A few months ago, I started putting in a few hours a week writing, in preparation for the ostensible writing day (that would be today, and I only blew three hours on Zelda, for the record). The supposed writing ended up being more on the side of of micromanaging and folder shuffling, and some *pleasant re-reads of things I forgot I was capable of, one, and B of all, had created.
Some time in the summer of 2009, in the midst of writing some of the most depressing, alcohol-soaked poems I ever hope to and wandering the alleyways of Bloomfield soaked in alcohol sweat, armed with a sixer of PBR tall boys, I had a few sharp moments. These came when I would try and distract myself from the horrid little self-fulfilling prophecy of The Snail Colony, the project I was working on.
For fun, I recorded a few real good chunks of bar conversation in shorthand in my pocket notebook. Then I took them home and wrote things like this:
Don’t ever be fooled by the slick, the suits and the perfumed. They all take classes on how to shake hands like stand-up human beings, right after they’re given a costume to cover up the lizard skin. Those types rarely come in, but it’s a joy to give them a dead-eyed stare when they ask for wine, or laugh when they ask if I know how to make a margarita.
Of course, I do. Any idiot with a barbook and booze can. But fuck me if I’m dicking around with that horseshit. This is a Dive, not a fucking club for the slimy professionals, the suburbanites and the floozies. Dives are places where you come in, talk with your friends about how sore your body will be tomorrow after today’s work and tonight’s drunk. You get a shot with your beer, you smoke a dozen cigarettes, you leave the tip on the inside bar ledge. You don’t fuck around. Places like this are the links of chain in a lot of lives. Most of all the bartender’s. Whether they like it or not, the bar becomes woven into the fabric of their life. Bartending is not a job, it’s a sad devotion to a dying way of life. It’s a slot saved for zealots and nighthawks, a breed or two higher than the panicked robots you find at a club, black-shirted fascists pouring from jiggered bottles, marked up by 80%. Slide them the credit card, they’ll slide you a 16 dollar Long Island. I’ll do that for 8, and mine will actually get the job done. Given the choice between blind profit, letting a Gucci-clad fuck buy a girl the drink that will let him rip her to shreds with his rejection-tempered dick, or listening to Carrie Belle rattle on about when she used to shoot league darts, I’ll take the $ 2.50 cash tip on that hour, not the 40 on a receipt. Real bartenders deal in straight cash, facts, rumors and heresy. Real bartenders aren’t smart enough to be greedy. It’s a life of oppressive dignity.
The joy of being so completely scattershot with my writing effort is that I occasionally find these little surprise gems, polish them up, and realize I finished my first short story in three years. The angry fellow in the above text is Lloyd, one of the denizens of an imaginary Faulknerian city somewhat like Pittsburgh. He knows other people in other stories, and has probably seen some of them naked, but not too many, because angry people are never that popular.
I have realized, over the short years I have logged, that writing follows much the same patterns of discipline and ability as anything else. If you haven’t really sat down and worked at it for more than a few hours on a consistent basis, you’ll end up playing Zelda for three hours, being happy about a single piece of fiction, and move files around for an hour. That ardent procrastination is a motherfucker, and this workout plan, for now, is leaving me sore and grouchy, that kind you know will leave you feeling better in the morning. One of these days I’ll get up and have my morning constitutional and find a novel before I flush. One of these days.