Yesterday was Bilbo Baggins’s birthday.
It’s the only fictional-character-birthday I know, and not because I’m a big Tolkien nerd (though I am), but because it’s also my sister’s birthday. Just before my own birthday earlier in the month (or as I like to think of it: the annual reminder from my mother about what LABOR day REALLY means!) I read a piece referring to September as the fresh start of the new year for many pre-Gregorian-calendar cultures.
That feels right to me.
Maybe it’s because my personal calendar turns over its “counter” in September; maybe it’s because the rhythm of school-years imbued my early decades of calendar-use; or maybe it’s because I tend to start things at this time of year.
Case in point: my Blog’s (11th) birthday is today.
In its early years I posted several times a week—a frequency facilitated by the fact that I was freelance-writing for a living, i.e. always at the computer, and when I hit a wall and needed a brain-break, the most natural draw was the open browser-tab with my FUN writing in it. In recent years I’ve drifted away, and back, and away again… and today I notice that my “back-agains” arose in autumn or winter, every time. My creative life broadens as day-length dwindles. I’ve never made that connection until just now, counterintuitive at first blush… but in the next beat, I felt its truth.
My job, too, has a seasonal rhythm. Last week’s rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up, marked an end to the months where a “day off” might mean only five work-hours instead of nine to fourteen. This week I’m filling our RV sites with monthly residents, traveling workmen arriving for construction on a nearby wind farm, and the processing of guests (phone call, reservation, questions, email, park map, check-in, orientation, more questions, parking, hookup, other questions, conversation, check-out) will drop from the turnover of a thousand guests a month to just a few dozen. You could say our “work-week” is organized on an annual scale: Spring as “Monday”, Summer as “Tuesday-to-Thursday”, Fall as “casual Friday,” and Winter—long-awaited and hard-earned—is more or less our weekend.
Well how fortuitous! The circannual rhythm of my Creative cycle may actually be synced with a job where I have TIME, just when I might actually be most disposed to (literally) make something of it. The purple index card taped to my roll-top desk just above my screen is my reminder:
Time is the currency of your art. In this transaction … writing accepts no form of payment other than your time. “~Paulette Perhach
A person can BE A WRITER without publishing books you’ve heard of (or even, as in my case, published in books you’ve never heard of). A person can BE A WRITER without publishing anything at all, ever. It’s not the publishing that “makes” a writer—it’s the act of writing. So what a person can’t do… is be a writer if she’s Not Writing. In high school I lettered in cross-country, but (for several decades now) it would be inaccurate to say I AM a runner. Same goes, if I don’t engage in the act of writing.
But. Have you ever seen a visual aid of air-flow being deflected around an aerodynamic vehicle or shape?
That’s exactly like my brain’s response to a blank screen: it veers to the side so smoothly I don’t even notice I’ve been redirected.
I am really skilled–disgustingly skilled–at sitting down “to write” and then tripping down a rabbit-hole of writing-related-activity that is still Not Writing. I might be fiddling with settings or images on the blog, or fussing with my writing area, or (my most frequent offender) looking something up for the piece I’m “working on.” This summer I wanted to come up with a visual detail to add texture to a scene (a Manhattan street in 1841) and I ended up spending two days on historic maps and buildings and businesses and newspapers—finally pulled myself up, midway through reading the script of a play that had been onstage at the time… In two days at the computer, I had written one sentence. Framed as entertainment, it’s fine—I get a kick out of that kind of thing. But in terms of productivity? Fail!
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