I promised you a Christmas Tree

And I'll deliver . . . soon. Just discovered that there's a whole swatch of tree lights that are dimmed, so I'm going to have to fiddle with the bulbs a bit.

Anyway, it's snowing up here in Utica now. It's also dreadfully cold. The good thing about the cold at this time of year is that it forces me to stay indoors and be productive. I've cranked out grades on several revisions by students and I've finalized all the lesson plans in my classes. Things are settling down for the last push. Next week I'll have another stack of papers, portfolios, etc., but I won't feel as pressured as a normally do during the school year proper.

Once the semester's done, it's back to the writing desk for me. I've been juggling all sorts of advice, but I always fall back on locking myself in my room, reading voraciously, and assigning exercises for myself. Adrian Matejka called me up on Tuesday to light a fire under my butt. I guess my problem is that I've been "grade-comp-papers-mode" for the better bit of four months. I need to retrain my brain and I've got a little time to do it. I've also decided that I'm not going to wait for moments of inspiration. Usually I write poems in a series. I start one and I can't stop writing poems related to that series until I've used up the subject. Epic tradition? I don't know. My process is just painstaking.

When I was a biology student, way back when, I would write all my notes in long hand and then transcribe them in print. It was sick. I don't know how many organic chemistry formulas I wrote and rewrote. They're too numerous to count. Ask me now what I remember about O-chem and I can tell you about the teacher's Horn-rimmed glasses and tight polo t-shirts he'd wear. I could also tell you about camping out in the LMU cubicles nights before O-chem tests. But I can't tell you a damn thing about O-chem and I even TA'd the stupid class.

The point is, I'm a meticulous person. I've got too many stupid rituals to get myself to the writing table and I need to cut 'em back.

Here's one ritual that preceeds going to the writing table:

"Clean the house"

This is the ultimate in writerly procrastination. And I can assure you that without fail, before I engage in any writing activity, you'll see me vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing toilets, and scouring shower tiles. Papers need to be off the desk. Books need to be re-filed. Again, I refer back to my days as a young scientist studying for exams . . . nights before tests, I'd clean my entire apartment/dorm. My roommates loved it because they never cleaned a damn thing.

Years later, I've come to realize that my mother has the same habits. She'll clean an entire house before conferences, etc.. Only now, cleaning the house is fun for her. I don't think that cleaning house will ever be fun for me, but I still have to do it in order to commit pen to paper.

Poets, before you think about calling me to clean your houses, this cleaning ritual only works for my own domicle. It doesn't work for yard work or washing cars either. It's all about clearing my space . . . making my space sacred for my own writing.

I do have one habit that almost always supersedes my cleaning the house.

"Video Games"

I know what you're wondering. . . you're wondering, "What, is Oliver twelve?" I'm sorry, but I've been playing video games ever since I was eight. It's part of who I am. It relaxes me. It was so reassuring to hear that Adrian Matejka also plays video games and they also interfere with getting into writing rituals. I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

There've been times I was tempted to erase all the games off my computer hard drive, but I tell you, after teaching for six hours, my brain can't focus on my own writing, nor can my brain relax.

*sigh* I apologize for making you listen to me and all my excuses. I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Ok, so I admit it. I'm a procrastinator. My name is Oliver de la Paz and I procrastinate.

Oliver de la Paz