I really was thinking about writing something this weekend on this blog. I really did.
But I found something else to occupy my time. I was an expert at that as early as 30 years ago.
It’s easy to distract myself, or get into something that takes up my attention. I see my students sometimes distracting themselves in the classroom, and part of me (the one that isn’t trying to get them back on task) is thinking amateurs.
This past weekend I had plenty of distractions. Some of them were actually healthy and cool.
Saturday we started to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We went up to the Des Moines area for a day out, had dinner at the best barbecue in Ames, Iowa, and took a tour of a really nice Christmas lights display at some gardens on the Iowa State University campus.
Sunday I got my wife her birthday gifts, checked out the last Formula 1 race of the year and went to see House of Gucci at the theater. It was a good movie, and very easily the most Italian experience that I’ve ever had. I honestly believe I deserve an Italian passport after watching it. But it’s a good drama, check it out.
I’ve started to realize, in my older age, that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. As I’ve mentioned before, Douglas Adams is one of my guys. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was one of the books that made me fall in love with reading. I remember that one of the first great writing quotations that I remember reading was exactly about this issue:
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
This was a guy who had to be locked in a hotel suite for three weeks to finish the novel So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. You couldn’t even think about making that one up.
I also learned that one of the cartoonists that I grew up with had a similar problem. Back in the days when men were men, women were women, and newspapers were actual newspapers, Berkeley Breathed was the king of the newspaper cartoonists with Bloom County. Shoot, he even lived just down the interstates from me in Iowa City, Iowa. (He event name-checked KRNA in one of his strips.) I also appreciated that he ticked off all the old-fashioned editorial cartoonists when he won the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning back in the 1980’s.
However, I didn’t realize until I read an article last week honoring the 40th anniversary of the strip’s debut how must of a procrastinator Berke was. To quote the man:
Read this carefully: “Bloom County” had a weekly deadline for 10 years. I missed 100 percent. Each of those 500 weeks, I had to drive 40 miles at 4:30 a.m. to the airport at whatever city I lived in to put the strips on a plane as cargo, delivered by a cabdriver in Washington, D.C., a few hours later. Every. One.Berkeley Breathed, New York Times, 8 December 2021.
I get the impression that the one thing that he really enjoys about having the strip online without a syndicator is that he can release strips whenever he wants without having to worry about any deadlines whatsoever.
What this is is not so much an apology – it’s not like I’m violating any syndicator’s contract by not posting something on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or whenever. I do want to write more often and more consistently. But I have got to give myself permission to fail. I have to give myself permission to have setbacks.
And, I have to give myself permission to write something that may not be a masterpiece of literary and television criticism, but that I might have a little fun doing. Because sometimes, you end up with something interesting.