I have a long list of wants when it comes to actually sitting down and committing words to (figurative) paper. But there is one thing that transcends mere want. There is something more important than inspiration or a functional computer or a hot cup of coffee or sheets of blank, college-ruled notebook paper or index cards or the Sense and Sensibility soundtrack or a solid character or a laugh-out-loud opening line. Above all these very reasonable requests shines one necessity, the Key Ingredient to Authoring, if you will.
I must have vast wastelands of time.
In England, this was handed to me on a silvah plattah, because as an unemployed expat with no friends, no TV and no internet, my greatest resource was time.
But back in Anchorage, life gets a little more crowded. I have a car, so I can actually go places. I have some people, so I have places to go. I have a job so, that I can continue feeding myself in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed. I have church events. I have a Blockbuster card. Suddenly the hours that used to drift upon my doorstep have melted into an icy puddle of commitments and 99-cent 5-night rentals.
But I think I’ve found a loophole. Turns out, this is a pretty big state. And there are many villages and towns in Alaska that feel even further from home than England. And if by some twist of luck you can find yourself paid to go to these remote villages armed with a calculator and a cooler of groceries, you might also find yourself facing evening after evening of quiet solitude.
I’m writing this post because there is literally nothing else to do.
It’s a foggy, rainy night here in King Cove, a small fishing village on the southwestern tip of Alaska’s mainland. The one channel that comes in on my television’s bunny ears is ratnet – a haphazard conglomeration of all the networks that gets shot out to rural Alaska antennae. Currently the program playing is a how-to on recording and reporting Maritime weather (“only you know the sea and weather conditions at your boat’s coordinates!”), and it puts me in mind, both in tone and era, of the old McDonald’s training videos where they still use the Styrofoam McDLT containers.
I’ve cooked and eaten dinner. I’ve finished my book. I walked around town for awhile until the clerk at the mercantile said, “Aren’t you afraid of bears?” and I decided it would probably be prudent to be a little wary. I’ve fought with the Paleolithic internet.
And still the hours drift.
So I break down and write.