Today’s Writer’s Life—Heroin Would be Better

By David Himmel

       Thursday, April 13, 2017

I had planned on waking up early—4 a.m.—which is an hour later than my preferred wake-up call. I find that those pre-dawn hours are better for me. The world is quiet. There are no emails coming through, no text messages or phone calls, no dog to play with, no wife to flirt with, nothing worth reading on Facebook. The hours between 3 and 7 a.m. are, for me, the magic hours where my best creative energy shines. It’s when I’m at my most peaceful and free; free from annoyances of the day, boredom and exhaustion. So while the rest of the my hemisphere sleeps, I’m up kicking dust for my enemies and threats to choke on.

Except today I woke up after the sunrise, after the dog and after the wife and my day immediately went to absolute shit. Maybe I’m too sensitive. I often feel that way; unfit for this world, overcorrecting with cynicism and self-loathing, berating myself with enough shame and guilt to make the most pious nun wince.

I spent the morning trying to find the interest I had for my work only a day before. I flipped through my stupid little notebook that had the rigid writing schedule all mapped out:

• Doctor’s Biography
   4–7 a.m.
• Andrea’s LinkedIn/Website Bio
   7:30–8:30 a.m.
• Shower
   8:30–9 a.m.
• Literate Ape Quick Edit
   9–9:30 a.m.
• Agency Website Case Studies
   10 a.m. – Noon
• Lunch & Screen Film Fest Submissions
   Noon–1 p.m.
• New App Development Copy
   1–2 p.m.
• High School Client Marketing – Gala Program Book & Website
   2–6 p.m.
• Radio Book Edit
   6–7 p.m.

It would make for a long day but I have a lot to do and deadlines and promises to keep and money to collect. I like the long hours. I enjoy the bit of panic that breeds the thrill of having to lock myself in my office the way Ewan McGregor’s character Renton did in Trainspotting when he was equally committed to the process—his kicking heroin, mine kicking ass. But I was so thrown off by that late start that I never caught up to the momentum I had the two days before.

Man, I was thrumming then. I pounded out two thousand words in the doctor’s biography—that doesn’t include the handwritten organization and re-working of notes; I put a good dent in the first few pages of the short pilot I’m working on for a new artistic collaboration; I edited that radio story some, I churned out a couple of those case studies. My will and ability to work productively is much like an alien rock hurtling through space: I’ll burn right along until something hits me and slows me down or redirects me. Something like waking up late. And it then takes the strictest of scientific prowess and understanding of my psyche and moods to get me back on track and up to the appropriate speed.

That did not happen today. My inner scientists failed me.

I stared at the computer keyboard for a while. I reviewed some notes. I sharpened a few pencils. I drank half a pot of coffee. I chewed seven pieces of cinnamon Trident gum. I read half a chapter in one of the eight books I’m actively reading. I made some administrative phone calls. I went on a refreshing walk with the dog. But that’s as close as I got to getting any real kind of work done. I didn’t bill any hours, I didn’t complete any tasks necessary to prove my value to the people paying me. I was, in so many ways, the kind of employee most other people are when they have to show up to a cubicle-slaughter farm Monday–Friday; I pissed the day away.

I did end up watching Trainspotting. It had been a while since I’d seen it and I wanted a refresh of it before seeing its sequel (In Theaters Now!). The early scene with Renton locking himself away, stocking up on the heroin withdrawal necessities—tomato and mushroom soup, buckets for the shit, piss and puke, etc.—was how I felt yesterday but today, I was more like the back end of that scene when Renton breaks through his self-imposed prison to go make a mess of things.

Today, I was a junkie. But I was unable to get my fix. And because my fix is the thing that will ultimately keep me clean and alive and as far from bouts of misery as possible, I am doomed without it. So tonight, I will go to bed early. My hope is that I can wake up before the sun, re-familiarize myself with my routine and avoid the tempting calls of anything other than hunching over the keyboard or yellow legal pad of paper and doing the goddamn work.

Part of being a writer, or any kind of creative, really, is not putting too much pressure on yourself to produce product. Much of the work is in the distraction and the procrastination. My mentor and college writing professor, Dr. John H. Irsfeld, says that “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. If you can’t write, it’s because you don’t have anything to say.” Most of the time I agree with that. And in order to find something to say, you have to get away from the vacuum of having to say anything at all. The arena of writing is no place to find your good writing.

But today, I admit, it was not about the process of getting away from the arena. Today was about my failure to get up with my alarm.

Don’t let your kids be writers. There’s nothing romantic about any of this.