Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.” Today, please welcome writer Dave Malone:
In my writing studio, I rouse before seven and press the start button on the coffee pot, then dive back in bed. The pot huffs and grunts while I remain snug beneath the quilts my grandmother Hollis and I made. Alone is bittersweet.
About ten blocks away in this small Ozark town, my family sleeps. Soon, my sweetheart and partner Jenni will rise and get ten-year-old Caiden ready for school—pack his lunch of ravioli and very little resembling leafy green.
I shower and do a lazy shave, which keeps a three-day scruff as beard. I tear open all my blinds to view a whiskey day of gray light that scatters across the immense hill of my street.
Sipping black java, I listen to Pandora, Cool Jazz, no words. I play Spider Solitaire to ease into what will be a day of writing work.
For Jenni, I open a 5 x 4 notebook. Under today’s date, I jot notes to her and begin what I’ve been procrastinating—revisions on my forthcoming collection, View from the North Ten: Poems after Mark Rothko’s No. 15.
Throwing out a weak poem, I compose a replacement, “Auburn Beard,” and hope it will have time to cook up well before I send the final manuscript next month. I hate to publish anything that hasn’t been submitted for journal publication or simmered for a couple of years; however, a new poem is needed, and I have a strong first draft.
I am overdue in sending work to journals, so that tops the docket today. Though I have to admit, I am hoping for some bourbon later this afternoon, so I can fade away and compose something new.
I open my “Submissions List” excel sheet to the Future tab and dig in.
In an hour, I’ve sent the first batch of three well-simmered poems.
I consider sending more poetry to a favorite journal but realize each possibility is too green and needs time to ripen.
By early afternoon, I’ve been at the machine for seven hours, so I break for the liquor store. I browse local Ozark, seasonal beers but instead choose a favorite, 1554 Black Ale, from New Belgium Brewing. Though the gray morning prognosticated a whiskey day, I can already taste the rich, slightly roasted ale.
Rachel of crooked teeth and pigtails tells me they do, but only on VHS. She finds it and asks if I want to buy it.
I hand over a bill.
At the studio, I replace cool jazz with Amy Winehouse and pour the black ale into a pint glass, wash dishes, scrub down the countertops, and tidy up. I shower and change into one of my favorite writing shirts, white linen, heaven on the skin.
Perched at my desk, my friend Nate texts me. When he inquires about evening plans, I tell him I’m busy, code for: I hope the Muse is good to me tonight.
Clean, but still unshaven, I note that it’s 4:18. One of my favorite town views is from my very own porch. Crisp against leafless brown trees, Victorians and modern houses decorate the northern bluff. In the valley, the feed buildings’ red bars form an isosceles triangle leading up to gray caps.
I have a three-hour window to write before the Muse will leave me. I’ve had several ales, my head is deliciously light as my subconscious and the moment meld into one fluid breath.
Armed with my tiny blue iPod shuffle, I step onto the porch.
AND THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…
1.What is the best book you’ve read in the last few months and how did you choose it?
- Patricia Goodrich’s book of poems, Red Mud. The setting is rural Michigan, and it reminded me of the Ozarks. Sometimes brutal and heartbreaking, but a fabulous, powerful book that actually made me cry. I discovered Visual Artists Collective online, and this was one of their offerings.
2. Would you give us one little piece of writing advice?
- I have learned a great deal by frequently submitting to journals, both print and online. My poetry and fiction have vastly improved in quality by sending to journals—it forces me to really prime the work.
3. What is your strangest reading or writing habit?
- Perhaps my rampant, thorough, almost maniacal, organization. I keep an excel sheet with all my submissions (poetry, fiction, stage plays, screenplays); I’d be lost without that damn sheet and my flash drive. My poetry folder on my computer is organized by collection—some completed, some in draft form. I try to keep every single draft of every single poem, which can create some very long documents. When I prepare to submit to a journal, I cull poems from these collections. Beside the individual poem’s title, I leave a note. For instance, when a poem like “Four Miles” is ready. The title no longer reads Four Miles—draft four. It reads Four Miles – Submitted to Blue Fifth Review.
By Dave Malone: