Archive for April, 2014
Oh, I love a good routine. I go to the same pubs, eat at the same restaurants, and meet the same friends. I run the same route three times a week, eat a similar breakfast every day, and sing the same songs in the shower.
My writing is set as a daily routine as well. Since it is contingent on when I teach at the university, the time changes daily: Monday 3-5, Tuesday 5-7, and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9-11. The daily output is 1,000 words but those are the times I am sitting on my ass at my desk pumping out words.
A couple months ago I read an article on how changing up your writing routine – where, when, how, and with what – could assist your writing. The idea is that if you are in a comfort zone with your writing you might not be getting the most out of it. It’s based on the idea that exploiting your creativity demands an adventurous and innovative mindset, and if a writer is in a too comfortable place, they might be missing out by simply having an over-relaxed mind.
Obviously, this is one of several theories on the best ways to write. Some people think that a routine is necessary to put a writer into that ‘writing mode.’ Others think that consistently shutting oneself off from the world is the best way to get results. And these are totally valid points and reasonable ways to look at writing schedules and routines.
I have always taken a ‘to each their own,’ mentality on this. Being creative is a highly personal thing and I do not believe that there is one right way to write, paint, or dance. However, I did wonder if there was something to this idea of changing it up. An experiment was in order and so, over the period of three weeks, I wrote in different places, different states of mind, different positions, and with different tools.
Lots of things happen during my morning run. In the first few minutes, I grunt and groan like an old Buick and consider calling it quits. Then I level out and just go along with the tuff tuff tuff of my shoes against pavement. After a few more minutes I feel my pulse and go, “hmmm.” And I also smile and wave at any other runners I come across. My logic is that if I collapse into a ball of sweat and athletic logos, I’ll need all the allies I can get.
And sure enough, somewhere along the run, my stupid muse will show up.
And while double anything always seems to get me in trouble, the lure of it is too enticing.
Enter a new fad: double roasted coffee. This entails brewing a pot of coffee at night, refrigerating it and then using that pot of coffee as your ‘water’ for the next day. So you are brewing coffee with coffee rather than water.
Logic: if coffee is awesome, double coffee is double awesome.
Ever since attaining my Czech permanent residence last month, people have been asking me, “So, do you feel more Czech?” And though I’ve been blowing this off with a laugh, I have to admit that the question did intrigue me to my sock-and-sandal wearing core.
It’s hard to live in a place for a decade and not take on some of the customs and habits, right? So, last night, as I partook in an age old Czech custom (sitting in a pub) and an American one (hating soccer) at the same time, I was inspired to jot some notes on the battle that is raging inside my torn body.
The battle of the Czech vs The American
We are sitting at pizza place on a back street in Beşiktaş, a section of Istanbul near the European shore of the Bosporus. We are here with Ekrem, a Turkish teacher from the university who has generously offered to bring us around his neighborhood. The back street offers relative quiet in this busy part of town.
In any case, we are getting pizza soon, so I am organizing my attack plan.
Most people have travel “barometers,” things they use to gauge a city or country’s acceptability in terms of travel. These can include a good cultural scene, good hotels, or no cholera. Mine is pizza.
If I were in charge of the world, places with bad pizza would be put on a UN watch list.
Wednesday, 8:30 am. I am walking across the Galata Bridge, basking in a rare moment of almost quiet as I cross the Golden Horn. The Galata Tower, my objective this morning, stands at the top of an enormous hill (of course) in the distance.
The scene is peaceful, a thing which I have come to realize is as much a commodity in Istanbul as food and water. The sun is shining, the birds hover above the three dozen fishermen who stand at the rail and drop lines into the water 40 feet below. The simit peddlers push their carts and the shoe polishers have set up their squat stations all along the river and on the bridge.
A shoe polisher crosses my path, carrying his tool chest/foot stand. As he passes, a brush drops off of it to the ground in front of me. Instinctively I pick it up and call to him. He accepts it with realization, then a huge smile, and offers me a shoe shine in the shade of one of the pillars. I take him up on the offer, thus extending this moment of peace.
In ten seconds he has related most of his life story, whose abridged version involves ten children, three ex-wives, and two imminent, major surgeries. Surely, I am going to be asked to pay for one of them.
My moment of peace has ended.
I am walking up a hill. (Almost everything ever written or said about Istanbul should start with that sentence). But I don’t know that yet. It’s about one hour after my arrival in Istanbul and it’s the third hill I’ve had to climb. It does not seem to end. Ever.
We are lost.
So, I am walking up a hill and looking at each eave and shingle and sign in the desperate hopes that one of them reads: The Hotel Nobel. Thus far, my hopes have been thwarted. All of the signs are in a language I not only don’t understand, but can’t begin to decipher. For all I know, these signs are hanging above a clothing store, a nunnery, or a clothing store for nuns. All I know is that we are walking up, straight up, and the Hotel Nobel does not seem to exist.
We turn the corner. Another hill.
I am leaving on a trip to Istanbul tomorrow and that means I am surrounded by lists. There is a packing list, a list of things to do in Istanbul, a list of things to remember about my presentation, a list of subsidiary reminders for the packing list, a list of things to buy in Istanbul, and a list of things to do in the morning before leaving.
Of all these lists, my favorite is the packing list.
I am standing in front of my bed now, considering the notepad in my hand like a foreman in front of an assembly line. The bed is covered in neat piles of systematically arranged clothing. There are notebooks, gadgets, and pens. There are medicines, products, and body tools. I am looking through the list, comparing it to the objects and devises on the bed and doing my favorite activity: ticking things off.
I sit in my armchair and gaze at the organization in wide-eyed wonder. I am in Heaven.