Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 293

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I’ve gotten out of the habit and I’m trying to be gentle with myself about that. There’s a time and place for everything and my time and place have changed since I started this blog. 2020 looks better with the lights off, blissfully dreaming.

But I want to write sometimes and that’s where I’m at right now. I’m thinking about July, as I often do, thinking about the summer when it’s not summer, because summer is inescapable, the sticky heat, the haunting trees, the exasperating blue skies. Thirteen years ago, when I was 17, I wrote a poem at a summer camp. I wrote after curfew and got a few words from my roommate who wanted me to turn my light off, he was trying to sleep.

What a different time.

Last night brought restlessness before a few good dreams. I was thinking about work, about the people, not the job, and about brushfires, and about Iran. Most days, it seems like the world is just as restless as me. It has all these big things in front of it and lashes out anxiously. It can’t sit down, can’t focus, can’t come together, so we just keep killing or looting or burning, because fire warms up the coldest black heart, and disaster is at least some kind of momentum. But I think, really, what we’re all wanting is to calm down, take a good long breath, and find that place that’s peaceful enough for us to write something every morning. The freedom to think about your life is a luxury, one people less fortunate than me are dying for.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Sometimes we can become too holy and therefore, caged.

Charles Bukowski, On Writing

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 225

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I got a spam comment on a Coffee Log from a couple days ago inviting me to click a link for an online gambling site. The fact that this algorithm caught me from the sea of thousands upon thousands of wordpress blogs is a little flattering. I’ve got the eyes of internet scammers. I’m worth being fished.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

In all seriousness, though, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to define my own success. When I was a kid, I used to say I’d only be satisfied if I won a Nobel Prize. Okay, let’s be honest, I was saying that as late as a few years ago. But things have changed. I had a lot of setbacks on the path I’d set for myself as a writer. And, even more damning, I’ve had a lot of successes in things that have nothing to do with writing.

No-one really knows what they’re looking for. The prize lacks luster when you find it. And one trip’s end just begins another. Etc, etc. I’m on the brink of 30. That’s not old in the whole of human population, but it looks like a milestone to me. One clear feeling has crept out of the space between the big ‘3’ and ‘0’, and that’s a sense of dis-belonging – or, to put it another way, that life isn’t so much about being recognized as about recognizing yourself. With or without a Nobel, 99% of your time is spent with yourself.

So I’m trying to write for me. Turns out, that’s more challenging than imagining my best-selling audience right around the corner. Sitting down to type something is no different than being alone, and being alone can be both brutally honest and miserly un-forthcoming. You’re not a question. There’s no answer to yourself. You’ll get up tomorrow and things will change or they won’t. Maybe you’ll be the one to change them. But none of that comes home with you. You only go to sleep with dreams of wildflowers, mixed magic, spidersilk.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I hardly ever do anything, but I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to do it. If I hadn’t given my word to a faceless health insurer to lay off smoking for $30 a month, I’d light something right now. But your word’s important, and you’ve got to stick to it, even when you’d rather be burning up.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Yes, I know what you mean about writing and writers. We seem to have lost the target. Writers seem to write to be known as writers. They don’t write because something is driving them toward the edge.

Charles Bukowski, On Writing

Coffee Log, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I was one of those kids who wouldn’t tell his parents a lick about the schoolday.

“How was it?”

“Fine.”

I was similarly stonefaced with friends.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Nothing.”

It was two things: a bit of adolescent embarrassment and a deeper fear that if I let on about the things that moved me, they’d lose their magic somehow. Oh how the times have changed.

As an aspiring author and daily blogger, my life’s cut open like a cleaned fish. There aren’t enough things happening outside of me to have the option of sequestering myself. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed to be open. But that’s a topic for a therapist.

I started to notice the effects of this a couple years ago as I was writing a book. The book was about Japan, about Yamakasa – a Fukuoka festival I’d attended in 2014. The scenes and settings are yanked out of my memory and tinkered until they fit the story. I’ve never had the knack of a fantasy author – the spark of creation, so to speak – so all my writing pulls heavy from places I’ve been and breathed.

Anyway, as I was writing this book, a funny thing happened: when I’d daydream about my time in Fukuoka, I started to see myself in the novel’s version of the city. If I’d changed the name of this or that restaurant, or maybe moved a cafe across town, the memory of me walking her August streets took me through the story; I had trouble digging back to where I’d really been. It was startling. I felt I’d lost something. Well, I had. I had replaced that ‘something’ with words.

I figure that’s why so many writers drink (or otherwise touch oblivion): you cut apart what’s most precious to feed your work.

I wouldn’t give it up. I really couldn’t at this point. In a way, I’m still yelling “Fine!” and “Nothing!” Only now those words ring true to everything outside the book.

Novel Count: 11,198 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway