I guess if someone pressed me to give them my “word” for 2011, it would be the word “focus.”
Of all the fabulous books in the world, it’s silly to obsess over the ones I’ll never read. Same goes for writing. Most books, stories and essays are in the category of “I can’t write those.” But, my God, there are so many genres and niches where a person who writes, submits and just keeps on keeping on can find a satisfying branch and perch for awhile, and then maybe fly a little higher on to the next branch.
Time is the friend and time is the enemy. “Distraction removal” has an unpleasant ring to it; sounds like a service that should be performed in the middle of a foggy night by a team of anonymous, gray-faced men wearing thin Latex gloves. But, alas, it’s a necessary job we each must do for ourselves.
I’ve been tearing out stories from The New Yorker for a year or two and struggling to keep up with reading them. For a while, I kept a steno pad nearby and wrote comments about each story. As a certain Southern gentleman I know might say to me, “That’s something that takes up a lot of time and don’t make no money.” It was kind of cool and interesting in an esoteric way, but one night last week, after reading yet another grim story full of anhedonia. I finally had enough. I dropped it on the bed, swore a mild oath, swung my legs over the side, and tramped barefoot into my study, where I collected several large piles of New Yorkers, either intact or just the ripped out stories, and lugged them all to the recycle container.
And all the books about writing that I’ve begun and failed to finish, they look very nice now decorating a shelf.
What am I doing with all the time I found, now that I’m not reading about writing anymore? Flapping my wings, baby, flapping my wings.