T. C. Porter and Writing in the New Year
New Year’s Eve day, Starbucks is empty. The line at nine a.m. usually stretches through the room out the door towards the boulevard. But this is the last day of the year, the lull between the big holidays. The writer is manning his station, escaping from the crowded house buzzing in the seasonal mayhem.
The writer thinks about New Year’s resolutions, and the blog post he owes The Ink. This annual imposition: resolutions. As if I’m not good enough without them. For one year, can’t I be good enough without them? Why are you always pushing me, Baby New Year? Back off!
The writer sits in quiet contentedness. He smiles. He is good enough, as he is. He has nothing to prove.
Let’s finish a novel, for once, this year. How’s that for a resolution, he thinks to himself.
Let’s be still, how about that, he replies.
Fine. Be still. But finish the thing.
That’s what I’m doing!
Okay, then, we agree with yourself.
He, the voice of resolution, knows that he, the restful one, will say something like this: The novel (the thing) has its own gestation period. You cannot force it, anymore than you can’t force a fetus. It will come out … in its time.
But what can we do, as midwives? he replies.
Oh, stop it! I’ll finish the book. Stop rushing me.
I’m not rushing you. But how come the landscapers across the street are doing their work. And you’re just sitting there drinking coffee? How come after an eight hour day yesterday the most you have to show is a suntan on the west side of your face, and a bruise the shape of a lawn chair on your ass?
You are not welcome here. Go away. You do not understand. Your ways are the ways of capitalism, consumerism, American anxiety. Mine are the ways of the prophet. The visionary. The artist.
Here’s some aloe for your left cheek. I suggest today you rotate after a couple hours. And a pillow for your chair.
So much is written about writing. No one else writes so much about their task. The baristas at Starbucks? They just do it. They don’t interview one another about it.
Q: And then, the spills on the counter. I read in the New Yorker that you liken those spills to—
A: Yes, they are like the watershed flowing from Santee into the Mission Gorge. I sit beside the spills and yearn for something that only comes from the deep. I sit and I wait. I wait by the washbasin until the creative spirit washes over me.
Q: How do you turn off the noise?
A: I ignore the customers. “Bold! Bold” they say. “I want a refill! Barista!” Only the barista knows the calling of the beans, the grinding, the two-percent foam. And also, I watch others. I visit the other Starbucks and watch the barista for hours. My favorite is Mandy at Trolley Stop. She reminds me of why I gave my life to the work.
Q: Tissue. Tissue. I can’t believe I’m interviewing you. Hold me.
But let me tell you something else. The barista just wipes it up. And moves onto the next task. Wipe up the spill, serve the coffee. Not too complicated.
Q: Who are you? There was no A: before that line.
I am the omniscient one.
Q: And what is your point?
The writer sits down on the chair and writes. Forget the gimmicks, forget the resolutions—call it resolution if you need be—forget the muse, forget the workshop, disregard the ten laws of syntax and sixteen things you can learn from the climax structure of Anna Karenina, and sit down in a chair, at your desk, and write!
Program director: This sounds like a workshop! Or perhaps a read and critique. Let’s print a flier. (Singing to the tune of K.C. and the Sunshine Band) “Sit, Sit, Sit! Sit, sit, sit! Sit your booty. Sit your booty!”
Cookies! We need cookies. And can you pick up the Coke on the way. And … a healthy alternative.
So in concluding this blog post, I would like to say, it is time for me to go back to my MS, which in the jargon of the people who receive the work is, THE MANUSCRIPT, because the manuscript rules the writer, until the writer dives into the manuscript, at which time the writer becomes the dolphin, and the manuscript the ocean. No, the writer is a mermaid; no, the writer is me and my lover is the mermaid, and we are free at last, to become everything that we dream. And while, in the grand scale, some are here to serve coffee, and thank god for that, others are here to serve dreams. And if you have made it this far, hear this: You are here to serve dreams. Now sit at your desk for three hours. Go!
Happy New Year!
T.C. Porter is sitting at the desk. Follow him at tcporter.com and elsewhere, and read his book when it comes out.