Thanks, Nancy--Let's Get High

Apr 16, 2012

On the incessant nature of emails, chasing down running endorphins, and doing what you love most, no matter what. • Oh man, oh my, oh me: it's that time of year again where the hot Houston heat starts to turn into that mild Houston heat, and the crape myrtles begin to shake off those pretty pink flowers that then stick to the bottom of your shoes and wind up decorating your apartment's laminated wood flooring. It's also that time of year where emails start coming in at Buzz Lightyear speed and you rediscover that with enough coffee in you, you can read through these emails just as quickly as they come and respond to them even quicker. But then it happens: the emails keep coming and you find your dog eating the since-decomposed pretty pink flowers that are no longer pretty or pink, but which haven't been swept or vacuumed up on account of all the emails that continue to fill your inbox. You find the once euphoric optimism of your previous cup of coffee turning against you, transforming itself into the jittery, coffee shakes, with a side dish of a churning stomach, heart palpitations and the sweaty sweat sweats. Fortunately there's always insanity. That liberating moment where you're just crazy enough to drop the f-bomb at your inanimate computer screen and let the madness of the world wide web's constant updates/news/requests/blah blah blah go on without you. I call this insanity my writing time: when I open up the current draft of my novel and get lost in my fiction and let everything else just disappear. Hell, even my dog puking up his over-indulgence of crape myrtle leaves doesn't break my focus (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration--I'm a good, concerned dog owner, damn it--but you get my point). Some people do yoga to relax. I've always wanted to try it, but I'm incredibly lazy. Other people drink. I'm not above that, but admittedly I have an overactive bladder: one beer in and all relaxation is out the window in my constant back and forth between socializing and the john. In my last two years of high school I ran cross-country because people told me that running was relaxing. That a runner's high was incredible. Of course, I never experienced a runner's high. I experienced shin splints, the unforgiving South Florida heat and the dispiriting reality that the kid on my team who smoked a joint before each practice and meet--the kid who didn't stretch or do any sort of warm-ups--would always finish ten minutes before my tired legs wobbled across the finish line. In fact, the whole team, actually the entirety of all high-school runners in all of Broward County public schools, would continue to beat me. Nevertheless, I continued running in search of that runner's high. Of course, I never found it. Mainly because I wasn't a runner. I was a wannabe runner who hated running. Cross-country did, however, help me discover what I was after: a passion. Something that I could find both pleasure and purpose in. What I found was Joseph Heller's Catch-22. What Catch-22 showed me was that among other things, literature could be funny. Discovering that literature could be funny led to my first attempt at writing a novel (i.e., a really bad knock-off of Joseph Heller's Catch-22). But my bad knock-off led to the discovery I was after all along: a passion. That passion was writing. It wasn't until after my senior year of college that I made an additional discovery about writing. Namely, that runners aren't the only ones getting high. At the time I was visiting my brother out west, writing during the day and exploring Los Angeles with him during the night. Then one evening, after my brother went to bed, I got the itch to write some more. And so I wrote. And continued to write. I wound up writing all through the night, thinking as I did that what I wrote was greatest thing ever. It was not. Still, it certainly felt like the greatest thing ever and that feeling kept my fingers typing and the words sprinting and the story growing and my excitement building until finally around five in the morning I called it a night, only to wind up pacing the streets of Los Angeles in search of a 24-hour diner. Dude, I was effing high. Writer's high. And I was riding that wave. I found a diner a few blocks down and for the next hour or so I sat sipping on an endless supply of coffee and listening to the fifties music that bebopped through the ceiling speakers, feeling all things good and everything possible. Since that time I've had a few good run-ins with writer's high that have left me pacing the sidewalks of whatever state I happened to be living in at the time. But five years later and a few months back I'm talking with my friend and fellow writer Nancy. No longer a 22-year-old kid with free refills, I still carry the optimism of that night at the diner, but it's certainly been overcome at times by moods less favorable; moods that forget or ignore the feel-good bebop that accompanied that bottomless cup of joe. Such forgetting has occurred for me that night when Nancy and I talk. The semester is about to begin and the impending threat of life and its demands (with all those damn emails) come up in conversation. The reality sets in: the summer is over and with it the luxury of additional time to write is gone. We (mostly I) began to lament and freak out a little over things that might impede our writing. And then Nancy says something that I won't be able to quote accurately, but that I'll try to recreate as best I can. She says: "Yeah, but we're writers. And if you think about it that's a pretty great thing. We already know who we are. We know what we're here to do." And it's true. We are writers. Although perhaps some of you reading this are not. Maybe you're a painter or a chef or a ski instructor or a neurosurgeon. Who knows? Maybe you'd rather be fishing. Regardless, if you are what you are and know that what you're doing is what you're supposed to be doing--something that you cling to and fight for and scrape out as much time as possible from your hectic, busy day to perform--well, then I say that's a pretty great thing. Because the emails will certainly keep coming, the outside demands will keep demanding, the dog will keep puking. Which reminds me, you should seriously consider sweeping up the dead and decomposing crape myrtle leaves to avoid future instances, although you probably won't--not right now at least, not while you're in the zone. That wonderful zone of doing what you're supposed to be doing. But I need you to step out of that zone, just for a minute. It's important to step out every so often while you're in it so that you can recognize just that: that you are in fact in it. Otherwise you might forget and start to overlook things. You might fool yourself into thinking the world and its wide web has at last reeled you in. You might feel caught up and then even more caught up by the false notion of being caught up. And then you'll forget to thank Nancy for putting it all back into perspective. You'll forget how lucky we all really are. So take a minute. Let it sink in. Thanks, Nancy.