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January 23, 2019

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

I’m in the midst of writing a new collection of short stories. The plan was to have a first draft of all 18 selections completed by Christmas, and here we are, nearing the end of January, and I still have four and a half to go. And since I’m focusing on non-fiction for the first time ever, you’d think the first draft would be the easy part. I’d love to have everything - audio recordings and all - finished before what will likely be another working season on Martha’s Vineyard. But February is our shortest month, with a Super Bowl weekend starting it off. The odds aren’t strong.

But possible…


If I could somehow find a way to stop wasting so much time…

Of course, what does “wasting time” look like for this particular writer/musician? Does aimless pounding away on the piano count? I mean, one has to practice, right? The beautiful acoustic guitar I purchased last year is not going to automatically tune itself or allow me to learn those unusual James Taylor-like chords without some time-consuming effort on my part. Song ideas usually come from out of the blue and frequently arrive when I’m scheduled to be doing something else. What am I supposed to do - just let those ideas slip away?


Actually, I tend to let them slip away more often than not… And some of my best song ideas have come when I’ve been sleeping…


Those New Yorker magazines keep stacking up, and lately I’ve been spending more time gazing at the pile than glancing over the articles. I’ve been the COOP president for the past eleven years and many of my best ideas and solutions have come when I’ve been randomly navigating around the computer or edging towards the couch for a brief, energy-replenishing nap. One has to do exercises to keep one’s back in shape, in case one still wants to work as a waiter/bartender into the future. And that “one” in this last example is, of course, me.


This whole michaelaba.com enterprise might simply be another excursion into wasted time, I’m willing to allow. I wrote the monthly email last night and preceded typing these very words by staring at the computer far longer than was necessary. I really should be spending these precious moments working on the new collection! Although, truth be told, a new collection from me might simply be an example of more wasted time…


BUT…


This is what writers and musicians do. Everyone utilizes time differently, but we can trick ourselves into believing none of ours is truly “wasted”. When confronted with staring off into space for too long, those of us in the creative arts have an appropriate response:


“Hey! Stop bothering me! Can’t you see I’m working?!”


Mining one’s own mind for plot lines and lyrics and chord changes that will leave you wondering where they originated from in the first place is like trying to tap into something beyond our own human limitations. I’ve dreamed up music more complex than I would normally be able to play. But eventually, through time-consuming (time-wasting?) repetition, I’m somehow able to become fairly proficient.


Anyway - the new collection will be called “These Stories Are True”. The one I’m working on right now has the working title of “James Taylor”. And there’s no doubt that before a first draft is finished, I’ll be running to the guitar or piano to free up my mind a little bit and have some fun.


And maybe that is indeed “wasting time”. But, at least for me, these left-hand-turns come with the territory and has to be factored into my everyday life. And maybe when the James Taylor chapter is over, I’ll tackle some of those unread “New Yorker” magazines…


But then again, I like to watch sports on TV… Movies and MSNBC, too…

There are only so many hours in a day yet so many things we’d all love to do. The mathematics at play here I find fascinating. I think I may be ready to sit back in this chair, rest my feet on the desk, and ponder my next move.


Maybe a song or story idea will pop into my head at the same time. Or maybe not…

Well, at least this blog is close to finished. And even if no one else reads a word, I know next month I’ll skim through the whole thing. Hopefully I’ll find myself enjoying an observation or two, like I have with all the others.

I refuse to regard these last several minutes as a total waste of time. Others are free to take a few seconds and believe what they will.

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