After Midnight: A New Year's Day Post

Dino Piacentini

I am writing this on New Year's Day. Inevitably, the mind turns towards resolutions. Read more. Run more. And, of course, write more. My mother was an enthusiastic resolution drafter. She would make a detailed list--walk one mile per day, read Bible ten pages weekly, finish scrapbook for kids, volunteer once a month, lose ten--and post the list for all to see on the very public broadside of the refrigerator door, crossing off any completed resolutions over the course of the year with a flourish of her ball-point pen. She always encouraged me to do the same--"Any goals for the new year, son?" she would chirrup--to which I would snottily reply, "Seriously, mom, if I resolve to do something, I'm not going to wait until the new year to start doing it." An adolescent sneer, very likely, accompanied my insolent response. And she, always an impenetrable fortress of easy cheer, would simply smile, knowingly. So yes, mom, you win. Resolutions are being made. Write more, I tell myself. But how? Very simple, I hear all of you say. Park your ass in a goddamned chair. Well, yes, obviously, but what about the days when my ass is firmly ensconced on a seat cushion--better be sure to pad things, I tell myself, for I am certain to be here for hours--and my fingers are buzzing over the keyboard like bees at a rose garden, but½nothing comes. How many times can one insert a comma, excise a comma, and put the damn comma back in again before one gets frustrated and clicks open some social media website to see how Aunt Kitty is getting along? At the New Year's Eve party I went to last night--I probably should have been writing instead--I met a very friendly fellow--a marketing professional for a tech company--who told me he also did "creative work." He uses something called "dragon dictation software" to compose this work. I didn't really figure out what exactly he was referring to as "creative work"--"Are you a poet?" I asked him, to which he replied, inscrutably, "At times"--but I did gather that he speaks directly into some microphone sort of thing and the software program transcribes these "creative thoughts" into text. Later--I hope, I hope, I hope--he shapes these verbal mind dumps into something coherent and "creative." "This way," he told me, "I don't have to worry about trying to construct sentences or being grammatical. I can just focus on getting my ideas down." Could this be the answer? Might this marvelous technological tool help me "write" more? Fulfill my ambitious 2014 resolution? True, I have never been much of a "free" writer--nothing seizes me up quite like the order to "don't think, just write"--but perhaps I only need to speak my sentences into a headset in order to surmount my many self-imposed hurdles. As an experiment, I record some spoken "writing." I won't burden you with the transcription, but here is what I find out:
  1. When I talk, I rely with disturbing frequency on two particularly inexpressive words: "like" and "awesome."
  2. I display a tendency to say the exact same thing twice, or even thrice. I repeat myself, I am telling you. Two times. Three times, even.
  3. The ideas that I offer up in my "creative" talks are not quite as bright as they seemed when I offered them up. In fact, they are rather dull and incoherent, lumbering oafs rambling about in heavy, mud-clogged boots.
  4. I would not want to be sitting next to me at a dinner party. See items 1-3 above.
Perhaps--for me at least--the process of watching words form themselves on the computer screen, or even on paper, is an essential element in the composition of ideas. I seem to need to look back at what my keystroke has delivered in order to move forward. I suppose this is why my ambitions are set on being a writer, rather than becoming an orator (I shudder to think of who might qualify as an orator in these angry, blowsy days). So, I apologize, 2014 resolutions: dragon dictation will not help you reach fulfillment. So what other options do I have? What strategies rise to the surface? Well, there is my friend Josh. He has written four increasingly successful and well-received novels and is hard at work on number five. Josh is a paragon of discipline. A dedicated insomniac, he spends the hours between midnight and nine in the morning writing. Five pages per day, he demands of himself. But--and there's always a but--Josh had a baby girl six months ago--hi Ava!--and as any new parent will tell you, his infant daughter couldn't give a damn about his writing schedule. After all, she can't read, and anyway, Josh's writing probably isn't suitable for a child her age: too many hand-jobs in the toilets of ill-lit dive bars, too many drunken fistfights on scraggly, litter-strewn street corners, too many menacing snakes with flickering tongues. "I always thought I needed certain conditions to write," Josh told me over coffee. "But these days, I write during Ava's naps. I write in laundromats. I write whenever I have any spare moment." Leave it to Josh to be able to write in laundromats. Did I mention that he is also tall and handsome? If he didn't have a messy past and a wonderfully twisted sense of humor, I might be very annoyed. But perhaps herein lies my answer. In order to write more, I need to spend more time in laundromats. Right? If Josh finds them conducive to writing, maybe I will as well.
So in order to fulfill my 2014 resolution to write more, I must launder my clothes with greater frequency. Wait a moment--I hear the hum of synergy in the background. Another of my 2014 resolutions is to run more. If I run more, then I'll stink up more socks and shirts, and will therefore need to wash clothes at least a few times a week. Two birds, one stone! So, I think, I now know what to do. To write more, I must run more. Note to self: buy laundry detergent. Or I could just park my ass in a goddamned chair.

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