Friday, April 16, 2021

And Then There's the Dog

I understand what Donis wrote about in her post yesterday. I, too, have been dealing with "monkey mind." I'm doing distance learning (teaching from home) because my university has gone virtual for most classes. I've been doing Zoom meetings since last March. I've gotten better and more comfortable with the technology, but I've also been spending much more of each day in my house. 

I relied on the change of pace of moving from home to office and back again. Not being an early morning person, I got up around 9. I often sat down half-asleep, still in my robe, and woke up as I read what I had written the day before. The crime fiction, that is. Morning, work at home on novel or short story in progress. Then leave for my office at school around noon, in time to get a parking place when the faculty who did mornings left for lunch or headed home.

During the afternoon, I would teach my classes on Monday and Tuesday afternoon (3 hours each day). The rest of the week, I would meet with students, attend committee meeting, and do other teaching -related activities. And I would do my research and work on my nonfiction books -- which often overlap with my research for fiction because my areas are mass media/popular culture and crime history. 

Sometimes I was in my office from noon to seven or eight. Then I would go home and have dinner and write if I needed or wanted to get more done. Often as I drove the ten minutes -- 20 minutes for years until I move into the city -- often as I drove back and forth, particularly going home, I thought about what would happen next in a story. Worked out the scene and played out the dialogue in my head. 

I enjoyed that transition from home to office and back again. It was important because I got many of my best ideas in the cocoon of my car. Out of touch and in my own head. Sometimes I stretched the time out by doing errands before going to the office or home.

But for a year now, I haven't had that structure that was so important to my day. I thought in the beginning I would get more done because I didn't have that transition -- no need to watch the clock in the morning and get up and dressed. No need to plan my afternoon so that I got in everything I wanted to do and still made it home at a reasonable hour. An opportunity to do what I did in the summer and have more control over my worklife than during the rest of the academic year. 

What I didn't take into account is that even in the summer, I normally go into my office at school in the afternoons. I don't have to go. But going in, settling down with my bookcases with all of the books I need in reach, with my computer set up just right, and the library next door -- that is how I like to work on my academic books. Going into the office gives me structure and ensures I don't spend the day watching TCM and nibbling on snacks. 

And then there is the dog. During the pandemic, I decided -- as did many people -- to finally adopt a dog because I would be at home to take care of a puppy or help an older dog settle in. I got a puppy. An adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who arrived from Maryland when he was about four months old. Fergus came well-socialized by the breeder, healthy, and full of energy. Too much energy. He is exhausting. He goes to doggie daycare because I need him out of the house so that I can focus. He likes to be where I am -- when he isn't he is up to mischief. Or, in his crate barking because he isn't where I am. He is six months old now, and beginning to hang out in my home office napping or set on top of the radiator or the sofa looking out the window. He has his own pet steps to get up to the radiator. But this week he is at home because his vet put him on an antibiotic because he has been sneezing and may have a virus. And when he's not looking out the window or napping or in his crate or playing toss with his favorite doll or bone, he is up to mischief. And I really want to be in my office at school with my books around me. But he is adorable and soon he will be past the toddler stage and he is smart -- today he learned "down" -- will learn for treats. 

But still I long for my routine, for the rituals that settle my "monkey mind" and allow me to focus. I'm a plotter -- and, yes, for this plotter, it is harder than it used to be to get the structure of my works in progress to come together. I would love to be able to plunge in and see what happens. I think that would help me to shut out distractions. But I can't work that way. 

Fingers crossed that soon we will all be able to get back to what works for us. 



Tanya said...

Love the photo of your precious pup!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thanks, Tanya. It was one of the rare moments when he was both awake and sitting still.