Time Isn’t After Us
Monday morning I woke up at 2am. Hungover from the Super Bowl (that we didn’t even watch). I was just laying there in the bed and wondered why I’d woken up.
Then I heard it, a short scream coming from above. I sat up in the bed and looked at the darkened ceiling.
I don’t have any weapons in my apartment.
The sound came again. I realized it wasn’t a short scream, it was my upstairs neighbor sneezing.
I realized this as he blew his nose. A big honk. I don’t have any weapons in my apartment because I’ll probably accidentally shoot someone through their floor boards as they sneeze in the dark.
When I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep, I couldn’t. I checked my phone to see what time it was, and the second I looked at my phone, I was wired, and dreamland was a lost thing.
So I got out of the bed and walked out into the apartment, and worked on a short story instead of laying there until five am, not being able to doze back off. I’m just trying to steal any time I can. Any time at all.
I know myself. I’m 34 and I’ve figured out what I suck at, at what is nearly impossible for me. That nearly impossible thing is falling back asleep.
Had some coffee. Cooked some pork chops on the stove. Wrote the short story, 2000 shitty words that I copied and pasted into my email, emailed it to myself so I could work on it some more if I was able to steal the time at my day job. Lunch break or coffee break, whatnot.
I put on my work clothes, threw the pork chops in a plastic bag and walked out of the building, to find my car on the street somewhere, wherever I left it. The sun would rise in an hour and a half, as I drive out of NYC into NJ. My job at the oil refinery.
It’s hard for me to keep a steady schedule for making art. There’s too many things that can go wrong on a daily basis.
Like for instance, yesterday, I was going to come home and work on my dumb novel, but as I was trying to badge out and escape through the turnstiles, my work asked me to stay overtime. An eight hour work day turned into ten, then turned into twelve hours. By the time I got home there was only enough time to drink beer with my wife, laugh like crazy and not hide in the room where my desk is and concentrate on some lonely bullshit.
I’m of the soft-skulled variety that thinks that the only way you can make sure you are dumping all of your humanity into your art, is if you find time to recharge the batteries of your life. Find time for five minutes, ten minutes of creativity, on a daily basis. But more importantly make sure you’re getting hours of joy with good people. Don’t carry around a suitcase filled with pointless grudges, jealousy and same song complaints. I tried as best I could to lose as much of that bullshit as I could and I’m happy it’s gone.
Steal five minutes when you can focus on art.
Give away hours to food, drink, thumb wrestling matches, vinyl records, dog walks, long way home drives, mix tapes, naked knock knock jokes, telephone calls to friends you can trick into answering the phone. But save some perfect minutes for creativity.
If I’m at my day job, and I stumble on ten minutes to work on writing, and I’m in the mood, I just go for it—who knows when I’ll get those ten minutes so I try to stay on my toes. I always have my cellphone in my pocket and so I just write on my cellphone. It’s convenient, and amazing to have a little computer thar fits in my blue jeans covered in tar. Back in the day we carved our stories into cave walls. No more, baby.
Typing with your thumbs like a text-drunk teenager is a pain in the ass, so I have a blu tooth keyboard I use sometimes. That sits where I eat my lunch at work. I connect my phone to the blu tooth and type while my coworkers eat their sandwiches and tell jokes/call each other motherfuckers …
If I don’t have my phone or if it’s dead, I handwrite with a pen, and later, I’ve found the quickest way, and the only way to guarantee that I’ll ‘type up’ what I handwrite, is to simply read what is hand written on the paper out loud to the dictation on my phone.
“Hey Siri, are you ready to learn more about New Jersey?”
The dictation is sometimes sloppy and most of the time really glitchy and screwed up, but who cares? It’s going to get edited anyway.
The most important thing is just to be moving in the direction of working on something creative.
I’ve mentioned before about carrying index cards around with me as I’ve written novels at work. I did that with my novel F 250. I wrote a chapters worth (1200 words summarized loosely) of bullet points on an index card and looked at that right before lunch. At lunch, I wrote the 1200 words. I had forty five minutes to get it done, and tried my best to get a first draft done …When I was done with the card for the day, I moved onto the next one, next day.
I’m doing that again for a new novel I’m working on.
I’m no rocket scientist, so I’m not going to pretend that what I do is complex. If it was complex it would explode on the launch pad before taking off.
All making art is for me, is me sitting there eating a bruised banana and a stale sandwich, drinking gas station coffee, and typing as fast as I can before my boss comes walking in and says. “We gotta go set the crane up, now. Let’s go.”
Between working a full time job and all of the other things that living a life means, it feels easy to put the act of making some art on the back burner.
But seriously, fuck that.
I think I use creativity as a means of self-therapy. As a kind of meditation. As a reset switch to get rid of some of the stress that I have from everyday this or that … those things that piss me off, like being woken up at 2am by some aggressive sneezes. How I couldn’t find my car for ten minutes on the street this morning and it snowed and everything was white and ice covered and looked the same. How the minutes zip by in a flash and as soon as you notice, you’re 83 years old.
How else do I steal time out of my day to write?
When it’s time to leave work, I could fight my way out of the employee parking lot with everybody else, but instead, I let the lot clear out. Today I sat in the work trailer, and wrote for a few minutes while that happened. Finished up that story that I started at 2am the other day. I’ve got to remember to knock on that neighbor’s door later and tell him to shut the hell up with all the moonlight noise.
When I get home from work, the first thing I do is drink a cup of coffee leftover from the morning pot I made. Microwave that up. All this microwave ever gets used for is bacon and coffee. All hail science. Quick as I can, I go right to my desk, unshowered and impatient, and I try to lose myself in twenty minutes of writing.
It’s got to be quick, because I don’t sit at the computer and work on stuff when my wife walks in the door, and she’s usually home around 6:30. I try as hard as I can to not waste any time for that twenty minutes fucking around on Facebook. Fucking around on Twitter. Fucking around on messenger. Of course I fail and wind up shooting the shit with Brian Alan Ellis on Facebook messenger, that punk, but I try.
There’s nothing precious about making stories. Or drawing pictures. Or playing in a rawk n roll band. I don’t have time for precious.
There’s not really time for anything.
I blink and the day is over. You blink and your day is over too. You’ve got babies and lawns to mow and snow to shovel. I’ve got to register my car and wash my jeans in the bath tub.
Today, go make something beautiful. Send it to me. I want to see. I’ve got all the time in the world for that. And if you get woken up in the middle of the night by one of your asshole neighbors, look for me on Facebook messenger, I’m probably there. Like a sukka. Awake. Not dreaming.
*all images by Rae Buleri