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Monday, January 4, 2016

Yes, I Call It a Vacation


Newly uncluttered bulletin board at bookshop

Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds. The writer is always slightly behind. New varieties sprout overnight, and by noon they are part of American speech. It only takes a John Dean testifying on TV to have everyone in the country saying “at this point in time” instead of “now.” – William Zinsser, On Writing Well (NY: Harper & Row, 1980, Second Edition)
Zinsser was talking about cluttered writing, an important reminder, but I'm thinking about my cluttered desk, at work and at home. The time has come for me to clear away clutter, to make way for productive work. On Saturday, January 2, my last day in my bookshop before a brief (13-day), self-styled winter hiatus, I enthusiastically detailed my plans for a customer friend.

“I’ll catch up on all my year-end bookkeeping and get everything ready for the tax man, organize my desk, file documents, and get rid of everything I don’t need to keep. Then I’ll do a deep, thorough housecleaning. I’m going to get my whole environment organized! Then I’ll set up a winter schedule -- mornings to work my novel, maybe one or two hours a week for drawing, and, of course, my limited winter bookstore hours. It’s gonna be great!”
When I start feeling too concerned that all the words I write be very smart and about something worthwhile, I find my urge to write replaced with an urge to draw monkeys. – Lynda Barry, Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: Drawn and Quarterly, 2014)


“You call that a vacation?” The question came from my friend’s husband. “You’re not going anywhere? How is that a vacation?”

My work space last winter in the Arizona ghost town

The woman understood. At our time of life, it seems most of us are determined to streamline personal space and schedules and organize so we can use time more wisely. It also seems as if the time for getting organized can slip through our fingers like quicksilver. Time must be made, set aside for an opportunity that will otherwise remain elusive, present time carved out and dedicated to ensuring productive future time.
Some days will go better than others; some will go so badly that you will despair of ever writing again. We have all had many of these days and will have many more. – William Zinsser
It’s funny, but even thinking about coming days of despair makes me smile. I’ve been there before. Yes, some days do go badly. But days when writing goes badly are still days spent writing, so I look forward to a very satisfying winter of work.

First, however, comes my brief vacation of organizing, cleaning, puttering -- and, of course, relaxing and reading. I’ve begun another very long book, the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji, which will no doubt occupy me off and on for weeks to come, interrupted by work, sleep, and other reading. Also on the stack is M.F. K. Fisher:  A Life in Letters (Correspondence 1929-1991), a hefty volume. Years go I chanced upon Fisher’s Map of Another Town, re-read many times since, and fell in love with her unique perspective on France, food, people, and life in general.

Truly, I’m looking forward to a rich vacation and then a rich winter’s writing.


1 comment:

Dawn said...

I'm happy for you. Enjoy your winter, refresh, accomplish, enjoy. Rest.