Don’t Open Your Sunroof in the Rain and Other Life Lessons

 I’ve been wrapping up one project and plunging right into another, so my head is almost always someplace else.

 The thing I love best about my brain is the way it keeps problem-solving for my characters, even when I’m away from my desk and not entirely conscious of the thoughts that are spinning. The thing that annoys me is that when my brain is working out dialogue or checking for flaws in a new plot twist, the other things I’m attending to in autopilot mode don’t always get the most careful attention.

 I imagine my autopilot as a Jetsons-style robot who has a few bugs in her program. Of course, while I’m busy imagining my autopilot as an embodied entity, I’m probably also squeezing hand lotion onto my toothbrush.

 For example:

 – Driving back from the grocery story the other day, my car was unbearably hot and stuffy. Instead of playing with the air vents to get some fresh air, my hand reached up to open the sun roof. In a torrential downpour. Thankfully, I caught myself just in time.

 – On my way to writing group last week, I walked out to the garage without shoes on and didn’t notice until I actually got in the car and felt the brake pedal with my bare foot. (But I did successfully remember my pages, a plate of peanut butter cookies, and my car keys. I get points for that, right?)

 – While marinating some veggies to grill on Sunday, I somehow managed to pour almost an entire batch of salad dressing onto the kitchen floor.

 – I failed to check the weather when planning to grill and ended up on the back patio wielding metal tongs in the middle of a lightning storm.

 – I didn’t realize there was leftover coffee in the coffee pot and flooded the counter with dark roast when I started this morning’s brew.

 But oh, the characters who have come to life! I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even for a kitchen floor that isn’t slippery.

Non-writing

There’s a part of my writing process that involves not writing. And not only is it not writing, but it’s not doing much of anything productive at all. It’s not doing dishes and not doing laundry and not vacuuming. It’s not paying bills and not mowing the lawn and not going grocery shopping. It is basically sitting on my butt and reading, or watching movies, or playing Scramble on my phone until my thumb starts to hurt.

This, for me, is the hardest part of writing, because even though I know I need it, I have a really hard time justifying it to myself. I need downtime to be productive. I need to clear my head and give things time to percolate. I’ve come to recognize this as a part of my process. But I still feel guilty when J comes home after a long day of work, to do more work, and I’m like, “Sorry there’s a mess in the kitchen, and we have no food, but I had to watch Henry decapitate people for two hours today and there just wasn’t time.” Thankfully, J is incredibly understanding and supportive. When I’m done with this round of rewrites, I’m totally going to start buying food again, so he doesn’t waste away to nothing.

I guess, no matter what we do for work, everyone is entitled to their downtime, right? No one can be productive 24/7, and if we don’t refresh, we can’t keep going. What do you do for downtime? Do you have a guilt-complex about chilling out, or is it just me?

Mannequin, McCarthy, Cusack, et al


I’m addicted to the Watch Instantly feature on Netflix.com. It’s the only way I can bribe myself into doing dishes, folding laundry, making dinner, etc. I also have a burning love of 80’s movies. So, when I found out that I could watch Mannequin on my computer while making dinner on Saturday, I was in heaven. But, after I started watching it, I was horribly disturbed.

As a kid, I was in love with Andrew McCarthy. Mannequin, Class, Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire – I watched them all over and over and over again. Andrew McCarthy was almost as good as John Cusack (but who will ever be as good as Lloyd Dobler, you know?). I even remember an awkward interlude on an episode of Muppet Babies where Baby Piggy professed her love for Mr. McCarthy, so I knew I was in good company (and you now know about the odd, Rain Man way my brain absorbs and stores anything in television form). But when I watched Mannequin this time, I was not swooning over Andrew. I kind of wanted to bake him cookies and ask him if he was remembering to eat his veggies. In other words, he looked like an infant.

When the hell did that happen? I know in reality Andrew McCarthy isn’t an infant. In fact, at 46, he’s a totally age appropriate older man who could sweep me off my feet crush. But I have no interest in watching him in Lipstick Jungle (I think it’s canceled now anyway), because it’s not a crappy 80’s movie (which is, after all, my favorite movie genre).

I want my McCarthy fix to come complete with music by Starship, shoulder pads, power suits, and the light-hearted buffoonery of Meshack Taylor. But I want to swoon instead of having maternal thoughts about him. While I was watching, I couldn’t stop thinking that he can’t be getting enough sleep staying up all night cavorting around the department store with Kim Cattrall. Being sleep deprived is a surefire way to get sick, you know.

I think someone should go in and digitally enhance all Brat Pack movies to make the male actors look older so us thirty-somethings can walk down memory lane without feeling weird about it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Say Anything again. I’m too afraid I’ll have the burning desire to spit in a Kleenex and wipe Lloyd Dobler’s cheeks.