June has been a crazy month, so crazy, I’m not sure where to begin. Do I with the happenings of the outside world? How I learned via texts about looting in Best Buy near my parents’ house, then heard about George Floyd and a state curfew and defund the police and protests? Or maybe I should talk about America opening for business before spikes in the Coronavirus reached an all-time high? Disneyland was going to re-open in July; now it’s not. New movies were weeks away; they got delayed. Turmoil erupted just as I was making my mind up to re-enter the world.
Re-entering the world meant going to Panera to do my writing. There was a restaurant not five minutes from my apartment. I drove there and ordered coffee--small hazelnut, with cream and sweetener--and chose one of the tables bearing the green circle of availability. I’d sit with my homemade mask still on my face, not drinking my coffee (lest I need to run to the bathroom), with my computer, my composition book, and my cheap ball point pen ready to go.
I had determined, early on, that the month of June felt like a test. It felt like a test on a national level, but for me, personally, I knew I needed to make substantial progress on Company or I was not going to get it published. It was time to buckle down and write.
Unfortunately, I had a problem. My roommate’s puppy, Atlas, kept demanding my attention. He whined and barked and jumped up on the kitchen stove, all to get my attention. My roommate was struggling with a host of health issues and couldn’t bring the dog in her room. My bedroom is the living room, so there was no barrier to keep the dog’s yip from drilling into my ears. Even sitting in the patio, I could hear him.
I give the dog a lot of attention. I walk him for 45 minutes in the morning and the evening. But I needed time in the morning to write. Specifically, I needed the hours between 9:00 and 11:00 in the morning, my most creative time. These hours were the keystone to my productivity. I could work around the dog’s schedule the rest of the day, but I needed these two hours unbroken.
It got so bad that I decided to risk going out into the world again, just to get time to write. I spoke to my roommate and my roommate’s mother to make sure they were comfortable with me breaking quarantine. My roommate’s mother also volunteered to look after the dog in the morning. I was worried about finances, the cost of going out every day, but I learned Panera had a coffee subscription. For $8.99 a month, I could get unlimited coffee. I could afford that. It seemed like all the pieces were falling into place.
At Panera, I’d briefly journal, read my previous work, and write down, by hand, whatever scene caught my fancy. I had the rough draft done, so I knew what needed to happen, and I kept the parts I could. But I ended up re-writing scenes to include more description, details, emotions, new information, or just create a better flow. These scenes rarely came in order, and sometimes I’d have to look at one scene from different angles, writing for setting, emotion, plot, or dialogue. I did this in a composition book, because it's for me quicker to write by hand and it activates a freer, less self-conscious area of my brain. I’d drink my coffee at home.
In the afternoon, I’d go through the composition book and type up the scenes. My work was a hodge-podge, like a jumble of puzzle pieces, but at least I had the puzzle pieces. I had just finished writing the last scene: 62 pages in a fresh composition book. I came back from a brief trip to my parents’ house, only to discover the Panera near me was closed and men were tearing down the sign on the wall.
I was shocked. Was this a sign of an on-coming recession? Was this just a bad coincidence? What was I going to do with my coffee subscription? My happy little routine was brutally stomped out, just as it had started.
On the bright side, at least I completed the hand-written scenes, and I’m nearly done transcribing them into the computer. In July, I hope to organize everything: to put the pieces of the scenes in order, smooth out contradictory information, and cut out unnecessary parts. I figure if I can make everything readable in July, I can make everything sound pretty in August.
On the whole, I feel pretty proud of the work I did this June. I didn’t over-tax myself, but I did what I needed to be done, and I hope it was enough to pass the test. It was good to find a routine that worked, even if it was just for a few weeks.
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.