Unsupervised and adrift

On Friday morning, I took my lovely wife and my astoundingly delightful 4-year-old son to the airport for their trip up to Thunder Bay for a 5 day visit. I don’t want to read any kind of ominous foretelling into anything, but I did receive a wretched paper cut on the inside crease of my left index finger while removing the old baggage tag from their suitcase, so I was physically wounded by the process of their departure. Once I left the airport, I started to notice an odd absence of direction and purpose.  It turns out that I am so very happy with the routine of my normal life and my happy family, that I have no back-up programming to use in case of bachelorhood. There’s really nothing I can’t do when they’re around, so the freedom of being unrestricted is pretty uninspiring. The only thing I could think of was eating terribly.

And eat terribly I did! In the course of the rest of my mopey Friday, I ate about a pound of ju jubes, a big hunk of ribs, a can of Pringles chips, several diet colas, 5 cups of coffee all before 6pm. When I’m only finding for myself, I have astoundingly low standards. By the time I met up with a couple of friends downtown, I was bloated, nauseous and still pining for my family. I did manage to pull out of my culinary nose dive and avoid ordering deep-fried pickles, so there was that, at least. And when I woke up this morning, the abused lining of my stomach cried in misery and upset for a good long time. I had to gently negotiate a peace treaty with my digestive tract so that it would allow me to have a cup of coffee. It’s funny that eating terribly can punish your gut the same way a night of boozing does.For the rest of the day, thankfully, I have been restrained and wise in my food choices.

And don’t be fooled into thinking I’m not trying to be productive during this brief monastic adventure. I’m trying my best to assume the guise of the manic and productive writer, who slaves away at the word machine from the moment he wakes up until the tallow burns so low that the eyestrain brings terrible visions and miserable migraines. So far I’ve had some qualified success at this. I’m still, at the young age of 37, learning how to hold my nose to the grindstone and keep at a task well past the point where the joy and fun has vanished. The big ideas and bits of dialogue that pop into my head out of nowhere are the fun bits of writing, but the rest of the iceberg, the part that makes it a career and not a casual hobby, is the grind.

It’s a strange circumstance I find myself in. I’ve made some progress in creating an actual writing process that isn’t “sit down, start panicking, and write until I get stuck”. Each day that I follow my new routine, I feel like I’m more aware of the story I’m working on, and I’m starting to accept all of the advice people give writers about the importance of doing revisions and multiple drafts of a story, and that is some good stuff to buy into. However, as I develop a better system of working on a story, I’m realizing that it take s a lot more time than I usually anticipate. To be fair, my previous timeline estimates have been wild guesses designed only to push me forward into writing, so they really shouldn’t be taken as accurate predictions of when the work will get done.

Another wrinkle that I didn’t see coming: after finishing an 8 hour day of writing, it would be really nice to have the family here and not just the useless cat. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced this level of solitary loneliness, especially in my own house. It’s a good reminder of how essential my wonderful wife and boy are, and how very very lucky I am to have my family. I hope I can stick to my industrious plan and have a real sense of accomplishment to share with them when they come back. Oh, and I’ll have to buy some more treat candy for the lad, to replace what I ate while he wasn’t here.

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