The other day, my twelve-year-old daughter pointed me to a TED Talk.
Let me just sit back here for a moment while those words sink in.
Got your head around that? Good.
Now, in truth, this situation played out a little more organically than you might infer from that first sentence. See, I’m in the habit of forcing strange—sometimes incoherent—YouTube videos on my daughter, and I decided turnabout was fair play.
“Is there anything you’d like to show me?” I asked her. And there was. And among the various videos was this gem.
So it was less my twelve-year-old kid pulling some kind of precocious, hipster/millennial act, and more that she thinks badly-drawn stick figures presented as part of a “serious” presentation are hilarious. Or at least as hilarious as the weird shit I show her on YouTube.
But I digress. You should watch that video before you read the rest of this post. If you don’t, I’ll make even less sense than I usually do.
I TOTALLY HAVE THAT GODDAMNED MONKEY!!!
All day, every day, without a moment’s reprieve—the monkey even haunts my dreams.
Like the other night. I was having a dream about trying to chop down this tree in my yard when, literally in the middle of this apparently critical task, I noticed the lawn needed mowing, and dropped everything to start doing that.
I. Can’t. Stick. To. A. Plan.
Each day, I get up, and after I get a few swallows of coffee and two cigarettes in me, I take out my journal and write out what I intend to accomplish.
“I’m going to work for an hour on this novel, then work on this other thing for an hour, take a break to do this, then spend an hour on this other thing…”
I come up with what, for me at least, seems like a totally reasonable schedule—a plan of attack which will allow me to do what needs doing while leaving plenty of time to chill out, take a walk, and finish out the day feeling accomplished without also feeling mentally or physically drained.
And I can usually hold to it…for, like, maaaaaybe an hour and a half. After that, I go right off the rails, into the weeds, or whatever the hell you call it when a simple, linear set of tasks somehow turns into a infinite-dimensional tree of Other Shit with absolutely no coherence.
“Well,” you say. “Stop slacking off and just get to work.”
But no! You’d be wrong to think that “Other Shit” is code for “Slacking Off.”
I don’t just, say, start working on an article about squirrels and then go: “Eh, screw it. I’m gonna watch Netflix.”
No, instead it’s more like this…
Me: “Okay, time to work on that article. First, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about them.”
Me, 5 Minutes Later: “Huh. The Latin name for the squirrel family is ‘sciuridae,’ from the Greek ‘σκίουρος’ or ‘skiouros,’ meaning ‘shadow-tailed.’ Should I mention that?”
Me, 10 Minutes Later: “It’s kinda bullshit that I can’t see ‘σκίουρος’ and know you pronounce it ‘skiouros.’ I mean, back in the 1800s wasn’t every ‘man of learning’ expected to know both Greek and Latin?”
Me, 60 Minutes Later: “Okay, so this app sucks. Should I just spring for Rosetta Stone? What does Amazon have for books on Greek?”
And on and on and on.
It’s always like this.
Today, I planned to get right to working on my novel, then work on a poem I’ve been tinkering with for a few days (and I’ll write about that in another post), then take care of a few bits of what I call “odds and ends writing,” like taking some notes for a tabletop RPG I run on the weekends.
So how’d that go? Well, for starters, I hadn’t planned to write this blog post, yet here we are!