This is a chapter from a book I am writing titled, "No Bra, No Teeth, No Service." The book is essays based on my job as a cashier at a convenience store/gas station and my attempts to balance that job with art and writing. I have posted this chapter as a result of a challenge from "15 Day Writing Challenge" by Jeff Goins. (Click on the photo in the left sidebar to go there and join.) Hey, he got me to resume working on this book again and to find the courage to post it here.
This morning I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself having to work forty hours a week at a convenience store. I think too much about what I could accomplish if I wasn’t giving this time away for the paycheck. I did paint a bit. A bit transfers to cleaning my art table, checking my email, organizing my tubes of paints, looking at old photos and coming across one that makes me cry for my oldest daughter whom I don’t see anymore. Then I drug myself to my studio (eyes still damp) and painted for twelve and a half minutes. I would’ve made it a full thirteen but the dog had to go out.
Okay, I’ll forget the forty hours I don’t have to create or write. Don’t get stuck on what you don’t have. Humble yourself. What I’ve really done procrastinating all these years is to set up a “safe block” for not creating and writing. It’s far safer to stay in the dream state of wanting something rather than put the work towards achieving something. Did you know the actual work could be quite daunting? Also, the practicing of this work is what every artist and writer needs to bring to the table everyday. Everyday we need to simply practice. I think I wanted to produce fabulous pieces on the spot. No mistakes allowed. Finished product almost immediately. There that’s done. (Anyone who works like this wants the gold crown.)
Instead, having the day job has trained me to work in those pieces of time I had available beyond the work hours. I’m actually very productive this way. Once I believed I was an artist and writer, and moved my day forward based on that concept, I started to produce work and ideas that I could hardly keep up with. So now I am absolutely true and mindful of the time I do have. I think of that more than I do of the time I don’t have in the studio, or at my writing desk. Besides, now I’ve learned to make studio spaces in the oddest of places. The counter at the convenience store, the vehicle (if someone else is driving), the cafes, bookstores, and even places like standing in a store line. I might not be able to paint there but I can take a photo, observe, eavesdrop on conversations, observe some more, write story ideas, a poem, or think a painting through in my mind. (By the way the mind is a wonderful place to hover.)
I carry into that time the talent and ideas I’ve been given from a source I can’t even define, but that now I know is inside me. (Thank you to Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, plus growth from personal joy, suffering and grief.) There is a glittery-white space out there between here and there that I’ve found during meditation or right before I drift off to sleep. This is where the muse lives. This is where the wizards dance. The world is inside me and expands over all realms of time. Desire is life. Life is art. I only had to allow it to flow more freely through me for it to transform me. The transformation shows up daily in my art and writing. Now I mostly work in little bursts of creative spirit until I can afford to be a full-time artist and writer. (I signed up for the package deal. I think it comes with the gold crown.)
It’s not all zippety-doo-dah though. I still fall backwards sometimes and usually no one is there to catch me. For example, today I think I need more privacy to write. I’m thinking of moving a portable table to my bedroom. I could write there behind a closed door. The room has four windows that allow for plenty of natural light. Although these are the original windows in a house over one hundred years old so they are not airtight. Once winter arrives I’d have to move the writing table back out because the bedroom feels as if we are sleeping on the back porch. We wouldn’t be able to sleep in that room if we didn’t have an electric bed warmer. It’s that Stephen King kind of horror cold in there. I pass on the new space to write idea. Instead I go to my journal and write about why I might not be writing today. I also make a note to set a regular time everyday to write or paint. Everyday. Even if it is only for twelve and a half minutes. Every inspirational book I read about artists and writers state how they sit down at their desks or art tables everyday. In the Paris Review interviews…same thing. Documentaries…same thing. This sounds doable and exciting. Cool. I can do this. Everyone in the house will cooperate and if they don’t I’ll lock them in the cold bedroom.
Stephen King simply says, “sit your butt in the chair.” When Ray Bradbury has an idea he doesn’t do the dishes, or he doesn’t sweep up the cat hair first; he runs to the typewriter and zips out the story in one frenzied swirl.
In and out of the days I succeed. In and out of the days I fail. On the days I succeed I prance around with the gold crown on my head. On the days I fail someone laughs and asks me what that gold crown thingy is on my head. They imply that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Or I have this overwhelming duty that calls me to the dishes. Then just as I hang up the dishtowel, sit at the desk, and finally pick up my pen, Gary walks in and asks if I want to go out to breakfast. (Of course, because I don’t want more dirty dishes.) We drive fifteen miles to a little family-owned restaurant that makes home made pies and biscuits from scratch. Most of the customers are men who farm or work with the oilrigs. We all sit at tables squeezed into a small space and chat as if we’re family in Grandma’s kitchen. It’s a place that has your iced tea with extra ice sitting on the table as you walk in the door. Plus they have bacon to die for. So, sure I close my notebook and go out to breakfast. When I return Poe is feeling ignored so I sit and hold him. At least I can sit with my feet up, Poe on one side of me, and a notebook on my lap, open with the intent to write.
I don’t sit long because I have to clean my contact lenses a second time because one is scratchy. I can’t write with scratchy eyes. I have to make a cup of herbal tea. It’ll be nice to sip on while I write. I hear the mowers outside. I need to tell them to trim better around the grapevine. Is that a cobweb in the corner of the room? I get the swiffer to pull it down and while I have it out I might as well dust the hardwood floors.
I look at the clock to see if I might have time to take a walk or ride the stationary bike. I’ll get back to yoga today and I might sweep the porch before work. Did anyone get the clothes out of the dryer because I didn’t. Wait. I don’t think there are clothes in the dryer. Poe needs to go out again. I bend over and pull out a handful of weeds from the herb garden while Poe pees. I notice we need gravel for the driveway and the snow shovel is still leaning against the porch. (It is July.) This has become Poe’s favorite spot to lift his leg. It’s shiny and he likes to watch pee run down and puddle up yellow on the sidewalk. He looks up at me and says with his eyes, “At least I’m creating.”
Stop back in. There will be more to come about the convenience store world. It's crazy-funny stuff.