Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Final Stretch

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The routine.

Wake early as possible. If it's dark, that's a good thing. The darker... the better. I hate burning daylight. Since I've been avoiding the distractions of the phone, email, Twitter, TV... I jump into the process right away. No attachments equals less distractions. I usually start reading. For a while, I read a bit of the Phish biography every morning. My brother gave it to me for Christmas. I had to write a review on Coventry at some point, so I was killing a few birds with one stone. Plus, reading about some of my favorite musicians inspired me to get my ass in gear. I moved onto the Rolling Stone Magazine anthology, and then embarked on a daily re-read of a collection of conversations from Woody Allen.

Food is a must. If I'm not feeding myself with cereal or Clif Bars, then I'm walking to the coffeeshop the moment that it opens up. I print up pages that I had written the night before and edit them while I wait for my breakfast clutching a red pen. Cops sit behind me. Sometimes an actress sits nearby with script. I eat as much food as possible. Fuel. I never know when I might eat next.

After the food, I think about what I'm going to write on my walk back to the apartment. Sometimes I stay outside until I have a clear and concise idea. Then it's time to crank up the music. Jazz music. Always in the morning. G-Money was kind enough to give me a portion of his jazz CD collection a while back. I created a G-Money Jazz Mix featuring tracks from John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Charlie Mingus. I also have a morning SoCal jazz mix that I play from time to time. Not really any California musicians, but stuff I like to listen to when I write in the mornings -- Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Sidney Bechet.

Nicky was kind enough to hide out in the bedroom/her office for the mornings and afternoons which gave me free reign of the apartment. The light is better in the dining room/living room and I prefer to write at the dining room table. Sometimes I start out with a free write. Kinda of like light jogging. Nothing special. Just getting the fingers loose and the mind wandering. Once I'm warmed up it's back to the grind.

We were in heavy editing mode, so I was doing lots of reading and redlining. I compare my edits to the German Butcher and proceed with cleaning up the chapters. Some parts are smooth. Others are still choppy. Instead of pounding out the blemishes, I scrapped entire sections and started from scratch. Re-writes. That's my favorite part of the editing process mainly because it's writing. It's a chore to read and edit and trim. But I'm slowly getting more and more used to that process. It's essential and growing on me. When I'm done with the edits on a chapter, I snatch up my laptop and rush into my office to print up pages. I inspect the printed pages for edits. My eyes catch them better on paper than on the screen. I dunno what that is... it just is. I redline any errors, then return to the laptop to fix them. The process repeats itself until I'm satisfied. Then I can finally move onto the next chapter. Some chapters take hours to edit, other chapters take days.

Then the next thing I know... it's late afternoon. Nicky is having a smoke break and inquiring about dinner. I'm usually too zoned in to think about food. I mutter "Whatever" and she whips up something a couple of hours later. While she's cooking, I migrate to my office for the rest of the evening. Nicky reclaims the living room and the rest of the apartment until she crashes.

I woof down food and shut the door in my office. Time continues to fly and it's 10pm. At that point, I passed the 12 hour mark a few hours earlier. I make the decision to call it a night or keep going. I usually take a break until Midnight and see what my body and mind is telling me. If I'm feeling up for it, I return to the grind. If not, I play a little online poker, listen to music, or read. Sometimes I still want to write -- but not the book -- so I open up a blank Word document and write about whatever has been waiting to come out. Otherwise, I try to sleep for a few hours and wake up in the darkness to repeat the process.

These sessions are long. Double digit hours. Intense. Focused. I haven't worked like this in a very long time. I finally unplugged and was able to walk away from the rest of the world and retreat into the words. The pages. No distractions. It's so twisted that I control the ability to connect and unconnect from the virtual world, yet spend most of my time unable to connect. Addictions. I have lots of them, and that's one of them. It took me a couple of days to overcome that fear of missing out on something and become more intoxicated in floating around in my own universe.

My lifeforce is like a sponge and I soak up whatever is around me. It's hard to block it all out the negativity. That's why I had to shut down completely. No cell phone. No email. No Twitter. No TV. No internet (except for research). That was the only way I knew how to control what filter into my senses. Everything on the TV is trying to brainwash me into buying something I don't need or think a certain way because that's what the powers to be want... mindless consumer sheep. It's a chore to create when all of that propaganda is floating around. That's why I have to block it all out.

Any down time is spent listening to music, thinking, and looking at certain photos to trigger dormant memories. Sometimes that works. I enjoy that exercise trying to use photos or music to conjure up memories, then using words to re-create them. I enjoyed having the time to think freely about the subject matter in front of me at that given time instead of constantly worrying about other petty matters that would rile me up on a daily basis.

I've been haunted and paralyzed by this project for almost five years and it's so close to getting done. There hasn't been a day when I did NOT think about it in some capacity. Some days, that's all I thought about and pulled out what little hair I had left on my head. I struggled on how to tell the story, and when I finally got the story out, there was too much of it and I had to spend the last six months lopping off days, months, weeks, years of previous work. Painful.

I vowed that I would never take more than a year on any more future projects. Life is way too short. I can't get myself bogged down in losing another half of a decade of my life trying to complete one piece of work. I have six new ideas/concepts and would love to get all of those out before 2020... that is if I/we/the world is still around by that time.

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