Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How to be a Poor Writer in New York

"But this was how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."
Earnest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I'm currently sitting on the toilet and scribbling in my journal. This is one of the best places to write when one is poor and living in New York. One of the best of many places to write. I've discovered that I have to incorporate my writing with many other activities that I used to do sans writing. I won't give you a description of my current setting, but it is a prime example.

When one is poor and in New York an entire world opens up before you. And when you desire to write, the possibilities of influence, inspiration, and location are endless.

A brief bare bones account of a day in the life of a freelance proofreader/wannabe writer is as follows:

The day begins at 5 a.m.. I roll off of my futon and voila I'm at my desk, or my armoire that Mrs. Okie and I have converted into a closet/desk. I write for an hour and a half; then smoke a cigarette, take a shower, eat a granola bar, and hit the streets (Mrs. Okie is a sweetheart and actually wakes up around 6:30 to pack my lunch when I'm in the shower).

Instead of reading a paper on my morning commute, I grab my journal and scribble horrible penmanship across its pages as the train jostles and the groggy 9-to-5ers crowd the car, swaying to a fro. The commute is around 20 minutes and I can write for about 15 of those.

Off the subway, I walk five blocks to work, clock in, and sit at my table. Rather than staring into space or surfing the net for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the workload, I open up my story, which I've saved to Google Documents for easy, anywhere access, and hammer away until my first proofing job comes in.

Lunch breaks are wonderful. I have to cut mine short to capitalize on my time on the clock, but I can scarf my sandwich, chips, and apple and get a good 20 to 27 minutes of writing.

And if there are any lulls in the work, I can always break Google Docs back open.

After I clock out, I still have the 20 minute commute home to look forward to. And after eating, talking to Mrs. Okie, running any errands (laundry, shopping, bank, apt. cleaning, etc.), I can still get an hour in before I go to bed at around midnight.

This schedule works great when I have a consistent freelance proofing schedule. When I don't, It's all turned on its head and I write on the toilet as I'm doing now. But anyone can write and write a lot if he simply substitutes writing for every other stimulus in his life, other than time with his wife.

Who needs movies, exercise, theater, Central Park, reading, etc. when you can write? Obviously this life style has it's draw-backs, but if you put the pen and paper down long enough to notice the leaves change, the toddler with under-developed motor skills who has just plunged ice-cream into his eye socket, the darkening of clothes on the pedestrians with the coming cold, and the way you're wife looks cuddled under the blankets with the blue glow of the computer screen covering her face, then you can lay the other things aside and focus on your work and writing until you have enough money to take her out to a decent dinner.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wails Through the Night, Moans Through the Day

A couple hours after dark my wife called me from the street, three blocks away from our apartment, and said,

"I heard a voice cry, 'God, please help. Help me. Help!'"

We talked on the phone till she was home and came in the front door. "Did I do the right thing? I'm a girl and was alone." Tremors passed through her body in waves. I couldn't squeeze her hard enough to stop her trembling.

On my way to work the next morning,

A dark man with a dead forest of hair and wearing a ragged dark tunic leans over an egg crate on 6th Avenue. The sun breaches the horizon, I think. "Please help. Give a guy a coin, sir. Give a guy a coin." I eye my cigarette as I pass him. "Bastard," his voice coughs behind me.

Two blocks down, I hear "Tseegaret plees, tsir, tseegaret plees." I turn to see a pretty, petite, French woman dressed in earthy tones and hang my head low as I offer her one.

The bald brute with a goatee behind the visitors' counter sings. He frantically pounds the names of visitor's into the guest database of the law firm. His tie stretches around his neck, his forehead beads with sweat. "Sign in please," he says as suits crowd him. He breaks out into chorus, "Welcome to my nightmare . . . ."

Exhausted after 13 hours work, I drag myself to the subway. I have to stop and tie my shoe three times before I finally reach the stop and sit to wait for the B train to arrive, only to hear: "All local trains canceled." I curse and walk the ten blocks to Columbus Circle. A 300 lb, sixty year old woman with a shaved head and nose ring asks if I can spare some change as her body spills over the concret curb and into the street. I can smell her from six feet away. I toss three quarters into her star-spangled hat and she smiles down at them.

I exit the subway and walk home. I hear four languages spoken in the three blocks. I swing my front door open, strip to my underwear and crash onto the couch. The night winds don't blow the curtains. Sweat pools in the couch. The refrigerator hums. The refrigerator hums. The refrigerator hums.