Why do I dread Mondays? Many consider it the worst day of the week. They rage against returning to an imposed structure and set of expectations following a weekend of freedom and fun. The sorry truth is my weekends typically end up even more tightly structured and unforgiving than my work week.
Society encourages us to cram an impossible number of events into only two days. There’s the shopping and the household chores, friends to see, bills to pay, side hustles to sustain, and hobbies to pursue. It turns out, the perception of a slower-paced, carefree weekend filled with Hallmark moments is sheer fantasy. By Sunday night, I find myself exhausted.
Contrary to common consensus, I consider every Monday as the micro-level equivalent to New Year’s Day. And if I’m honest with myself, the apprehension is a thin veil covering an exuberant sense of anticipation and excitement for the possibilities that lie ahead. What I dread is the inevitable anxious feeling created by my fear that I will somehow mess it all up.
They say you never know when an idea will strike you — in the shower, talking to a child, while performing a mundane task, crocheting next to a fire, or while mindlessly surfing online. My most recent inspiration hit me while searching for a topic for today’s post. Here is what I read:
On January 23, 1897, Elva Zona Heaster is found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband, perhaps the only case in US history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.
Whaaaa? Lightning struck, and my over-active imagination wasted no time in conjuring an entire story inspired by these “facts.” This idea is now saved, in glorious detail, in my ever-expanding idea file.
Here is a writer whose name you might not know. But you know one of his characters. On January 22, 1906, Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas. Writing from an early age, he submitted many stories and amassed a drawer full of rejections. In 1924, he sold a piece titled “Spear and Fang” to Weird Tales for $16. Weird Tales was an American fantasy and horror pulp fiction magazine. At twenty-three, he dropped out of college to write full time. He was a pulp fiction writer.
Through his writings for Weird Tales, he began corresponding with H. P. Lovecraft. As a result, he became a member of the Lovecraft Circle. The group, who communicated by letters, included Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, and Frank Belknap Long. The writers supported, critiqued, and collaborated. While no genre was off-limits, the main genres of the group were horror, science fiction, and epic fantasy. Many subgenres originated in this group. Howard developed the sword and sorcery subgenre. Oh, and the character you might have heard of — Conan the Barbarian.
We’ve made our way through a multitude of overblown drama, trivial turmoil, and unimportant distractions to arrive at the most anticipated day of the week — Friday. My plans for the weekend are entirely self-serving. First on my list is amassing a substantial pile of wood stacked to one side of the fireplace. Starting a blazing fire is next on my agenda, followed by pouring a pleasant drink and grabbing a good book. My primary concern is hoping I do not fall asleep in my chair. However, I fear I won’t succeed in my desire to avoid a nap or two. If all goes well, I might even discover I have the urge to unwind from my cozy cocoon and venture into my office to write.
I’ve been reading about the daily habits of famously productive people since one of my goals is to amass a volume of finished work. The specifics of their daily rituals cover a wide range of possibilities. Picasso would wake around 11 am and arrive at his studio in the early afternoon, where he worked until it grew dark. Maya Angelou kept a hotel room in her hometown. She would arrive at 6:30 am and didn’t leave until 2 pm. Brazilian author Ryoki Inoue has published a whopping total of 1,075 books and holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s most prolific author. Inoue’s strategy is to write day and night until he finishes his book.
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
According to Wikipedia, Poe, born on January 19, 1809, “was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story, and considered to be the inventor of the detective fiction genre, as well as a significant contributor to the emerging genre of science fiction.”
I knew there was a reason I liked him. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, and the poem Eldorado rank among my all-time favorite works. Perhaps I should try dreaming up a plotline and writing a short story or two, emulating Poe’s aesthetic. Hmm, yes, that is getting added to my ideas list.
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin
Today we wish A. A. Milne a happy birthday and maybe brush up on some insightful messages from Winnie-the-Pooh. Alan Alexander Milne was born on January 18, 1882. Milne’s first book, When We Were Very Young, was published in 1924. Almost one hundred years later, his character’s words still make us smile. Wherever you are on your writing journey, remember what Pooh says.
“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.” ― Winnie the Pooh
Have you ever read a book that changed your life? T. H. White and The Once and Future King are my gateway author/book. I read the book the summer between 7th and 8th grade because it was on the reading list for high school freshmen. Yes, I was “that” geek.
Suddenly, whenever I entered a bookstore or library, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section was my primary destination. While the number of choices to read from diminished significantly, my world expanded exponentially.
Oh, what a sorry, sad day this was in 1919. A majority of states ratified the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. You know the one that authorized the prohibition of alcohol. I’m sure authors across the land steeled themselves for perpetual writer’s block. Where would F. Scott Fitzgerald be without his Gin Rickey? Can you imagine William Faulkner abstaining from a Mint Julep or Ernest Hemingway saying “No” to a Mojito?
We can thank the Whiskey Sour for inspiring Dorothy Parker’s lament.
“I wish I could drink like a lady. I can take one or two at the most. Three, and I’m under the table. Four, and I’m under the host.”
Secretly, I wish I could share a drink and a conversation with Dickens, who referenced drinking in his works. In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, after waking from three ghostly encounters says
“We will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”
Year after year, I have wondered what a Smoking Bishop was. Thanks to internet search engines, I am enlightened and holda recipe in my hands. It sounds like the perfect addition to a night of reading beside a roaring fireplace. Cheers to you, dear Ebenezer Scrooge.
How did we get here already? January is officially half over, and I haven’t even made a dent in my ambitious goals for this month. Does that make me a slacker, a delusional optimist, or does it fuel my determination to succeed where others predict my ultimate failure? Yeah, you know the answer. I am a tortoise, dogged, single-minded, and tenacious. I refuse to be deterred by a slow start, and I won’t throw in the towel. Even on my worst days, when nothing goes well, and I struggle to inch forward, I console myself, knowing it is still progress.