Sunday, November 16, 2008

On and Off

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Thursday afternoon, I dug in deep and unleashed the inner monster. Might have been the most satisfying writing binge that I had in months. Maybe longer. I really can't recall the last time that I wrote with such speed, ease, edge and with such intensity. I had a lot to say, so much so that most of the regurgitation will never been seen by anyone but me. I cranked out several thousand words somewhere near 10,000 in total. and then when I was done, I deleted them all.

I can't explain it, other than this way... it's like slaving away in the kitchen for several hours and cooking up a four course meal then plating all the food and after a couple of glimpses, you throw all the food out. Not one morsel to be tasted by anyone.

The process is the most important thing to me right now. I had to get used to the grueling process of writing lengthy pieces. The process of connecting all those thoughts into sentences. After a couple of hours of an intense writing workout, I deleted at least 80% of my work. I saved 15% for vanity reasons and I'll end up publishing 5% of the output in some form or another on the interwebs.

I was also mentally drained. So much so that I had to take Friday off and zone out in front of the TV.

I'm at a critical point in my career where there are obstacles and pitfalls around every corner. And the only way I'm going to improve is to keep pushing myself and challenging myself. Too often I get caught up in "earning a paycheck" mode than actually coddling my craft. It's not enough that I want to improve, I actually have to set aside the time and then dedicate myself to taking the necessary measures to evolve and hone and make an artistic breakthrough.

I welcomed the opportunity to have a week to myself because it is exciting and invigorating to set my own schedule and live on my terms. At the same time it's a daunting and haunting moment because I know that it's time for me to hunker down every morning and crank out the jams. The pressure is immense due to time constraints. In a perfect world, I would have unfettered and unstructured time to create, but there are things like unwanted responsibilities and impending holidays and looming deadlines and impatient high maintenance friends that are standing in my path.

Perhaps I'm stubborn and want to succeed by having it both ways... but deep down I'm afraid that I know the real answer and I really won't be able to fully ascend to the next level without withdrawing from the mainstream. Most of the time, I'm utterly confused and don't know what to do. It's simply easier to maintain the status quo than aggressively apply necessary changes to your life.

I fell into the zone on Thursday, so much so that I forgot to eat dinner. Words mattered more than food. Music blasted. Coltrane. Phish. The Joker's De La Soul mix. Friedman's musical debut. Dead in Egypt. Miles. My iPod worked overtime.

I woke up groggy and faded on Friday. I had one of those slacker days that I often longed for the last couple of years. I did my best to stay on the couch with the remote and bong within close reach. There were tons of stuff on TiVo that I had to catch up on the latest episodes of Entourage and Heroes. I also got sucked into a few flicks such as Wonderland and a gem titled Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. I never heard of that flick before and it pleasantly surprised me. I only started watching it because Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in it. I was sort of turned off by the prospects of watching anything with Ethan Hawke in it but the supporting cast was so deep and strong that I overlooked him. Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei were both in the flick about two brothers in dire financial straights who botch up a robbery attempt.

I also watched an anti-war documentary directed by Phil Donahue called Body of War. There has been an influx of ill-timed anti-Iraq flicks but this documentary about a ex-soldier turned anti-war activist is a poignant tale. Definitely worth looking into.

I also watched a bunch of basketball on Friday including catching the Lakers first loss of the year to the Detroit Pistons. I also finally won my first ever NBA contest on Fantasy Sports Live. I have been so busy that it felt satisfying to play fantasy basketball and then actually watch the games that featured some of my players.

I woke up early on Saturday. There was an odd odor lingering. I wandered over to Nick's Coffeeshop. I sat at the counter and instead of reading Marty Beckerman's book, I was focused on the TV. LA was surrounded by a ring of fire due to the gusty Santa Ana winds. That lingering odor? The smoke from the fires. Some of the smoke wafted over the Hollywood hills and that's all anyone could talk about at the diner.

I'm in my own world. There could be a fire six blocks away, but I wouldn't even know it because it was time for me to jump back into writing. I was sober and ready for another intense workout. I decided that my week would be best used by alternating days designated for writing binges. Thursday on. Friday off. Saturday on. Sunday off. Monday on. Tuesday off. Wednesday on. Thursday off.

Saturday was an on day and within a few hours, I had cranked out over 10,000 words. To put that in perspective, NaNoWriMo novels are 50,000 in length. In a mere two days, I would have completed 40% of that project. One piece that I wrote for Tao of Poker clocked in at almost 6,000 words which I cut down in half. Sometimes I'm amazed at what I can accomplish when I don't have a small window of time to write... which is usually the case 50 weeks out of the year.

Just because I put the time in, doesn't mean that it's good. It's still not optimum, but I'm inching closer and closer. The sad part is that I know all of this ends in a few days because Nicky comes home and then I have to fly back to NYC for Turkey Day. Family functions always tilt me and then I have a short work assignment in Mexico followed up by a multi-day Las Vegas bender. Before I know it, it's Christmas and New Years. I only have a handful of days between now and then where I might have some free time to write but more than likely, I have to use those days to catch up on work or email or the websites or securing future assignments. I'm caught up in an endless cycle that keeps me busy but prevents me from actually taking the time to improve as a writer. Alas, that's the quagmire of my life.

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