Saturday, December 17, 2011


 Depending on one’s interests and preferences, the word putter has multifarious potentials in verb and noun form.  You will dismiss the most obvious noun use out of hand; you have no interest in golf.  You have on a scale of one-to-ten perhaps a one, a scant one of conversation with those who have a nine or ten interest in the game.  As a noun, putter means a club used to advance the ball to the cu once the ball has advanced to the green, that area directly about the cup.  This is as far as you are willing to take the noun.

The verb “to putter” has significant permutations relative to your interest in writing in specific and the literary life in general, thus putter as a verb can be conflated with the procrastination necessary to get yourself into a writing mood and, eventually, writing mode.

Similar, but not congruent, puttering can be the procrastination you undertake to delay the beginning of a writing session.  This kind of puttering can be procrastination because you have a place to write about but have not yet come upon a way to reach that destination.  You can also procrastination putter because you have a place to go but for some reason or reasons, you find yourself unwilling to proceed.  This is often the time for serious puttering such as embarking on a major distraction such as shopping for groceries, browsing the selection of new arrivals at Zappos, or driving Sally to the shampoo salon in Summerland.

In a more generic sense, puttering can be reading a particular book, skimming a stack or books, ordering books from online sources, or, in the case of serious puttering, driving to Chaucer’s an independent book store of some considerable size.  If you wish an extended putter, The Book Den is appropriate because of its downtown location, which means more time necessary to find a parking space, even though The Book Den is in easy walking distance.

Puttering is trolling for ideas, energy, connections.  When you troll thusly, you are trolling the entire universe.  Subjects of no previous interest to you take on exquisite attraction to the point where you are only too willing to continue your research at the library or online via data bases and web sites.

A splendid puttering strategy of considerable use begins with a notebook that must be fresh, which is to say with no entries on any of its pages. If no notebooks with unmarked leaves are available, there arises the question of where to secure such virginal volumes, which necessitates a decision relative to the farthest source from where you are.  So far as you have been able to determine, the most remote place is the student store at the university, in Goleta, but perhaps there is a source to the south, in Carpinteria.

Actual sessions of composition and/or revision are great fun.  No question about it.  These sessions are even more meaningful because they have produced some form of material you have written as opposed to materials from other sources that you have scanned or photocopied, the latter sessions remarkable more for the writing they kept you from committing to some kind of keepable format as opposed to things you have “thought through.

Puttering is fun as well as inspirational.  A proper session of profitable puttering should produce at least one potentially fecund idea for a story that you will write the hell out of as soon as you have organized your notes and looked in on the books you’ve purchased or borrowed in pursuit of some trail of curiosity.

You are not the sort of putter who needs to organize the notes he has applied in several relatively fresh notebooks lying about the house.  For one thing, this activity would require a large ring binder and a sufficient supply of dividers, all of which would require a specific label because there is, so far as you can see, absolutely no value in having all your notes together in one place if the subject dividers are not given exacting captions.  Nor would you be content with the bellows-type file arrangement because this would require time spent in maintenance, which you simply do not have, given your teaching and writing loads, nor do you have time to sort through the drawer of your writing table nor the pockets, drawers, and artful crannies of the antique secretary you inherited from your mother.

This last activity is not really puttering.  It is instead simple compulsive behavior, an activity with which you are mercifully spared.  You have better things to do with your time.

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