Call me Scooter

Writing is dark and lonely work, and no one has to do it. No one will even care much if it doesn’t get done at all, so that choosing to do it and to try to do it well is enough of an existential errand, enough of a first step, and for whatever my money and counsel’s worth, enough of a last step, too. (Richard Ford)

No one has to do it. And because no one has to do it, because no one is standing over you with a whip and a chair, it’s very easy not to do it. I’ve written more words in my favorite coffee shop in Portland and on the fifth floor of the Vancouver Community Library than I have at home. That’s because both places have plenty of plugs for my wheezy laptop (the coffee shop also has raspberry coffee cake) and I can’t connect to the Internet in either. Well, I might be able to connect if I knew their wireless passwords, but I’ve never asked, and even if I knew them, my laptop would probably refuse to cooperate. It’s a real pal that way.

Today, after an interview for an editing job, some miscellaneous job-search stuff, and a walk in the fleeting sunshine, I got down to the business of fiction. But because I was working at home, I was immediately distracted by my email. I dealt with a couple of recruiters, answered messages I didn’t have to answer, and shut it down.

Then a question arose in what I was writing, and instead of scribbling it in my notebook to look up later, as I would if I were between bites of raspberry coffee cake, I succumbed to the Great God Google. Of course, I spent more time online than I needed.

I finally got in my hour and a half, but I would’ve been more efficient if I could learn to keep our instant-gratification culture at arm’s length. I probably could’ve hit two hours. If you blow 30 minutes online, you don’t get those 30 minutes back somewhere else.

Elizabeth Benedict said it best: “Write like a maniac. No one else will do it for you.”

Tomorrow’s challenge: How to end Chapter 5!

Random Pick of the Day
Paul Anka, Rock Swings (2005)
I respect Paul Anka for his creativity; he wrote for Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra, and how many people can say that? But Anka is also responsible for three crimes against humanity: “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Puppy Love,” and the ultimate in offensiveness at the molecular level, “(You’re) Having My Baby.”
Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’ what you’re thinkin’ of me
Havin’ my ba– [sound of Hulk smashing puny human]

But admit it, Run-DMSteve, the man can sing. Rock Swings, an album of covers of mainstream and alternative hits from the 1980s and ’90s, stomps Pat Boone’s I’m In a Metal Mood (1997) into the dirt. Boone doesn’t take his metal originals seriously, plus he wouldn’t know how to deliver a song if he worked for FedEx.

Rock Swings is not Richard Cheese and his deliberately cornball covers (Aperitif for Destruction, 2005). Anka rearranges his choice of songs to find their essence, then delivers them as if they were the American songbook. Not every song works, but frankly I was stunned by his interpretations of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Throw in Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and you’ve got a disc that just slips in as a Buy.

  1. Barb says:

    There’s an interesting interview with Connie Francis on the “Where the Boys Are” DVD about different syrupy versions of that song and how she wanted her pal Paul Anka’s version. No, wait, it was Neil Sedaka. Never mind. I can’t keep those crooners straight. Except Bobby Darin. Gotta love him.

  2. “Keep On Running”

    Obviously a marathon runner wouldn’t be too happy to be stopped after 10 miles by an over zealous supporter to discuss the various running shoes available, and given your earlier comments about the distractions of email and Google you may well decide to ignore this link to a discussion of a “Railroad Atlas of 1946” by Richard C. Carpenter ( or his offer “to answer any questions or hear any comments about the atlas” via an email link.

    Thanks for allowing us to observe the creative process. Strange how Chapter 5 has managed to morf into Chapter 6. If you extend this method further you may be able to create your 20 chapter target without writing another word!

    Lots of luck with the rest of your Write-a-thon.


    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Any url that has “Edward Tufte” embedded within is my kind of url!

      This doesn’t make me unhappy at all, as I figured I’d stumble on new resources as I went along or people would take pity on me and dig things up. My railroad is entirely fictional, but it’s useful to see what the real roads of that time looked like. And this one is from exactly my era. Thanks, Bill.

      For rail nuts who are following along: Special D found an excellent book for me, though it’s a bit wide in its scope: Railway Maps of the World, by Mark Ovenden.

  3. Verlierer says:

    Pat Boone is not a regurgitate-or, but a translator. He is showing the melody in the metal to his aging christian followers in hopes that they may stop shunning and begin connecting with their children again. I like his musical interpretations here, but then I haven’t heard Paul Anka’s or Ricard Cheese’s, yet. Thanks for the tips.

    Good luck with the cessation of chapter 5.

  4. Laurel says:

    You obviously never slow danced to Put Your Head on My Shoulder.

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