on my iPhone. I also have two books I'm working on writing:  one in the end stages of editing and one in the beginning stages of note-taking. 

Dora's watching my face as I'm mulling over her statement;  mere seconds have passed, but my head is full of weighty justifications for her not reading and (slight) doubts about the habit I allow to rule my life to the exclusion of nearly all else.

"I understand,"  I tell Dora, vowing to watch the news tomorrow.  "You really are too busy!"

I probably won't watch the news tomorrow.  I'll have to find out what happens next in my book.  What would happen if everyone were like me, hiding in their houses reading books?  Society would probably collapse.  I guess I'll let Dora continue to volunteer and watch the news;  I'll regret not being more involved, and she'll regret not reading.  Society will survive.