Saturday, January 17, 2009

The 5am Hour

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The only sound was the humming of the refrigerator. It was still too dark out which meant that the can fairies were not rummaging through the dumpsters... yet. They waited until a couple of minutes after sunrise to make the rounds through the slums of Beverly Hills.

The 5am hour in the City of Angels. Quiet. Near dead. I was the only milling around. In order to keep things quiet, I listened to music on my headphones. Cranking out the jams while I write. I can listen at high volumes instead of the hushed tones. There is an apartment above us and directly above my office is a bedroom. I try to be the good neighbor and not blast tunes at odd hours.

But once sunlight starts creeping through the apartment, I migrate to the dinning room. I write there, with the windows open, as some of my favorite Jazz musicians fills the living room and dinning room. The volume is low enough that Nicky cannot hear it from the bedroom, but it's loud enough that I can hear the melodies. That's why Jazz is so appropriate in the mornings. It's the perfect soundtrack to start my day.

And eventually when Nicky wakes up, she makes as dramatic entrance in the dinning room and exclaims, "It's the morning Jazz hour with your host Dr. Pauly!"

I have been working on a writing project. For lack of a better name, I'm referring to it as Project Z. I started this many moons ago. And stopped it more times that I can count. It's been a pain in the ass. My white whale. The hardest part was finding large chunks of time to work on it. I usually only had a free week maybe two weeks at the most in one place before it was time to take off again. Always on the move. Always fighting deadlines.

I'm fortunate that I had employment, so welcomed the travel abroad and the money and the experiences. Budapest. You can't pass up something like that. Free trips to London? Bahamas? Hard to say no. However, the momentum for Project Z was always halted every time I packed my bags and flew to some exotic destination.

I always bitched and moaned that I needed a block of unstructured and unfettered time to achieve some sort of breakthrough with Project Z. I must have worked on it on and off for two months or so in 2008. But those two months were plenty of start-and-stops. A half hour on a flight to Long Beach; one hour in New York City as I edited excerpts on the subway; an hour late at night in Budapest during a bad batch of insomnia; sitting in a hash bar in Amsterdam; and pecking away at the keyboards a couple of days in a row in Los Angeles while I sat in the same seat I am now.

I don't believe in writer's block and I wish I could come up with a good excuse on why I never finished Project Z. Time was my enemy. And I was simply focused on other things like my writing career and my side businesses and putting a lot of time and effort into building a meaningful and long-lasting relationship.

I finished plenty of other projects before and I was just as busy (e.g. Jack Tripper Stole My Dog and the screenplay for Charlie's Goldfish). The only difference was that I actually had a place to live then. I lived alone. And I also was on a set schedule. I knew that I had to be at work down on Wall Street at set times and I wrote around that schedule; on meal breaks and late at nights and on Sundays.

Having such a hectic schedule these days (and over the last couple of years) meant that there were no set schedules for me to write. I had to plug that project into holes in my schedule... which were always unpredictable.

I desperately craved a routine.

When trying to compare what I did many years ago today, it's hard for me to fathom. The hardest aspect to grasp is that when I wrote five plus years ago - I only wrote for myself and my words were void of an audience. Even though I had a blog(s), it was an afterthought because they were hobbies and pet projects. The Tao(s) were mere infants then. Today, my blogs and my words and my scribblings are moneymaking venture as I carved out a profitable freelance writing career.

These days, almost all of my writing is dedicated to maintaining the blogs and websites and fulfilling obligations to freelance clients.So even though I would have a free week to work on Project Z, it would only represent 50-65% of my total writing output for the week. I was desperate to change that. Change my focus.

Flash forward to today. I'm at the beginning of a six week period where I have no obligations save for a handful of deadlines. I'm finally in a position where I can say, "Fuck my blogs." They ain't going anywhere. Tao of Poker will still generate cash even if I'm not posting everyday. It was time to leave them alone and let them work for me instead of vice versa.

I'm finally able to detach myself from writing nonstop about poker poker poker and I can fully focus on the task at hand. I also blocked off a chunk of time between now and March 1st to write. No traveling for six weeks. That's a miracle. I will not be wasting my time standing in another airport security line. I'm not going to lose precious hours of my life stuck on a tarmac on another delayed flight. I finally have time off. A true hiatus and vacation from the life I have been leading.

Since early 2005, the only times where I was in the same place for more than six weeks is every summer when I spend two months in Las Vegas on an assignment. Aside from that, I'm never in one spot for more than a couple of weeks at a time. This rare instance is a blessing and I have been waiting for this opportunity for several years. Now, let's hope I don't choke and blow it.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I edited the first 12,000 or so words that I had previously written. I trimmed about 3,000 words and added 1,000 or so words of new material. I still think I can trim a little more. My initial goal is to make the first 10,000 words near perfect. I can take liberties with the rest of the project. It's sort of like a pro football team scripting their first dozen or so plays. It's the foundation and it needs to be rock solid. Once I can sign off on that section, then I can proceed and have some fun.

Writing is fun for me. I lothe editing and re-writing. Other writer friends of mine prefer that part. Not me. Maybe I'll let them edit my stuff and re-write and re-tweak everything. The fun for me is when I'm pulling stuff out of thin air. Making something from nothing. Maybe that's why I like the blogs so much. I just open up the blank page and start typing, not caring about grammar or punctuation. Maybe the computer picks up my errors. Maybe they are overlooked. In the end, the magic of writing is when I just fill an empty page. The hellacious parts of writing include a pile of printed up pages and a red pen sitting on top. I know that I have to slash and burn and refine the excessive babblings from my innards. But it's such a chore.

Alas, that never happens in the early mornings. The 5am hour is set aside for me to fill a blank page. Maybe at the 5pm hour, I'll print up stuff and break out the red pen. For now, it's still early enough before the birds wake up and start chirping or the can fairies start digging around the dumpster.

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