I haven’t posted anything here since October, but it’s still a bad time in a great many ways. I’m back to work after completing my sabbatical project and working from home every other week. It’s nice to talk more regularly with my co-workers but it’s bad to be doing anything during a pandemic.
Coming back to regular work after my sabbatical has gotten me thinking about the flexibility I had then that I retain to some degree by working partially from home. Anne Helen Petersen’s Culture Study newsletter had a great piece this weekend about a lot of that. You can read that here.
Last week I listened to a two-part series on On Margins, hosted by Craig Mod, interviewing Sam Anderson: part 1 & part 2. One thing I took away from these long talks about writing and loads of other things was a now-defunct column Sam Anderson wrote for the NYTimes magazine:
Sam: […] So the premise was, and this was an idea from Jake Silverstein, the editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine, who essentially wanted to solve this problem of not allowing me to spiral off into the formless void and to have, in this case, a weekly deadline for this mini piece. And they’re like 300 words, which is nothing. And it was brilliant because it didn’t allow me to procrastinate and float away. And it was short enough that I didn’t have to really freak out. I can do 300 words. And I had a whole routine. Sam: So the premise of the column was I would just take one sentence from some newish book that had been published in the last six months or so and write a mini essay about whatever. And I could go in any direction I wanted. I could do stylistic analysis of the sentence. I could do free associative prose poetry. And it was super fun. And that was one where I really got a rhythm going. I’d read a book and then I’d make a long list of potential sentences from it. I would type into my computer and I’d print those out. And then I’d pick the sentence and start free writing. And then I’d just produced this little 300 word essay.from Part 1 of On Margins S2E1 here: https://craigmod.com/onmargins/s02e01/
This got me thinking about trying to do something similar, of setting up some frameworks for myself, deadlines, without which nothing is ever finished and no really consistint work of any kind really gets done. As they say in the episode above, all the ‘writing advice’ is dumb cliches because it is always, really, forever just sit (or stand at your desk) and do the work. If I sit down and read more I can do something like Anderson’s column above, here, put in a quote or a sentence, with links, and include a photo I’ve taken recently.
This poem by Ross Gay is lovely and every time I encounter great poetry or music I think about how I need to make space for more of both those things in my life. […] the engine of his mind […] thank you, dear reader.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that as an Irish-American I almost completely faily to understand as much of anything beyond a day, a moment for a inheritance and a heritage and which sometimes boils down to wanting to go back to Ireland, to understand it better and my ancestors there and to watch a few minutes of Riverdance on youtube.
So, I’ll be back again, next Friday at the latest to organize some thoughts here, post some links and write a little essay, maybe, about 300 words, about something I’ve read or seen or heard, to give myself a little focus and a little pressure to put some words together here where someone might read them but which mostly I will write.