Thursday, July 19, 2007

Observations on the past week of my life

1. Getting out of the house really is a spur to productivity. I'm not saying that the revising that's been happening has been brilliant, but it's been happening. Albeit only in chunks of two or three hours a day.

2. I had no idea that the tiny town in which RU is located (and whose independent coffee house is the most charmed of my current writing locations) had such a large population of vaguely hippie/punk/alterna/biker/activist types. Or maybe it's the coffee shop that draws them?

3. Going for seven solid days without any in-person interactions other than with baristas and cashiers is a recipe for such crazy in-own-headness and freakoutery that I cannot recommend it. But after going out with a friend tonight and lining up activities for the next two nights, I almost literally can't remember what I was so overwrought about.

4. I'm again thinking seriously about getting a cat. The other morning, just before it was light, I was awakened by a repeated mournful noise just barely audible over the fan. In my cracked-out and disoriented state (it's been all about the sleeping pills around here this summer--but don't worry! they're non-narcotic and non-habit-forming!) I couldn't figure out where it could be coming from. Eventually I staggered over to my bedroom window and peeped through the blinds to find a small black cat on my balcony. He met my eyes and then raced down the stairs. I fell back asleep and when I woke up I had no doubt that I was finally going to do it. (Actually, I think I'll first buy some Claritin, deliberately put myself in the way of various cats, and see how it goes.)

5. I'm so over this chapter. I'm really thinking that it could be half its length (51 pages in its prior draft) and still contribute exactly as much value to the project--with the added benefit of not making those reading it want to kill themselves. Am slashing and burning accordingly. If it's not done by the end of the summer, I may have to set fire to my apartment.


Hilaire said...

Oh my goodness - I *love* that little vignette of disoriented you and the cat! I can just picture it. I am rooting for you getting a cat!

Sisyphus said...

Ungh, I so hear you ... I vote for getting a cat(s) as it feels much less weird talking to cats than to thin air when going stir crazy. I was told that if you get a couple cats who get along with each other they'll entertain each other rather than constantly bothering you, and I must say mine are less needy than my friend's cat, who needs constant attention and reassurance.

And there'd be more entertainment value to setting fire to the chapter while in the coffeehouse. Besides, you wouldn't want to burn up the Fancy Expensive Book, would you?

life_of_a_fool said...

Oh, I sooo hear you about the lack of human interaction. In addition to the freakoutery, I lose what few social skills I have. I even had a brief moment of looking forward to the semester starting so I'd be around people regularly (that didn't last long).

I'm all for the cat idea.

And while I don't envy your revisions, I did laugh at the "added benefit of not making those reading it want to kill themselves."

Sisyphus said...

Hey, and your link there mentioned fascinating stuff ... old glass doorknobs? beaded shoes? Hotel silverware?

I want to know about all of this immediately. Preferably with pictures. And the beaver hat as well. You have such an interesting sense of style for someone who studies old blind repressed Puritan dudes!

dhawhee said...

Be sure to get the kitty out if you burn the apartment! Hooray kitty!

heu mihi said...

Oh, I *wish* I could get a cat or two! Unfortunately the boyfriend is terribly allergic, and if we ever manage to live in the same state, felines would be a problem. It's his one major flaw.

I hear you about the alone-time freakoutery (a great word, by the way). I often find myself--normally a bit awkward and misanthropic--getting SO friendly and chipper and talky with strangers that it weirds me out a bit. The less I'm around people, the more tolerable I find them when I'm forced into their company, apparently. I need to find a way to harness this good humor and use it for, er, good.

G-Fav said...

Hi - One of the most productive creative periods of my engineering life was the season when I could spend a predictable 2 hours a day, with my notebook, in a cafe. Perhaps you could find a balance somehow for human interaction. Oh, and I realize how ludicrous it must be to get a "writing" book suggestion from an electrical engineer, but you might enjoy Barbara Ueland's If You Want to Write. [ amazon ]. It speaks some about work environments and fostering creativity.

Also, I recommend Conceptual Blockbusting, by James Adams, a Stanford engineering professor who really digs into the things that encourage and prevent creativity. It's a really no-BS book, despite the title. I have no clue about the stages of your field's creative processes are, but the book is appropriate for ideation in product design, engineering, and, well, things in general. [ amazon ]


Pamphilia said...

Yay, get a cat! They are great company when writing from home. Plus the purring works better than melatonin to put you to sleep. If you get a kitten the chances of becoming allergic are much lower because you get exposed to the dander slowly and usually become immune.

Professor B said...

Hey Flavia,

Just get a dog and take it to the office with you, if your institution isn't too anal about those things. Mine isn't, and I've been taking the pooch with me to work since the third day I've had him.

Not only are dogs way more interactive and fun, but they are good for meeting new people and striking up casual conversations (thus avoiding the in-head-freakoutery). They also force you to take natural breaks from your work by requiring walking and some exercise.

Plus, you become the even cooler professor with the dog. Everyone on campus knows my little guy now, even if they have no clue who I am. It adds to the cachet. ;-)

Just a suggestion. ;-)

Prof. B

Anonymous said...

I agree with Professor B. Dogs are much more sociable themselves. Plus having a dog lends itself to sociable activities (walking). Also they are much easier to deal wtih when you travel and you seem to travel pretty frequently. IMHO cats do not respond well to boarding. So that means you HAVE to get a cat / house sitter if you're gone. Meanwhile for dogs, kennels aren't the greatest but a slightly older dog could tolerate you being gone much better. Think hard about this -- getting a pet is second only to having a child around, in terms of responsibility. Not something to be taken lightly. Good luck.

Flavia said...

Prof B & Woof:

Thanks for the additional thoughts. But a) my landlord does not permit dogs, and b) I'm not a dog person. I generally enjoy other people's dogs, but I have never had any desire to own one. And although I do travel a fair amount, most often it's just for a long weekend, when a cat could easily be left alone.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the "get a cat!!" crowd (pharmaceuticals are good!).

And I so know what you mean about the freakoutery - I've been doing that a bit these last few weeks because my human contact has largely been with students, which is better than nothing, definitely, but isn't quite doing it for me. I describe is my brain turning inward and feeding on itself. Problem is, then when I DO have human contact, then I spend an hour afterwards second-guessing myself. :-P

And I agree that cats can handle a long weekend on their own. Plus, I've used catsitters a lot, and my suspicion is that they're cheaper than kennels (mine charges $12 a visit).