I'm the co-founder of ADK MOGUL, a film and writing resource program that provides location and production management for films shooting in the Adirondack region. I'm developing a seasonal journal featuring the best in local student writing.
Currently, we are working with ten small independent movie theaters in the Adirondack Park in helping them transition to digital film and provide alternative and sustaining programming as part of our campaign, Go Digital or Go Dark.
We just released our first short film, The Deal, which was written and directed by my better-half, T J Brearton.
I'm also an English teacher. I wrote my thesis on comics writer Grant Morrison and Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. I'm teaching English at Paul Smith's College and North Country Community College, while assistant coaching the PSC swim team. I may never sleep.
From the desk of Ed Brubaker: I love this bit about structure and the Save the Cat formula, which is what I use to teach my English 102 class on writing comics.
As a writing exercise, I recently started a script closely adhering to the “Save the Cat” beat sheet formula. I’ve long thought that and other such formulas were largely bullshit, but the results have been pleasantly surprising so far. Since you write across a variety of media, what are your thoughts on such formulas? Are they the backbone of successful storytelling, or the province of hacks?
I’m sure a good writer could use just about any structure they choose to tell their story, honestly. To me, the danger is always getting stuck thinking that X event has to happen NOW because some formula said it did. Sometimes those formulas and structure outlines are helpful and work, though. Just like Campbell’s Hero Myth chart somehow fits so many stories throughout history.
It’s time for Beginnings, the podcast where writer and performer Andy Beckerman talks to the comedians, writers, filmmakers and musicians he admires about their earliest creative experiences and the numerous ways in which a creative life can unfold.
On today’s episode I talk to writer Chris Claremont. Born in London, Chris’ family moved to the States when he was a child, and though he originally studied acting and political theory, he eventually started writing comics after taking a job as a gofer/editorial assistant at Marvel while in college. Chris was originally given the low-selling series X-Men to write, which he did for the next 16 years, turning it into both a groundbreaking and best-selling series and revolutionizing the ways stories in comics were told. Not only did he create many beloved characters including Rogue, Legion, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Mystique, Emma Frost, Sabretooth, Strong Guy, Mister Sinister, Captain Britain, and Gambit, but he also scripted some of the most iconic stories of the X-Men’s entire existence including “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past”. Besides his work on the X-Men, Chris wrote the spin-offs The New Mutants and Excalibur, and has written for almost every character in the Marvel Universe. His relaunch of X-Men in 1991 is still the best-selling comic ever, and in 2015, Claremont and his X-Men collaborator John Byrne were entered into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. And everything I’ve just said barely even scratches the surface of his career.
I’m on Twitter here and you can get the show with:
Well, I have anxiety pains in my chest all the time now from our quick slide into authoritarianism, but I’m trying to find some good things, so it’s exciting that tomorrow is the 300th episode of Beginnings. And to celebrate, I’m talking to someone whose storytelling has been a big influence on my own writing: Chris Claremont! Chris wrote the X-Men for decades, and what he did with those characters and the way he shaped the narratives reverberates not just through the X-titles, but through the entire Marvel Universe to this day. We talk about his days living in Israel, his relationship with his parents and a lot more. All on tomorrow’s 300th episode!
Pretty sure X-Men # 143 was my first issue of X-MEN. “Demon” here collected in the Days of Future Past trade ended up in a later X-MEN CLASSIC issue which I bought, probably, in New Jersey in the late ‘80s. Tis very nice to revisit an old favorite today.
Character-building is the most important task any of us can tackle. People often get overly enamored with the specific detail of their field rather than remembering that ultimately any field is only as good as it helps us become more effective and better as human beings. If martial arts are just about martial arts, then screw them–they are not that important. But if martial arts (or any other field for that matter) offer us the instruments to reforge our character, then it would be foolish to miss this chance. Zen warns us not to get lost looking at the finger pointing at the moon, and focus on the moon itself. The way I see it, the details of any field are the finger, while character-building is the moon.
Office detail: 1930s map of the county found in my attic.
Familial bonds are not created through the transfer of information. They are forged through experience over time. They are the sum of Potty Training times Sick Days, of Nights Spent Sleeping= in the Same Bed times Knee Scrapes Kiss in Playgrounds. The intimacy of parents and children is not based on data as much as it is on the proximity. Case in point: I was probably ten before it even occurred to me ask where my father went when he left the house in the morning other than “to go to work.” Instead, my father was a voice (low and resonant), a smell (woody and earthen). My father was a feeling, a sense of security transferred from his body to mine when I put my arms around his neck. The details of his life were irrelevant. He was an extension of my body, as I was of his.
This book really affected me in a way that I did not expect. The whole thing was a gut punch in the sense that I’m a new father. It’s about an absentee father whose son ends up assassinating a presidential candidate. The book backtracks as Dr. Paul Allen tries to put together the reason why his son did it. What he realizes is it was Dr. Allen’s negligence—of being focused on his job rather than on his family. Reading Hawley and reading this book was a real gut check for me. Is my life my work? Or is my life my family? It’s the latter. The former is a job—a job I love doing, that I’ll keep doing no matter whether I get paid for it ever, but nothing is more important than being here for my wife and kid. And that opens up worlds of character growth and story ideas.
Really, it was quite hard for me to read as a result of this experience. That said, what book hasn’t been hard for me to get through this month as a new dad? Not many. I guess except the comics I’ve been reading. That said, I’m enthralled with Hawley, especially the above passage which I quoted in my son’s journal.
What got to me overall was the last page when the son is sentenced to death and Allen witnesses it. That’s what nailed me:
Once he had been a newborn boy who drank from his mother’s breast. He learned to speak to say Mama. They were the first words he spoke every morning, calling to us from his crib. HE was a child who could not wait to see what the new day would bring, what new wonders. A boy who smiled with pure and unmitigated happiness every time he saw my face…he was the reason I had been born, my mission.
Finally, it’s in the acknowledgements that settled my late-night tears, and helped me come to a realization about my newfound fatherhood and what that means for my identity and my “work.”
To my father, Thomas Hawley, who taught me that it means to be a good father…and to my bonus father and mother, Mike and Trudy, I want to say thank you for taking me in and showing me that we are stronger with families than we are without. To Kyle, my wife, who supports me and gives my life meaning, thank you. You have made me a better man. And to Guinevere, my Guinevere, for whom anything that happened in the past happened “last weekend,” and who insists on growing up no matter how hard we try to stop her—thanks for letting me be your dad. You make me want to live forever.
I realized that I live for family and my “work” is for them.
I quoted this DeLillo piece in my creative writing class:
I go sentence by sentence, word by word, and the sentences seem to extend themselves into paragraphs … For me there is an element of a certain mystery. The language itself is what matters most to me, and then people evolve out this; people evolve out of words.
Hawley on his process:
“I think there is that novelist tool as well where you write stuff that you don’t know why it’s in there and then months later you have that eureka moment where you realize where you’re going to pay it off.”
I teach freshman writing classes to students who have a lot of anxiety about writing and time management, so I almost always find myself defaulting into teaching them the Bullet Journal system, so I’m saving this to show them for later.
What he’s engaging in is called the 4D approach, a plan that has worked fantastically for Vladimir Putin. It stands for Dismiss, Distort, Distract, and Dismay. Those last two are definitely what he’s engaging in without a doubt.
This was a hard read for me. Mostly because as a new father re-reading the first chapter and the Billy Ansell chapter made it hard to deal with the fact that the inciting incident of the book is a school bus crashing in a blizzard killing fourteen children. That said, this is a book of harsh emotional reality. Harsh like the winters up here. The reason I selected it was I’m running a question in my creative writing class: What does it mean to be an Adirondack writer? And Banks is probably the highest regarded Adirondack writer today.
Another re-read for this semester’s Creative Writing class. It’s been a while since i read Dillard, but she’s a great example of someone who has pristine descriptive powers. In the end, I think I should have stuck with Stephen King’s On Writing as the writing theory book for this semester’s creative writing class.
What motivated this particular engagement with feminism in your comic books? Why there and not somewhere else? What prompted the collaboration with Roxane Gay?
I don’t know. It was the next thing I was doing. It’s not really a conscious thing, like that. Comic books have a long, fraught history with sexism. And so I felt, like, that was part of my inheritance as a comic-book writer. The debates are so much a part of the culture. And then there were some things about Black Panther, specifically, that made it the space to do it—the Dora Milajae’s position, the fact that most of the men around him were dead, the fact that in wars, rape is so often used as a weapon.
My favorite pages from Paper Girls volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. Kind of had to groan at that first panel of Grand Father, but yet again I like how Vaughan sneaks in his political satire.
This book feels like an old ‘80s X-Men–as in I have no idea what’s going to happen from one moment to the next.
1. My favorite podcast this year has been Matrimoney. In this first year and half of married life we’ve welcomed a child into our lives, and I’ve gotten more serious about finances. This podcast has helped my wife and I approach our finances from a serious but fun perspective and establish what is important to our ideal life as a family. Sure there are a lot of family budget related materials like Mr. Money Mustache and Dave Ramsey’s work, but they’re a little intense for us. Kelsey and Chris are our kind of people.
There have been some strange comic books over the years. Wholesome teen Archie Andrews has tangled with space monster Predator. In a Grant Morrison story, Batman is revealed to be so clever and paranoid that he has a backup personality in case of psychic attack — and the backup personality wears a purple and yellow Batsuit. In a recent Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series by Tom Scioli and John Barber, a defeated Megatron seeks refuge in an alternate universe, ending up in the world of My Little Pony. Anything goes in comics.
But who among the geniuses and weirdos who came up with this stuff is the Most Bonkers Comic Book Creator Ever? I reckon the answer might be Fletcher Hanks, whose work is collected in a spanking new edition by Fantagraphics Books. If you’re looking for many dark laughs and a multicolored escape from reality, you must check out Turn Loose Our Death Rays And Kill Them All!: The Complete Works Of Fletcher Hanks. Not only is Hanks the Most Bonkers Comic Book Creator Ever, but Hanks produced one of the most distinctive, humorous, wacky bodies of work in the history of the medium.
I finished this book on December 30. It’s a good sequel to Words For Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis, because the former deal in writing lessons and how to make Marvel Comics as well as dealing with contracts. This book focuses on putting together a creator-owned comic from scratch, while dealing with the marketplace and a collaborator.
While Words for Pictures is a good primer, this is much more relevant to someone like me.
The bottom line of this book is it’s about being a good collaborator rather than the nuts and bolts of writing. So here is what I noted.
“Some co-writing teams divide their work by task…but we never went that route; both of us immediately and instinctively knew that to reap the real creative rewards and fun of collaboration we needed to be equally involved in every step of the process.”
Here’s how they pulled this off:
“One of us would write up a first draft of a story outline after our face-to-face meeting. Then the other guy would edit it and send it back to the first guy…but always we’d trade those script pages back and forth, editing each other until we were both happy.”
Other notable screen grabs–what their scripts looked like:
To creating a script template, which was always really frustrating to me.
To budgeting a print run:
Also, probably some really good handout material for classes.
And finally philosophical:
Seriously, you should go buy it if you’re taking your comics career seriously.
Todd VanDerWerff: How do you find time to spend with your family or even eat a meal?
Noah Hawley: I refuse to sacrifice that time. I have two young kids. I don’t live in Los Angeles, so there’s an element of travel involved, and of course, you can’t film everything in Los Angeles, so you end up filming up in Canada.
“The most important thing is that my kids grow up knowing me, and that my wife is happy to see me”
So I’m torn between three locations, but I think you’d be surprised. I don’t tend to work on the weekends. I need that time to be with my family. And I’m not good after 8 or 9 o'clock at night. I’ll get up early, so I’m not working 24 hours a day, because I do feel that the most important thing is that my kids grow up knowing me, and that my wife is happy to see me. It really is about, what can I get done between 8 o'clock in the morning and 6 o'clock at night, five days a week?
There are obviously times when you’re prepping, or in production, where you have to sacrifice some of that. But if I can keep that to a couple of times per year, then I feel like a human being.
Finally, in the back matter to Before The Fall, Hawley comments on why feeling like a human being is essential to his writing:
You know, for me, it’s always about trying to find the quickest and most-lasting path to pure creativity, and to be in that space where you’re doing your best creative work. And, for me, storytelling is really an excuse to try to understand the world that I live in.
Don’t we all?
GO TO HELL, SECULARISTS—LITERALLY! or extremely clunky slogans such as FAGS, WHORES, AND EVOLUTIONISTS—IS THIS SODOM? NO, IT’S JUST AN AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOL.
This series was probably my favorite book series from 2016. There is so much to like about these two books that they are the cattle prod hitched to my Emerson Novel series that I’ll be hitching my ride to all year. The satirical nature of the Church of America and everything that goes along with that is absolutely hilarious and sharp. There’s so much to like about these characters that I can barely express it.
You really think God would have us shut our economy down? When our capitalist foundation is part of what God so loves about America? If you believe that, folks, I’m sorry, but I have to question how devout you were in the first place. All is not lost. Go to work; go to church; do better. Book of Frick, chapter nine, verse nine. That’s all I’m saying, folks.”
Towards the end of last year I went on a bit of a tear obsessing over things with Noah Hawley involved, from this great profile of him, to watching the first season of Fargo, I injected quite a lot from him.
This book was a thoughtful meditation on the state of news from the Bill O’Reilly caricature to what it means to be a decent person. As a thriller, it was pretty by the numbers and the cause of the airplane accident was, well, predictable. I felt similarly about Fargo season 1, but to say that as the end result of his work would do a disservice to Hawley. It’s about quite a bit more than that. Both books are about how these people are natural perfectly normal human beings who do the right thing and the reasons why people do absolutely horrible things. I liked Before the Fall and probably would read Hawley’s previous work.
In his profile, Hawley talks about how he tries to bring filmmaking to novels, and a novel’s structure to filmmaking:
“Of course,” she says, smiling. “I’ll be right back.” A few feet away, Sarah Kipling has already run out of small talk. She gives Maggie’s arm a squeeze. “How are you,” she says, earnestly, and for the second time.
This bit about the main character’s art and how it’s a bit like a comic book page really struck me:
You look back at the girl. She is not looking at the house. Her hair is across her face, but her eyes are visible, and though she faces forward her pupils have danced to her right, drawing the viewer’s eye across the intricate splay of leafy green, across another inch of white gallery wall, to the third and final canvas. It is then you see what this girl has just now noticed. The tornado.
He’s probably one author I’ll be reading the rest of his work this year.
It took me two tries to get through this one. The first pass had me putting it down because after thirty or so pages it read like one long magazine article, but it wasn’t until I became a father that its power took hold of me. Funny how one’s reading habits change after something so life-altering. Well, not actually funny.
His book to his son was one of the major reasons I started a little book of letters to my son, partly inspired by John Hughes as well, but mostly just to let me four-month old son have something that he could read that looks back on a moment in his life he won’t remember.
Some of my notes from this great book:
We live in a “goal-oriented” era. Our media vocabulary is full of hot takes, big ideas, and grand theories of everything. But some time ago I rejected magic in all its forms. This rejection was a gift from your grandparents.
The craft of writing is the art of thinking. Poetry aims for an economy of truth–loose and useless words must be discarded, and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts. Poetry was not simply the the transcription of notions–beautiful writing rarely is. I wanted to learn to write, which was ultimately, still, as my mother had taught me, a confrontation with my own innocence, my own rationalizations. Poetry was the processing of my thoughts until the slag of justification fell away and I was left with the cold steel truths of life.
There was before you, and then there was after, and in this after, you were the God I’d ever had.
That last one especially.
Nothing so completely sucks an evening away as fiddling with the layout of a website.
I love this time of year when I start putting away the old to make space for the new work. The most sad thing about this pile is that most of this work didn’t go anywhere. That is not the goal for 2017. The mantra for this year: going pro. That means submitting short stories every month, producing at least one issue of a comic book, and saving every penny I can to pay my collaborators on comics projects.
I thought I would do a similar thing just to see how it changes in 2017.
My Primary Workspace: is the guest bedroom/office, which we call the “Goffice.” We share a desk with two drawers, one drawer is for my wife and filled with her various knitting needles, notebooks, and sewing supplies. In my drawer is everyday office needs: post-its, pencils, pens, notecards, and pocket notebooks. The pocket notebooks are always in the drawers for the quickest access to work notes. This year I primarily used Word Notebooks and Field Notes for my daybook. I went through fifteen this year, on daybook notes alone. I have separate notebooks for specific projects like ABD, Walden, Thought Balloons, and the Emerson Novel.
There’s a mattress in the Goffice and with my newborn we use the room to change when the kid is asleep upstairs. There are two book cases split between the two of us. Drawers in the bookshelves hold old files from the file cabinet that will get put away in a banker’s box and put in the attic during the break. I cherish this time of year. It’s a way to clear the deck and start fresh from an organizational standpoint.
My Secondary Workspace is also where I start the writing day in the winter—the dining room table. It looks out on our front yard and the street ahead and is surrounded by three windows that expose absolutely delightful views. It’s always interesting to watch the people poke around in my little Adirondack town.
In the summer, I use the back porch and have a table setup out there in case I want to work on my laptop while outside, which is rare. Sometimes I’ll migrate to the picnic table in our back yard, but that doesn’t provide much cover and the glare makes it hard to see the screen so I stick to the back porch. I’m not the sort of person who sits in the couch or chair and types away on the laptop, because usually I’m referencing a notebook, or looseleaf pages and it’s awkward. I would sooner get a standing desk then write on the couch with my feet up on the coffee table.
Usually, I spend a half hour writing morning pages or whatever project I’m working on that day. I almost always compose my zero (handwritten) drafts over breakfast and coffee. I like it because it gives me a view and gets me off a screen to start the day. I try to stay off the screens in the morning and in the evening after dinner. That’s family time, and usually I have a hard time focusing at night—my best time is in the morning though I’ve gotten over that with concentrated bursts of writing—usually for a half hour to forty minutes. I’m a big believer in the Pomodoro Technique and writing sprints. Writing on a computer for two or three hours at night has never been something that worked well for me. Sometimes you just gotta go with instinct, and short bursts of concentrated work better at night when your body wants you to wind down.
Technology: I have a Motorola Droid Maxx, because it’s not hard core unless there are double xxs. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with this phone. Sending videos and such come out garbled and I’ll probably switch to an iPhone when the time comes to get a new phone. It’s got a big screen and I use it mostly for messaging and photos. I don’t take notes on it or anything. It’s primary use is the timer for concentrated writing sprints that minimally go for a half hour though I do get distracted—especially now that I’m home with a newborn most days during the holiday break.
I have a MacBook Pro, running Yosemite. I’ve had this computer since early 2011 and I’m a total Mac user for life. Every PC I’ve ever used dies screaming within a year or decides to erase itself. You can imagine my anxiety as a journalism student at St. Bonaventure with my P.O.S Compaq Presario. Those four years scared me for life and often you’ll hear me complaining amongst my colleagues about Windows because we’re a Microsoft campus. So I always bring my laptop to work and my own printer because I don’t trust PCs, or rather PCs don’t trust me.
My wife has an iPad that I will use from time-to-time but only to read comics. Eventually, I think I’ll get an iPad and make more use of it while traveling. It’s part of the reason that I’m spending the holidays learning Scrivener as it’s a solution that I might make use of on the iPad / iPhone.
Software / apps: I use Word for everything. I have Final Draft, but it’s been a long time since I turned that thing on and wrote a screenplay–at least three or four years. Writing for television or movies is not where my head is right now. I’d rather write books and comics. Dropbox and Google Drive backup my files. I just got a terabyte so I’m using that and the Time Machine functionality to transfer old files that live on my hard drive and remove a lot of the stuff that I don’t really need anymore. I take a lot of photos with my phone and those go directly to a private Google Photos archive. Photos don’t live on my hard drive unless I have files from artists and other things that I use for reference materials. I use Spotify to create project specific playlists, but I almost always buy tracks and use Amazon Music to add them to my iPod. I don’t have much music on my hard drive. Really, I only use iTunes for Podcasts. My frequent listens are Matrimoney, Freakonomics, Lore, the Memory Palace, This American Life, and the Comics Experience Make Comics Podcast. I miss the great interview comics podcasts like Let’s Talk Comics and find most of the comics podcasts out there really annoying.
I use Gmail and Google Calendar so my wife and I are constantly up to date on where we are and what we’re doing during the course of the day. That said, Todoist is my primary task manager. I use it to get a bird’s eye view of the week’s tasks and schedule events which autosync to my Google Calendar so my wife knows that usually after class is over at 3:45pm I’m writing a Thought Balloon script for a half hour or something. Todoist is great, I like that I can write sentences into the field and it generates the due dates, labels, and project folders it goes under. By far the best $29 I spent this year.
I used Evernote for a while, but I’m finding it less useful now. I just started playing with Scrivener and I’m pretty sure I’ll replace Evernote with Scrivener just so I can have all of my project materials in one place while I’m working on said project and not have to be synced to the internet.
Social Media: I’ve deleted my Snapchat and shifted to Facebook, which is pretty locked down. I will allow people to friend me but they get sorted into specific groups and then most of my family-related posts go to a specific group of about 20 friends and family members. People are welcome to follow me though, but most of the public posts you get if you follow me on Instagram or here, so there isn’t much reason to add me on Facebook. Instagram is probably my primary social media app because it goes to everything—here, Twitter, and Facebook. I use Messenger now as a way to communicate with students after hours and send them Today’s Message bursts, which were inspired by @kellysue ‘s @bgsd-archive. Messenger is by far the most useful thing about Facebook and I don’t look at the app or the website very much because it’s filled with political discussion and consistent negative updates—I just have better things to do with my life. Twitter, I’m using less and less and it’s mostly used to shoot-the-shit with people I like and post updates from my blog. I know the cross posting across three platforms from one service might be breaking some kind of social media rule but I don’t care. I use the things that I find most use of, and I’m looking to scale back my use of Twitter and Facebook totally in 2016 to anything but the promotional. Messenger, Instagram, and my seasonal newsletter will probably be my primary places of contact.
Writing Tools: I’ve used the Pilot G-2 pens as my carry around pens and Blackwing pencils for handwritten drafts of stuff. While I think Moleskines are by far the best pocket notebook, the amount of notebooks I go through in a year makes it tough to justify the cost of the Moleskines. With that in mind, I’m revising my approach to notebooks in 2017—I’m getting a Bullet Journal and seeing how long that lasts as my primary daybook and a bunch of Word and Field Notes notebooks as project-specific notebooks. I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system for a year and a half now and replenishing the little pocket notebooks—which last about three weeks max—with the month log, collections, future log, etc. has been a pain so I’m going to see how long a big primary daybook lasts in 2017.
Travel Gear: day-to-day I carry my MacBook, a legal pad for class and meeting notes, whatever project notebook for that day, and my Kindle Paperwhite, or whatever non-fiction book I’m reading. I can’t read more than two books at one time, and I usually have one nonfiction book going along with a fiction book on my Kindle. I get overwhelmed and have a hard time choosing which one I’d rather focus on so Austin Kleon’s post about choosing to read books helps me out. For long trips I have an EMS backpack and includes all of the above including the cables, along with a roller suitcase with clothes and especially my iPod nano and running clothes. Most of all, I plan through redundancy and that’s why I’m going to start using Scrivener so all my story notes are in one place where I am and I can pick up and work whenever I need to for ten minutes or so. I’ll just have to get over my situational working mindset of not writing on the phone or not at a table. I just don’t like using the laptop on the chair or something, and shit spending less time on a screen and more time in notebook form helps me get the junk out of my head.
Finally: This is mostly as a placeholder for what I’m using right now in 2016 before it changes next year. I hope this was helpful and I’m a big believer in having a good organizational system that offloads a lot of prep before hand so that when time frees up I can just work for however long I have. That’s the biggest writing lesson I learned in the last sixteen weeks with my kid is that being organized and taking advantages of naps and other down time goes a long way in writing.
Thanks for reading and have a happy holidays. See you in 2017
Sorry if this is a too personal question, but I was wondering when you became a parent what did you do to maximize your time writing when there is so much going on?
<p><a class="tumblr_blog" href="http://cullenbunn.tumblr.com/post/154876443674/sorry-if-this-is-a-too-personal-question-but-i">cullenbunn</a>:</p>
<blockquote><p>It’s a great question. I definitely had to make quite a few adjustments. Keep in mind that in addition to writing, I was working as a Vice President of Marketing for a relocation and job search assistance firm. That in itself was more than a full time job. I had to take a look at how I was spending my time and decide what was really important. The one thing I didn’t want to give up on was time with my family. But I found that I could quite easily give up things like watching television or playing games or sleeping a little later in the morning. I started getting up a little earlier, working for an hour or so before anyone else got up. I would head to work, but I would take my lunch in my office and write during that time. At night, when my son and wife went to bed, I would write for a couple of more hours. It was a tough schedule, but I feel like it paid off. </p></blockquote><p></p>
Reading to Heal by Kate McCahill ‘06 (@katekristiina)
On an unseasonably warm November morning, I drive to my dentist’s
appointment. At the office, the assistant leads me back to the little half-room,
invites me to sit in the chair. “The doctor will be here any second,” she says
sweetly. A moment later, he’s at my side. “How are things?” he asks, his voice
coffee-bright. His face is so open, so friendly, that I reply honestly: “Everything’s
fine,” I say, “except for the election, of course.”
Because we’re in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and our county voted blue, I
figure the nice dentist will commiserate. Instead, though, he looks at me
kindly, sets his hand on my forearm, and says, “Now, don’t worry. We still have
to wait and see what he does.”
“No,” I say, smiling right back. “I’m not going to wait and see what
he does.” And the dentist smiles again, a contest by now, and eases my chair
back so I’m lying down. He says, “Don’t you worry now. He’s already backing
down on a lot of what he said.”
I decide not to reply, though as the dentist is working on Molar 29,
I consider potential retorts. As a
straight white man, it makes sense that you have nothing to fear. You’re the
one demographic Donald Trump doesn’t hate.
Or, How is it a good thing that our President-elect backs down on the
promises he makes?
Or, Don’t tell me to calm
down, dude, and my internal voice is a simmer.
Meanwhile, the drill drones away,
and a trickle of drool slips from my mouth onto my neck. Grinning doggedly, the
dentist works on.
So I do what books have always taught me to do: I send myself somewhere
else. I go to the pages of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, The Mermaid Chair, a volume I wrestled from the depths of the
library’s stacks. It’s an easy, lusty book, and I go to it now. I’m falling
into the Deep South, travelling by ferry to a barrier island, salt and clay and
bird shit on the wind, and beneath those things something richly ineffable, a
night-blooming flower with a scent like a siren’s song. The election and the
dentist fade away, and finally I’m gone.