Following is a fragment of an ongoing chronicle of a strategy for writing (and living) that I call 20/20. If I have lots of competing tasks, which is true most of the time, I’ve found it sometimes works to set up a structure where I do some task for 20 minutes and then write for 20 minutes. It’s a form of maintenance, and I’ve found it very effective in that most household tasks take about 20 minutes, or can be broken down into increments that take that much time. Then, while I’m doing the thing, I know, I’m never more than 20 minutes away from writing again, and that I will also have socks to wear. For most of the decade 2000-10, I moved frequently, which generated lots of 20-minute tasks that felt like impediments to writing, so this was a handy strategy. I still use it. The old trick of letting the obstacle be the path.
Who needs the beach to have the feeling of things being washed ashore. My desk right now looks like it was arranged by the tide and not a human hand.
Here’s what’s on it:
a fortune teller fish, sunglasses, a tape box from an enkyo talk, a slate tile, a receipt from 7/04/04 from sunburst leather for two pairs of shoes:one that never really fit and the other I will now have to give away because I’ve been Rolfed, a stapler, combination lock, aaa batteries that I think may be spent, zip drive, post its, pens, speakers, inbox, FAWC cup, cards with poem titles, vertical file
What needs to be here? When things drift it’s because an underlying system isn’t in place. The next 20 minutes will be devoted to an underlying system, I think one for my underwear and socks.
Yes, indeed I did organize socks and underwear for 20 minutes, all the while thinking, other people must be doing something more worthwhile than this. But I continued, and now it will be easy each day to find them without feeling like I’m in a snowstorm. Threw some socks away that had tired elastic. There’s something intrinsically downcast about them, and doesn’t that translate into your morale for the day? Or do the socks become an invitation to rise above their condition? Prompt toward transcendence though they may be, I opted just to throw them out.
Still, I feel a sense of duty toward them, like, well, they still work okay; isn’t it wasteful not to wear them for at least 6 more months? Then I noticed that I have plenty of socks. Then my shoes. I threw them out too, but got stuck for a moment on the lovely zipper pull. Wouldn’t the zippers be good for making something? Then into the bin. Also got stuck on Wouldn’t the shoes themselves be of at least minimal use to someone? Again, it seemed the answer was No. But at times like these I wish for fire. I want to just reduce them to ash instead of sending them to the landfill in such a cumbersome form.
Feeling somewhat vexed that even devoting this whole morning to these tasks, things still seem cluttered, but it’s true that more things are in place. My strategy this morning has been to at least get things into their general place instead of having to get each thing to a place of refinement first. It’s a question of working broad then deep, or working deep and leaving things scattered around until you can resolve each individual thing.
This is the way I work in a poem too. A broad gesture across the whole poem and then close attention directed into each area.
Stanley works line by line, writing “as far into a poem as he can go,” (he describes this process somewhere–I will have to find his wording exactly) and then discarding it and starting again. This strategy reminded me of autoerotic asphyxiation somehow. I mentioned this to Mark D. and he looked quizzical and said this was an idiosyncratic association.
We have these same respective strategies in the garden too.
The main thing I’m working into is this idea of deficit. I have what I need, but it always feels that I’m operating as if everything’s about to disappear any minute. and I better be ready. I feel such a strong pull toward readiness. That I should have my material existence ready to pack in at any moment. Also a strong sense of wanting to get rid of stuff.
I should definitely go out for a while on my bike, even if just to go to the coop. 2 hours in the park, then the coop. I feel like I just arrived on earth, how each day requires so much strategizing.
So I worked on some stuff in the kitchen. I can hardly remember what at this point. Putting things away from the drainer, clearing off the back counter, a start. Ate some alternative jelly beans after realizing I won’t be seeing A until the 21st so I can get some more for her. Is it enough that I like the way they taste? Or do they have to have some kind of function? Because they decidedly don’t, so I resist them, but I love the berry ones.
Some debate about solitude vs. company. the pull toward each is strong. Some wishing to be part of the Hassidic family I saw in Prospect Park yesterday. The longing: a feeling of membership, and code.
Putting away glasses there was an example of the problem being the solution, the surplus of glasses could be relieved by putting the favorite ones out on the shelf. It’s nice to see them.
I shuttle back and forth between securing something in company and the freewheeling possibilities of solitude. When I look at a couple, what I see and want is a sense of predictability within which exploration is possible. I feel that’s more possible within myself now too.
When I set out this morning, this 20/20 thing seemed extreme, and I thought, maybe one hour, but here it is noon and it flew by and I think I got more done than I would have otherwise, less sitting around dreaming. I think I get plenty of time to do that, waiting for this and that, so this worked well to keep things moving. My biggest problem is always getting started so this addresses that. It says, just chose something. you’re not dedicating your life to it, just 20 minutes. Then it sets up a desire for more. And it makes things more bearable, like if someone calls, there’s only a 20 minute window. But still I took the call from Anita because I feel if people need to reach me now, I should be available.
Now I have to set up the phone which is an oddly pleasurable task.
I’ve been tuned into the aesthetics of bike locks, how the New York lock hangs, where the lock comes through the bike, how many locks, what it’s attached to, what’s left on the bike, the lean of the bike, how the lock is stowed when not in use, worn around the hips, the caliber of the links. People have to be mindful in locking up their bikes. You actually have to stop and do it. This is a good reason to ride a bike.
Yes, it feels scarier than commercial street, but commercial street is such good training.Riding my bike into Manhattan yesterday was a joy and the hard parts were good exercises in paying attention because no one is looking where they’re going. Here, people are aggressive, but you have the sense that they’re actually there. what you can bank on is that they generally don’t care about cutting you off so you’ve got to be on the lookout, but that guy in the moving van yesterday, stopped in the bike lane, apologized. I was waiting instead of going around. He said, is this your first time? that was sweet I thought.
I actually am feeling the pull of desire toward riding my bike. The way it feels on the street moving so fast when I’ve only known these streets at a certain speed. And seeing the trapeze artists. so cool. and batting cages, dog runs. That was a revelation there along the river. to have your own lane feels great. you’re cruising along.
And now I wonder if we can use the trash/recycling hallway for bikes at the zendo. That would be so grand. When I see boxes I pulp them in my mind and make paper. Something I love about when they’re flattened and stacked like that. The iron squared rails by the subway station like a cage for trash. Keep the trash in a cage, keep the person out. But it’s perfect for slipping a flattened box through. The intelligence of survival. I remembered it as chain link because I never had to look for a place to stow boxes. The man sleeping behind the iron fence would never have made that mistake because he’s learned that the rails are perfectly accommodate slipping in found boxes for the night.
I didn’t need to know that, so my short-term memory let it come through the sieve. This is true of stanley’s memory loss as well. He doesn’t need to know if he just had lunch or not. But he totally remembered meeting Ekiwah. That was an event that registered in the blood.
We went to Washington square park yesterday for the first time. It took some doing, but once we got over the balking he was very happy to be out and enjoyed watching people in the park. About the fountain, he said, “How do you like that shower?”