when i was 13, it was James Taylor’s October Road (and particularly the track “September Grass). i would arise early in the morning on a Saturday, walk down the hallway to the kitchen to brew some coffee, then back down to my room, where i would sit at a now-ancient Macintosh computer. the bubble kind. click open the document containing my last chapter, skim a few lines to recall where i’d last left my brave protagonists, and begin clattering away at the keyboard.
time would melt away as i sipped at too-sweet coffee which crystalized at the bottom, and the world did, too.
it was as close to a routine as i could get at that age, and resulted in the only novel i’ve ever finished: 150 single-spaced pages of action-adventure packed with dragons and magic that only my eyes would see. (i still have it saved on my computer and will go back and read it for an occasional laugh or dose of inspiration).
it inspires because it reminds me of a time when i was free, but dedicated. daily writing and finishing my project was the only thing i was disciplined about. i had the time.
as i sit today, in a beanbag chair in a corner of a very expensive room in Oakland, CA - i have time but maybe not permission. maybe i have not given myself the permission to dream, to stare out of windows with my head tilted to the side, to not pay attention at work.
as a child writer i did not need, nor did i ask for, permission. i literally wrote on walls or anything i could find the moment the words came to mind. teachers would smirk at me and confiscate my notebooks, i placed in the high ninetieth percentile for writing and reading (despite not doing my homework), and lived in worlds as i created them.
how do i find that person? today, i am often depressed and unfulfilled. crushed by the weight of responsibility and obligation. of money making and baby making, which leaves little energy - not time - for story making.
but i know that losing this part of myself would be a slow spiritual demise, and to survive it, i have no choice but to make routine. even when the pen-to-paper practice exhausts me, even and especially when someone else needs me, and even when i think that i have nothing to say.
this is not what i do, it is how i breathe. the writing is not optional.
and so tonight - sipping green tea and accompanied by Kaki King and Radiohead - i plant the seeds to grow a new routine.