Monday, January 18, 2010

THE CHALLENGES OF PLUGGING AWAY

The workday begins with me sitting on a bench, writing, while sipping a coffee inside a mall in town. Every seat inside the Starbucks is taken. Laptops are open in front of at least half the patrons.

This is what happens when the power goes out.

Although the town powers on, it’s dark in the outlying areas, including at my home. We the power deprived crawl out of the woodwork and head for the town lights. Who are all these people? Other writers? Entrepreneurs? Home business operators? Getting a seat inside Starbucks isn’t crucial. I can’t use my laptop because, although the place is wireless, my ancient device can’t access the service. Add laptop to the wish list should I get an advance on any writing in the near future.

I’m guessing the power died somewhere around two in the morning as rains pummeled my windows and winds huffed and puffed, thrashing the tall pines and threatening to blow the house down. Happens many times each winter. We’ve been spared some this year. Still, the inconvenience of the moment is expected to last the full day, midnight being the time the hydro company estimates for getting power restored.

I move to a small table in the mall. Right beside the Lotto Centre island. Seventies music pipes through the ceiling: “Sad Eyes”, Karen’s haunting voice singing “For All We Know”, Chaka offering a soulful “Sweet Thing”. The classics, as I know them, compete with today’s hip hop, blaring from the Athletes World across the way. (Wish they had an apostrophe in their name. Help us, Lynne Truss!) It’s catchy, but it can’t compete with Chaka.

A steady stream of hopefuls stop by the lottery base to check their tickets. The system is down, the only inconvenience perceptible to townsfolk. They don’t know how lucky they are already.

Without my laptop, it’s paper and pencil today. I used to prefer first drafts scrawled on legal pads and plain notebooks, but I realize I’ve made the full transition to thinking and writing in front of a computer. I have no choice but to fall back on my old ways. I cannot afford for today to be a write-off. I have also loaded plenty of non-electronic writing tasks in my backpack: the latest issue of The Writer—a rare chance to study articles I never seem to get around to reading—, an old screenplay I need to reread to decide if it’s worth revising, a TV script to study for formatting and pacing.

Despite the power outage, I must continue to plug away. The brain power is on its own today.

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