Friday, February 24, 2006

Unwilling--That's Me

...to sit down and shut up that is.

I've been teetering on the brink of the high-dive for a month now preparing to take the plunge back into political commentary here on Joystory. My miniscule pool of regular readers will have noticed that I have been shying away from it since the loss of my father last September--followed quickly by two more grief wammies--which made it difficult for me on multiple levels to continue to focus intensely on the issues that I'd been obsessing on for the previous five years. Grief and guilt were a black hole that threatened to swallow what hope I had managed to cultivate. I had to take a complete hiatus from reading or watching any politics from early December thru mid to late January.

Grief needs no explaination but you might wonder, Why guilt? Well, I have explained that at length at some point last fall. I'm in too much of a rush to hunt for the link(s) right now but may try to add them later. Anyway the short version: My family are fundamentalists and, at least last I heard, starry-eyed Bush supporters. Now, even tho I broke with the religion of my childhood nearly thirteen years ago, I did not break with my family. It was, and is, a loving and close knit family. I cannot even use the word 'wingnut' in any context because whenever I see it being used, I know that those using it would include my loving family under the umbrella of that pejorative and I refuse to be a part of that. I know for a fact that these people are sane, rational, concerned, compassionate citizens. The just have a different world-view thru which they filter incoming data. They have a right to that and they have a right to be respected!

So my dilemma has been about how to deal with feelings of disloyalty as I continue to participate in the national progressive dialog. But it is about more than feelings. It is also about how to maintain my own sense of integrity. I find it hard to maintain a close relationship with those whom I cannot share nintety percent of what is occupying my heart and mind and time. And yet, I find it impossible to live with myself while denying those things that exercise my heart and mind.

The title of this post links to a post on RenaRF's On the Left Tip in which she has reminded me of what I already knew: I have no right to opt out. Because every voice counts. Because it is going to get worse before it gets better. Because it is going to take a lot of voices to tip the ballance back to a progressive agenda. Because things have been this bad--or worse--before and the only thing that precipitated change was the '...unwillingness of a group of educated and motivated people to sit down and shut up.'

Count me in as one of the unwilling. Thanks to RenaRF I am taking the plunge.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lost in Translation

I am becoming so spoiled by the liberal use of replay while watching DVDs that, not only am I getting frustrated with not having it available while watching TV, I am catching myself quite frequently of late actually making the same motion with my right hand--index finger extended towards a non-existent keyboard--in response to a real life, real-time event as I do when I get confused by a scene in a movie playing on my laptop. I catch myself hankering for English subtitles too.

This began to come into focus for me as I watched the movie Lost in Translation this past weekend. I don’t know if I am getting the whole point intended by the director/writer Sofia Coppola--there are probably subtleties that I am missing--but the major metaphor of being culturally transplanted and finding oneself overwhelmed by the complexities of a foreign culture seems pretty straightforward. What I am wondering tho, is whether Coppola intended for me to see this as a metaphor for my own life right here, inside my own culture.

Because that is exactly the reaction I had as the impact of the visual and audible chaos of the Tokyo scenery scurried across the screen. I bet the experience of seeing this on the big screen would have enhanced this effect. Possibly to the point of inducing a panic attack on me. Because excessive light, motion, and noise are the things that would often set one off. But besides those assaults on the senses there was also the more subtle effect of confusion generated by encountering foreign non-verbal communications, which are even less translatable than verbal ones. As these elements of the film became conscious to me, I also became aware that this is how I’ve always felt inside my own life. This could be at the very root of my anxiety issues.

Even before my visual and hearing impairments became an issue in my life in my late twenties, most of the moments of my life were lost in translation. I know that I developed the habit early on--grade school if not before--of replaying in my mind over and over certain events that left me feeling confused or anxious, trying to make them make sense but never being quite sure that I ever ‘got it’ as the saying goes. I remember times when I realized days or even weeks later that a certain cast of eye, a certain set of lips when certain words were spoken was intended to convey to me an attitude towards me on the part of the speaker. It took me even longer to figure out that these facial contortions were as codified as vocabulary words. Thus it was that my cheeks would burn with shame a week after I had been humiliated by a classmate or my heart would warm with pleasure as I dropped off to sleep while remembering the complement a teacher gave my essay that afternoon. It seems I have seldom experienced my life in real-time. Now, having gleaned this insight about myself from watching Coppola’s film, I am left to wonder if she meant for me to see this because her metaphor was intended to expose this common plight of humanity. Or am I reading more than was intended into this metaphor because there is something uncommon about the way I relate to my world--either because of the insular and eccentric cult-like religion I was raised in or because my brain was miss-wired.
Brain miss-wiring has been on my radar screen for a couple years ever since my sister and her son were diagnosed with ADD and she started pressing the literature on me because she sees elements of it in both me and our mother. I did further research on ADD when I needed a physical disorder with behavioral manifestations for a child character in my novel Brooding Instinct. But after exploring a number of such disorders, including Tourette’s Syndrome, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Bi-Polar disorder, and autism, I settled on Asperger’s Syndrome which is considered a high-functioning autism. The concept of a continuum from severe to mild with these disorders really intrigued me for that implies that there are many, many people making their way through life with brain-wiring that is just this side of optimal, who have never been diagnosed with any disorder but who interact with their environment in ways that disconcert their parents, peers, employers--their social milieu in other words--who attempt to exact a conformity of behavior from them that is as attainable as flight for pigs.

There seem to be a number of ways besides cultural transplantation that can cause the communication between any two persons or any individual and their environment to become lost in translation. To contemplate this is to wonder, ’How in the world does any successful communication occur ever?’ Am I reading too much into this film? Does it matter?

ADDENDUM: I was working on this post most of Tuesday afternoon and had it ready to go by eight o’clock. When Tuesday night’s episode of Boston Legal dealt with aspects of this theme, I tried to find a way to insert reference to it seamlessly into this essay but could not. At least not if I want to get this posted before five. So I am just sticking it on the end. I am referring to the case confronting the James Spader character in which he represents a precocious nine-year-old girl who is unable to smile because the nerves that control the facial muscles don’t work. I was unclear as to whether this was due to a birth defect or an accident. His objective was to encourage the board of a fusty private school to reverse its refusal to admit her. How he eventually succeeded was quintessential Alan Shore but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet since that isn’t essential to my point. That being further reflection on the fragility of communication, the hubris of assumptions that put more value on conformity than integrity, and the futility of aspiring to fit in when that entails self-assassination. I was entirely charmed by how the relationship between the two developed, by his immense compassion for the child and the way he conveyed to her his total acceptance and admiration of her. The writer’s seemed to be making obvious comparisons between her involuntary ‘poker face’ and his well practiced ‘dead pan’. He seemed to be seeing himself in her and since the mother was an old sexual liaison of his, I can’t help but wonder if the writers are preparing the ground for revealing she is his daughter. If not, they should be. I can’t think of a better plot twist for his character right now. It would make the perfect complement to the impending nuptials of his buddy Denny Crane, played by William Shatner. Besides, I have an affinity with this child and want to see more of her and especially more of their interactions. What better way to give her a recurring role. How I wish I could have recorded this episode so I could replay it. I have to assume that I missed more than I got what with my own visual, hearing, social and emotional impairments.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Drifting Shifts, Tussling Tools and Wrangling Words

I’ve let another full week go by without posting. Every day it gets harder to face. This time it’s because my writer's tools seemed to have declared war on me. I had a frustrating experience getting my post up last weekend. This was partly due to having gotten rusty at using the Blogger editor but mostly due to Blogger having some issues of their own. First, I did not get my post ready before I had to clear out of the living room at five Saturday morning. I had reached the editing stage but once it was edited in the word processor it still had to be transferred to the Blogger editor where it looses most of the formatting--italics, paragraph breaks, font style.

After sleeping about three hours Saturday morning I got back to work and when I was ready to transfer to the Blogger editor, I started preparing to return to the living room to go online. I was planning to leave the power cord behind because my husband and his parent’s dog, Sweetie, were out there and I didn’t want to have the cord strung across the main path through the room. To save battery power, I wanted to have AOL and an IE browser window open before I unplugged. In the latter, I also opened the nested favorite folders to the one containing the shortcut to the Blogger editor. It showed that page as available offline. It opened and all the bells and whistles worked! This gave me the bright idea of getting my essay transferred and re-edited before I moved to the living room. This took nearly another hour, as anyone who has dared to read the previous post will know it was rather long. :)


When it was ready I moved to the other room and hooked the phone line into my laptop. By sitting in my mother-in-law’s chair, I was next to the phone cord’s wall outlet so I didn’t have any cords strung across the floor. I had only an hour or so before my mother-in-law was due home. My plan was to quickly post and then get off line and return my laptop to the bedroom and then use to PC to go back online to follow up with a few promotional tasks--like surfing for credit and pinging my blog on Blog Explosion. But nothing went as planned.

As soon as I got online, I clicked the publish button. And the editor was replaced by a sign-in screen. I should have know that would happen and used another window to sign in before I clicked publish. Once signed in, the editor window returned but it was blank. If I could have seen the future, I would have just pasted the essay into it again and redid the formatting. Instead I clicked the back button to see if the publish-ready post would still be there. It was. So I clicked the publish button again. And this time it took. Only when I went to my blog to look at the result, I discovered two major problems. I had misspelled a word in the title and the timestamp was for January 18! Apparently the time it was coded with the last time I had attempted to prepare a post.

The Blogger editor used to have a form for entering the date and time yourself but recently that disappeared and the posts are given the timestamp of the moment you call up the editor. Which is very frustrating for someone who often spends hours preparing a post. Editing this post would have been very simple if the ability to manipulate the timestamp was still available. My only other option was to open a fresh editor window and paste the essay in, redo the formatting, republish and then remove the bad post. I worked quickly, expecting my mother-in-law’s return at any moment. It took me less than fifteen minutes to have the essay ready to post again. But when I clicked the publish button this time, I got back the message that I should attempt to publish again in ten minutes, that the draft had been saved and was safe, that my blog was still accessible to the public but that Blogger was currently doing maintenance.

I banged my head on the cushioned back of the chair. What else could go wrong! Well the answer to that came in ten minutes when I tried again only to get the same message. My battery power was under fifty percent now and my husband suggested I do as I had planned--take the laptop back to the room and plug it in and go back online with the PC where I could keep trying to republish. Which is what I did. Not long after I got back online, my mother-in-law got home. I asked if she needed the phone and she said no and she kindly allowed me to keep working for another ninety minutes or so. My eyes were burning with fatigue by then so I had to quit.

I did not get another chance to try until after ten that night. This time it published without a snag on the first try. As soon as I verified with my own eyes that it was there, I deleted the bad version. And then headed on over to Blog Explosion. I expected to surf for credits until I’d accumulated between ten and twenty and then move on to other things. It had been several days since I had caught up on my favorite blogs and my news and views resources. I had been surfing BE for less than ten minutes when the window froze. It turned out that several of the other IE windows I had open were also froze. And the windows of other applications tho not frozen were responding as slow as pitch oozing from the bark of a tree. My husband, who was playing games on the PC, suggested, with a bit of the ‘I told you so’ tone, that I needed to restart my computer. How long had it been? A week? He asked. I sheepishly replied that it had been at least two and probably a few days longer than that. He just shook his head. When will you learn? I have this aversion to closing the application windows on projects as I tend to get sidetracked and not go back to them. When I am working online I have a dozen or more windows open on my task bar. Half of them browser windows, a few word processor windows, a project manager, a game…

I disconnected and started closing the windows that would respond to prepare for the restart. My husband headed for bed. It was after 1am now. If I had known what was about to happen, I would have begged him to wait until the restart was done to be sure that all was as it should be. But I was confident that I could manage a restart. I have been doing them for nearly ten years now-- usually without incident. I expected things to pick up speed as each window closed but instead things got worse. The AOL window froze when I tried to close it and I had to use control/alternate/delete to call up the system task manager to try to close the applications from there. But even then, the windows refused to close. Then I discovered that I could not return to the desktop. Only the task manager was still responding. Except that it wasn’t able to actually end the tasks as requested. Then on the processes page of the task manager, I learned that 89-98 percent of the CPU was consumed by SYSTEM IDLE. I was tempted to try ending that task but I had never ended a task on the process page-only on the applications page. I was especially wary of ending a system related task. I couldn’t do it without consulting my husband that is for sure, and he was asleep. At this point, I knew exactly what I would have done with any desktop computer. I would have pulled the plug or cut the power on the power strip. But with the laptop, pulling the plug would just transfer me to battery. Was I supposed to wait two hours for the battery to die? For the first time I regretted that my power button only put my laptop into hibernation. What good would that do, if it would only wake up to the same state it was in now? Then I learned the computer wasn’t accepting input from the keyboard either--not even the power button.

I don’t know how long it took me to conceive of the idea of pulling the battery. But I wasn’t sure where it was or how to remove it. My brother had inserted it the night I bought the computer. He was walking me thru the steps of unpacking it and getting it operational. But just as he started to take the battery out of its plastic wrap, I was called from the room for something and by the time I got back he had installed it. He showed me what he had done. I am pretty sure he actually removed it and reinserted it so I could see how. But anyone who was following my story last September knows that on that night, I had been without sleep for three days, had spent six hours on the bus that morning, another six computer shopping with my brother that afternoon, had participated in the bedside baptism of my Dad, and had a one-on-one encounter with my Dad which left me unsure that he knew it was me. So maybe it is understandable that I no longer had a clear memory of how to remove the battery. I could have gone to our room and retrieved the literature that came with the laptop but that would have entailed turning on the light and making a racket. I wanted to see if I could figure it out first. I closed the lid to the laptop and pulled the power cord out of its back so I could handle the machine like a closed book, inspecting every inch of each side and the bottom. It didn’t take me long to figure out where the battery had to be as I knew with certainty which gizmos occupied the other locations. It took me a bit longer to figure out how to remove it. The latch was in the middle of the bottom panel and I needed to be pulling on the edge of the battery as I released it. Ten minutes later I was back on my desktop and all was well. But it was closing in on 4am and I was exhausted. I headed to bed.

I fully intended to prepare a new post by Sunday night, but there was no way I could concentrate with my husband, a rabid Seahawks fan, watching the Super Bowl all afternoon and evening, starting with the pre-game yakity-yak and on thru the post game yakity-yak. I don’t mind the games. I hate the commentators chatter. It is 90% baloney. I found it easier to sleep thru it than to either read or write. I was awake for the second half and attempting to read while keeping half an eye on the game. I was anticipating the episode of Grey’s Anatomy due to follow the post-game and it started about seven-thirty. By the time it was over, I knew that hopes for another post that night were dying. My sleep that day having been so compromised, I was left with a greed for it. Nor could I infuse myself with caffeine again to keep me going as I was committed to sitting with my husband’s grandma the next morning from eight until early afternoon. I could not risk being drowsy while on watch with her. She had recently had another fall and needed to be helped quite a bit getting in and out of chairs and escorted about the house.

By the time I got online Monday night, I had been awake since four that morning but I had started pumping the caffeine in after dinner and was prepared to work for several hours. But Blogger was not prepared for me. The site was completely down. Not only could I not access the sign-in page, I could not open Blogger’s homepage nor my blog nor any of my favorite blogs that happened to be hosted by Blogger. I moved on to other internet activities. I kept checking back with Blogger but it continued to be no go all night. Meanwhile I was reminded of one of the drawbacks of the graveyard shift in winter. As the temp outside dropped to thirty the temp inside dropped to fifty and I had to put up the hood of my fleece jacket and wrap a fleece blanket around my legs. But there was nothing I could do about my fingers or my nose which got so cold they ached. My fingers stiffened and began to fumble the keys. My mother-in-law has given me permission to keep the heat at sixty when I am working at night but knowing that the cost of the gas heat has gone up by over a third this winter, I just can’t justify heating the whole un-weatherized mobile home just for me. That was one of the factors making it hard to work nights this winter and I had forgotten about it while analyzing the situation in the previous post. And it would have fit right in with the theme of that post as it is where the economics of time management meets home economics and the economy at large. An example of the impact of the rising gas prices on the working habits of a writer--a minor inconvenience as compared to some but with a major impact on my life.

Tuesday I did not post because I spent the day and night reading books and watching DVDs that had to go back before the library opened on Wednesday. I seemed to be coming down with a cold. And on Wednesday afternoon, with the light from a window in my eyes, I mistook the left arm of the office chair in the living room for the right arm and, thinking that I was sitting between the arms, I sat down beside the chair instead, hitting the floor hard, jarring both arms, a hip and my lower back. My wrists took the brunt of it and were not in any shape for sustained typing for several days.

Now I’ve again spent the entire night on one potential post. It’s nearly time for me to move back to my room. I just discovered this post is even longer than last week’s post. So long that I’m embarrassed to post it. I do go on and on. And it is going to be a bear to edit. I’m tempted right now to let it lie--to just forget it exists--as I’ve done with several since last fall but that is exactly how the unintended hiatus in January began. When I disrespect my work by letting it lie in the dark, deeming it unfit for any but my own eyes, the flow of words tends to dry up on me. I will try to edit it down but it takes twice as long to make a long story short as it does to just tell it and I can’t afford to spend more than another hour or so on this--let alone another eight. My plan at this moment is to go work on the editing in my room until I hear my mother-in-law leave for work--which should be about six--and then come back in here to go online. My niece will be sleeping on the couch tonight so my next chance to post this will be Sunday night and I already have it reserved for writing reviews for books that have to be back at the library before it opens on Monday.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's All About the Economics

How did I let so many weeks go by without posting? Well it isn’t really that big of a mystery. Not when one has a daily journal to reference to buttress memory of the slipping by of minutes and hours. The bigger mystery and exacerbation of my frustration for me is why does it seem that having my laptop has not made me more productive and seems even to have made me less so? I have been fretting myself over that question for weeks. Leaving aside, for now, all the rmaifications of fresh grief times three, there are a number of factors that interrelate. There is the hassle of moving workstations from the bedroom to the living room and back again by 5AM. A procedure that takes ten to twenty minutes, disturbs my husbands rest both leaving and returning and often seems quite daunting at 10PM when my day has already been eight to eighteen hours long and eventful. Before the laptop, I used to continue hanging out on the computer--sometimes even online--during my husband’s and mother-in-law’s morning routines, fiddling with things that took less concentration and then getting right back to work as soon as they had left for work about 6AM. But their morning routines cannot accommodate me with my laptop and its power cord and phone cable flung across pathways. And since Christmas, my husband doesn’t leave until after 8AM and by then it is too late for me to either begin or continue a work session for if I’ve been working all night I need to be going to bed so there can be hopes of another productive session beginning in fourteen hours and if I have just gotten up along with my husband I am left with only four hours before anticipation of my mother-in-law’s return requires vacating the living room.

Besides all of that, there is the extra time spent reading physical books--novels mostly. And there are the DVDs that I bring home from the library and watch on the laptop-sometimes three times over. Getting lost in story. There is the sleep. Where did all this sleep come from. What happened to my insomnia? I have had intractable insomnia for so long I almost do not recognize myself as this one who sleeps hard for over seven hours per day. The stories from the novels and movies go into that sleep with me and mix with the stories I am composing myself. Their vividness and sense of reality impinge on my waking hours so that, like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Skies, I am never sure where story, dream, memory and reality begin or end.

There was the fact that the workspace in the bedroom was not conducive to serious work. But I resolved that issue two weeks ago when I thoroughly spring cleaned and rearranged our room, spending thirteen hours doing seven loads of laundry while pulling every item smaller than the bed and the entertainment center out so I could dust, vacuum and put it all back together with an eye for a writing workstation that now included a laptop. In the process I nearly killed my laptop when a board loaded with books and notebooks fell on it. A good fifty pounds of weight smashed down on the closed laptop shortly after I set it in its new place of honor and my heart just about smashed my ribcage in the ten minutes it took for me and my husband to move everything off of it so I could open it and wake it up from hibernation. My relief and gratitude when the desktop appeared on the screen was so intense I swore silently to redouble my dedication to the work that I got it for--the work that justified the expense in spite of our current financial situation, that motivated four years of sacrifice to save the money for it penny by penny. I realized at that moment that in less than four months I had already begun to take it for granted. And for several days I did prioritize my writing again. And then once more it began to slip-slide away from me.

I think I have just figured out--and I mean just now in attempting to organize my thoughts to write about it--where the sticking point is, the issue that has caused an imperceptible tug on the steering wheel of my motivation so that I keep drifting off course by increments so small that it takes more than a week to recognize the evidence that the rubber is off the road. And the irony is that it is the very possession of the laptop itself that exerts that tug. It is because all of my files are on my laptop and thus available to me 24/7 that I am actually spending less time with them than when they were on my in-laws’ PC and thus available only when their living room was not otherwise in use, which tended to mean between the hours of ten at night and six in the morning, tho there were occasional exceptions. Because having possession of my files and the tool to work with them has caused me to assume that I can work anytime, I have loosened the fierce grip I kept on the graveyard shift.

For nearly two years, I treated those late-night hours as almost sacred. Nothing else was allowed to preempt my time on the computer. I gave the same respect to those hours as if they were a conventional job tho I had no accountability to anyone but myself and no compensation other than the satisfaction of accomplishment. But lately I have been so laissez-faire about them, I have allowed myself to apportion them out to whatever feels good at the time--sleep, TV, a novel, a DVD, a computer game--because, after all, I can write anytime now right? But I have been failing to take into account that there is no other significant block of time in any 24 hour period that allows for the peace and privacy required to think long and deep, to focus on intricate detail without fear of interruption or observation--which short-circuits creativity with an anxiety producing self-consciousness.

This is a significant insight that I did not have when I began to write this. The fact that the common denominator of all my multitudinous justifications for not writing at any given moment boiled down to a very misplaced assumption that having the laptop meant I could write anytime. Thus every now became a disposable moment. I failed to take into account that time is like money and aspects of economic theory apply to it. The law of supply and demand applies to any finite resource, of which time is the epitome. Spending time, like spending money, implies trade-offs. And because of societal conventions neither every dollar nor every moment are interchangeable. Some dollars earned have more time, sweat, sacrifice or angst invested in them than others. And, as with monetary income, some time is pre-committed making some trade-offs more ’expensive’ than others. Mealtimes, work-schedules, family commitments and television schedules are among the constraining factors. By assuming that I could think and write as easily at noon as at midnight, I was forgetting about ringing phones, the dog needing let out or in, the neighbors screaming obscenities outside the window, the garbage truck making its slow, ponderous way up one side of the narrow lane and down the other every Wednesday, the planned trek to the library every Friday, the washer and dryer buzzers and the vacuum cleaner’s moan, the sound of radio or TV that other’s are engaged with. I was forgetting the factor of my anxiety which makes even the fear of interruption freeze my mental gears.

So tonight, Friday, I fixed a cup of coffee at ten-thirty so that I could apply the next several hours to finishing and then polishing this essay which I began to write around noon Thursday. I hope, no I intend, to get it ready to post and then go online and just do it. And by ready I mean good enough not perfect; for that pesky perfectionism that I constantly fence with has had a great deal to do with this unintended hiatus. I have begun several posts in that time--at least once or even twice a week--but did not get them ready to post before their content became too past tense. There was one that attempted to turn the experience of spring-cleaning my room into a comedy routine with references to bushels of used tissues under the bed, cats weaving figure eights around my ankles with their leashes and jumping on my back when I bent down to pick something up and the half-dozen electrical cords plugged into the power-strip that had woven themselves into a macabre macramé along with a cat toy string and the wires of the boom box’s detachable speakers. There was one about the experience of reading Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, and then immediately watching the DVD of the movie made of it in the sixties, in which I confess that I began that project believing that I had never encountered either of them, only to discover that I must have read the book in grade school because there were several familiar scenes in it which were not in the movie, but that nothing about the movie was at all familiar. I am assuming grade-school because I had to have read it before I had any concept of either rape or racial discrimination which my sheltered childhood had kept me innocent of until at least sixth grade.

Among the aborted posts was one reflecting on my first encounter with the movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? which I watched three times in less than twelve hours, seeing something new in each encounter. But I had left watching the DVD until the morning it was due and was forced to return it to the library and then found it impossible to write coherently about it without having it handy for reference. The same thing happened with Vanilla Skies. And again with the novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which is probably one of the best novels I’ve read in the last five years. I could probably get either of the movies back again within a handful of weeks but the Zafon novel’s queue at the library is in the double digits with just two copies and each turn allowed up to three weeks. I had waited in that queue twice in the last year. The first time I got my turn last July I did not get to read it because of the eventful nature of late July--see the archives here if you’re curious, especially the posts referencing the beginning of serious promotion of Joystory, kicking the duck, the family retreat and sitting with my husband’s grandma. I got back in queue immediately and my second turn with it came the week before Christmas and there was just no time to set aside for it until after the New Year and I ended up starting it just a couple days before it was due so I rushed through it without taking notes and had to send it back to the library just hours after finishing it.

In fact--and again I just noticed--there is another common thread woven into the web restraining my productivity: added to the perfectionism and procrastination already mentioned is the time-pressure of library due dates. A pressure that is exaggerated by my insistence on checking out waaaay more than I could conceivably read and watch in the allotted time (even if my eyes were not impaired), let alone compose thoughtful responses to them and also write original material, keep up my chores and family commitments, read my online news sources, watch my primetime TV stories, maintain and promote three web sites… Just about every choice of what to read, watch or write is constrained artificially by these due dates. Yet I keep choosing to over-extend my time and space and energy by bringing home more, and more, and more. I just saw a Dr. Phil show about hoarding this week and saw myself in the stories presented. And lest that seem completely off point, let me clarify: it is all economics. Space, time and energy are finite resources and every allocation here implies a sacrifice there. There is always a tradeoff and the trick is becoming conscious of them and making well-considered choices that reflect your truest self. For me that means that I still need to commit a significant number of wee hours to writing and web page maintenance. Maybe not the full eight and maybe not every night, as before, but enough to ensure a dependable, if moderate, productivity. It may take awhile for me to find the best balance but it begins by remembering that anything of value must be invested in--beginning with respect for the raw material, the process and the envisioned end-product. Without that, investment is willy-nilly and the product is chaos.

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