Writing About Writing
What’s most amusing to me, in this short tale? The piece this is about is long lost. I had it saved on a floppy disk, and those are all way gone. I doubt it ever made the transition back to Austin.
Came up in conversation, other morning, about resisting work. Not working resistance — like weights at the gym or something, no, it was a question about being resistant to a particular task. Made me remember a time in the student ghetto in Tempe, AZ. Made me remember a story, maybe a story about the story because I no longer have the original piece of fiction.
Bubba now has it, but I had a custom–built desk, made from Arkansas sustainably–harvested, old–growth Walnut. Dark wood, tight–grain. Hardwood. Same stuff was used to make the stand–up desk I still use, to this day.
That original desk — now Bubba’s — was a copy of a design that was based on an old–school drafting table, although, I only ever had one course in college that used a drafting table. One time, that’s it. The idea was simple, and I’m sure, on some level, I was attempting to compensate for percieved weaknesses of my own. The subconscious is a funny place.
Unavailable at this moment, but someplace, I’ve got the sign, “My mind is like a dangerous neighborhood — don’t go alone and don’t go after dark,” or maybe it was, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood: don’t go unarmed.”
So what I’m remembering, it was a specific location, a specific computer and keyboard, and even, a certain hard drive that stored the data, and I can even further narrow the time frame to a certain set of semesters, not that any of it matters. I had the big desk, in the living room of my student flat, and the place was basically clean and devoid of any other furniture. The large expanse of empty desk–top begged to be cleaned, and I was waxing, this is really how to treat antiques, I was using some kind of hard wax — made me think of waxing a surf board, same size — I waxed the entire slopped face of that desk. It was seven feet long, three feet wide, and canted at twenty–seven degree angle, so that material wouldn’t accumulate and distract me.
I wanted to be a writer. Whatever that was, by definition.
Although I had various classes at the University, this was a one–off class, a short story class, taught by an adjunct professor, a lady who had one published novel as part of a resume. Another dear friend, classmate, snickered, having read the one novel, as it was “Christian Romance,” in genre, “you know, she gets the man and finds God. Marriage. Yuck,” with that line delivered with a roll of her eyes.
However, as a teacher, that professor was valuable as we explored dynamics of narratives.
While at the University, because I was paying for it myself, I had an excellent attendance record. However, I missed one day of classes for a funeral of a friend. Not really a close friend, but from some groups, and it was good to suit up and go. Pretty much a Catholic Funeral replete with the adornments, and I was wearing real shoes. Only time that year. During my absence, that one day, the teacher read that one of my pieces — I workshopped with her.
The idea of resistance to work, finding reasons not to work on a specific project? That started with the desk. That student ghetto in Tempe. The desk. Late one morning, I found myself carefully waxing the surface of that desk, hard wax, working it with the grain, to give the surface a luster and sheen, plus help protect it from errant coffee spills. Middle of the desert, not a lot of water, so no, no water stains, not really. I’ll suppose this predates my iced coffee craze.
“I like my coffee like my women: cold and bitter…”
(Iced Espresso in the Texas heat.)
“You should have no shortage of targets.” (Virgo)
Get the desktop waxed. Laundry done. I had no excuse. I sat down, started typing and 5,000 words later, I had a substantial short story. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I left it with that teacher. The one day in three years at the University, the one day I missed? She read it aloud to the class.
While never a financial success, that one short story gave me wings. Noticed, published, discussed. Annotated and acknowledged — fiction that put me on the map, at least, in my mind.
Getting into that space, the creative space, the spot where the magic can happen? Takes much less effort these days. I no longer even have that beautiful, custom–built behemoth of a desk, the size of a door. Bubba’s got it — I hope. I still have its companion, the other desk, but I no longer bother to wax with hard, antique furniture wax. Spray some Pledge, maybe ruin the environment a little by adding ozone. I don’t know. The stand–up desk is much smaller, and I didn’t opt for the loving, tender–care finish on it.
These days, I have much more simplistic, and probably prosaic approach to writing. Whether I’m at home, at a coffee shop, or some far–flung local, I still work at it — every day.