Sunday, December 7, 2014

Word Lengths

This is all about the lengths you go to obsess over elements vital to a story or narrative, in order to be aware of them so that you can not write them but write about them as though they were there. 

A portion of a behavior fast on its way to becoming a routine for you is to take one or more books, or one book and a literary review, or a literary review and a laptop computer to a coffee shop.  

Once your order is placed, you search for a place with a convenient plug,even though the chances are you have at least five or six battery hours available if not the entire complement.

You have come away from home, with a near ideal place to work; there is little noise of streaming traffic, no foot traffic to speak of, and few things to distract you,should you chose to look forty-five degrees to your right,where there is a bank of windows, looking out on a small-but-well-tended garden, quirky in its idiosyncratic placement of ceramics made by your landlady.  You leave this for the ambient noise of a coffee shop.

In recent months, your coffee shop of choice is a branch of a coffee shop you were at some pains to avoid.  You're on a first-name basis with the employees of this new place, The Daily Grind, adding its presence of savory and articulate coffee, a regular feature of a fresh fruit cocktail, and pastry well above the level of your favorite coffee shop, Peet's.  More often than not, you sit in the patio area, taking shade from the sun, yet intrigued by the ambient noise of passing traffic on De la Vina Street.

Of the Vine is a good name for a street around here.  You used to live a block away from a street called Parra Grande, in celebration of the huge grape vine that grew somewhere on the street.  This may seem a distraction, a purposeful lurch away from the topic at hand, which is your work habits--or some of them.  You can and do work with a cup of coffee at your side when working at home, so it is not the fact of you being too lazy to make your own coffee that takes you out of the house.  Rather, the catalyst is the calm, the quiet, the comfortable, which are not always your best friends.

You are at The Daily Grind or Peet's, or on the occasional safari to Carpinteria and the Lucky Llama, which you do visit because the coffee is consistent in its taste and aroma.  You are at these places in part to require of yourself the extra focus--and extra coffee--to remove as many masks of identity from your writing persona as possible.  This effort wants focus.

Yet even here, away from a comfortable working atmosphere, you find difficulty attacking either of the books or the combination of a book and a literary review, or the most provocative combination of all, the literary review and your laptop.  

Of all the coffee shops, The Lucky Llama has the best combination, coffee, pastry, and greenery/succulents.  The French Press is close with its coffee, close with the pastry.  While there are few plants, there is the front patio opening on State Street, which is the main drag of Santa Barbara.  The Daily Grind has some succulents, a stream of traffic on De la Vina, first-rate coffee, an overall civilized menu of pastry..  

These details, with their strengths and mitigating factors present themselves to remind you of the real reason driving you out of the house.  Details.  

Often, the laptop, the books, or the literary journals remain unread or unused, perhaps not even consulted.  This response means they will have to be consulted later, producing the irony whereby the real focus to be exerted is the one of pushing sleep away until you're able to read and absorb, or write and consider.

Meanwhile, you sit, in a condition somewhere between feeling stunned and alert to the potentials for connect the results of the things about you that draw your attention away from the writing pad or the computer screen.  You reckon there is more at stake here than mere details.  What is at stake is the distracting awareness of little things.  How the trash is collected.  Why are there no birds at The Daily Grind until a customer with a bear claw or Danish comes outside.  Why are dogs nervous here?

And you; why are you so drawn to phenomena you're already aware of, phenomena that are in essence quite ordinary?  Why should you be drawn to these things unless they are for you reminders of the importance of every dramatic moment and the need for removal of all other moments?

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