Finally! “The One-Oh Syndicate,” the first of my next two novels, sequels to my first book, “The Metaverse,” has gone to the editor. While he struggles with that less than glorious task, I am on the final draft of the next in the series. Like the year 2020 itself, this process feels a lot longer than other novels I have written.
When COVID-19 shut down Ski Santa Fe, my day job (my only job actually), a month or so early, I tried to see the silver lining. I would have an early start finishing the two manuscripts I was working on. The first one was about two-thirds complete, and the second one about a third.
You see, I am a sprint writer. I write in typically two-hour periods; umpteen hours at this labor of love. Well financially, it’s more a paid-hobby of love, but I digress. When I write, I am in full-speed mode, blazing away at the keyboard, trying to get the narrative out before it vanishes, or some distraction takes its place. With my ski equipment still wet from the melting snow, I set to my task, oblivious to the world. Even blogging that despite the lockdown that life was not all that much different. Oh, how I was wrong.
It wasn’t so much doing things I wouldn’t have done; it was about losing the option to not do those things. My offseason is filled with trips to our families’ mountain cabin, gatherings, and weekend getaways. The last few summers we have spent a month away, in Europe and in particular Greece, the ancestral home of my wife’s family. Much goes into these trips. Planning, shopping, the logistics of getting there, rental cars, ferries to the Greek Isles which are heaven on earth, accomodations and so much more. Like any trip of this magnitude, a lot of the fun is in the planning, dreaming, and preparation. All of those things were absent this summer. It should have meant I had more time to write.
But the lack of those pleasant little deviations from writing weighed on me, as did the whole COVIDOCY (a topic for another day). Despite the madness in the world, I did my best to maintain my off-season routine. Waking at six or earlier when the dogs want to go out, then sitting down with a mug of coffee to watch the news and have a lite bite to eat. Then I might check on my garden, water the rose bushes, and make sure that the birdbath is refreshed. Then it’s off to get in a workout. Returning, I’d have a proper breakfast, fire up the computer, and get to work. Somewhere around the two-hour mark, the dogs remind me that it is time for their walk. When I return, it is my youngest daughter who tells me that its time to go swimming.
By mid-afternoon, I am jonesing for that afternoon pickup of a three-shot Americano at my favorite caffeination resupply station. Noise-canceling headphones on listening to some tranquil sounds that stay in the background, I peck away on my MacBook, belting out several thousands of words in one sitting. An oh-so inviting environment. The smell of the beans, and then the freshly brewed drink. University students studying alone or in a group discussing the issues of the day or a class project. Business people meeting clients, or stopping by for a recharge. The large vintage world map on the wall, the comfortable chairs, and sturdy tables right down to the substantial ceramic cup filled with goodness, warming my hands and heart. All of it providing an experience I took for granted, never even considering that I might miss it. Until I did.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. After a while, it’s natural to crave the essential human contact found in the workplace. That’s why we write in cafes. Oh yes, I know there is the whole romantic thing, or please ask me what I am doing so I can tell you that I’m a writer thing, that entices some. If you are serious about this craft, you will find such notions fleeting and unimportant.
These coffee houses, providing a community of sorts, offer sustenance for the body and soul. For a writer, your workplace is wherever you open your laptop. Human nature being what it is, our home, no matter how much we disguise a specific space, remains our domicile. Having a place to go, even for a change of scenery, sets us to our task of why we went in the first place. To get stuff done.
There is the bonus of seeing other like-minded people. Or perhaps most rewarding the Barrista’s, who, if you treat them right, return the favor in the most meaningful ways, engaging you in wonderful little conversations. It’s a self-employed person’s version of water-cooler talk. Its something we need. It’s something that COVID took.
Finding myself at home more, with none of the pleasant distractions of a typical summer, I started doing the things I never do in my ‘workplace.’ Perusing the news, trying to find the latest articles on you know what. Then there was the granddaddy of all slippery slopes, Social Media. Yikes, I mean, how could I? Yet I did, finding myself looking to see what my ‘friends’ were up to and discovering many had morphed from being constitutional scholars to medical experts. I was sucked in, only to find out what I already knew; Social Media has little redeeming value. It really doesn’t. It only served to make 2020 longer. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself if it’s over yet, then look at the calendar…
But drudgery is what drudgery does. I trudged on, completing my tasks in the shadow of COVID-19. I’d like to think that it made me a more persuasive writer, mostly I think it just made me slower. A cruel irony. Plenty of time and yet not enough distractions. The kind that makes our day like the hot, creamy, blackness of a mid-afternoon treat in an environment that propels us to get stuff done…
Hopefully, those pure little pleasures will be back with us sooner than later. In the meantime, I’ve got a new book coming out! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Even if it felt like it took a bit longer, it was worth it in the end.