thomasibenton

Fictionish tales of hillbillies and stuff.

Month: October, 2014

Monday morning procrastination

I write this on a Monday morning, a Monday morning with a to-do list longer than my arm and truly urgent deadlines to meet.

For reasons that are a mystery to me, these are the circumstances that cause my brain to brim with ideas for fiction and essays and blog posts and poems. Maybe my subconscious simply finds writing more engaging than my day job and latches onto the possibilities other than work. Maybe the need to focus elsewhere de-centers my creative self enough to work around the inevitable blocks to the creative process.

Maybe I am just a classic procrastinator.

Regardless, I will have to keep slogging away on the parts of life that actually pay my bills, at least until I get the big payday for the movie rights to my blog. [Aside to any Hollywood executives who may be reading this: I’m sure that we can work something out for Thomas I. Benton–On Screen! Please get in touch.]

Off to the workaday world.

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Most of life is waiting

The good stuff in life tends to happen in brief moments. You meet someone special for the first time in a single moment (at least for that person!). Your child is born, you get hired, or you win the game, or your story submission gets accepted–all of these are brief moments in your life. They happen, and then they are mere remembrances. These brief moments cast a cheery glow over the rest of your days, but they are more the flame of a candle flickering in an instant of life more than a conflagration over the years.

I’m not complaining about the intermittent nature of joy. Give any human, certainly the human writing this, constant joy and the happiness will cease, the pleasure simply dropping into the background din of life. I have to remind myself sometimes that most of life is waiting. When I am toiling away at my day job, when I am dropping a kid off at school for the 435th time, when I am crafting the 19,137th word of a novel–hopefully at all of these times I can find happiness in the rhythm of my work and the little things around me and be patient for the precious moments to come in their own time.

If I take care of the day-to-day while I am waiting, the good stuff is more likely to happen. The unsubmitted story cannot be accepted, work never performed cannot succeed, the novel not finished won’t be published. A family neglected brings no one joy. So I sit here, actively waiting for the good stuff by enjoying the rhythm of my life and work, that I might again find great joy when the time comes. And it will arrive, inevitably.

Filling the cup

Back in high school, I learned the proper answer to, “How is life like this cup?”

I heard that question more than you would expect, certainly more than makes sense to me looking back on it. It would always be posed by someone interviewing me for some award or position or scholarship. The asker usually sat across a desk or table from me, and they would hold out a cheap paper cup as they watched my reaction.

The proper reaction, I soon learned, was to take the cup into my hands delicately, as if it were a prehistoric figurine of brittle clay. Then I would scrunch my eyes together for a bare second and scrutinize the cup, before responding slowly, “This cup is like life, because you can only get out of it what you put into it . . .”

Treating life like a cup–because you only get out of it what you put into it!–shouldn’t be taken as some sophisticated or deep life philosophy. The analogy, at least as I learned it, was juvenile in more ways than my age; I deployed the comparison more to convince authority figures to give me things than as a sincere expression of my approach to life.

It’s still true, though.

Decades later, when I put in sincerity, effort, and thoughtfulness, I get paid in turn. When I put in bitterness, discontent, and disregard, the results I drink are not as sweet. Trite or not, I prefer to fill my cup with what I want to get out of life.