1. Now that you finally have a car again, do you find yourself walking/using public transportation less?
I’m still walking about as much as I used to; walking’s important to me. I would take long walks around the hospital campus when I was still working up there; it’s a great place to stroll. I like to get 10,000 steps a day, same as Roger Ebert’s goal. And walking’s a good break on this job, working from home.
I’ve used the bus less, though: my big use was for my commute to and from Pill Hill, where the hospital is. I’ll need to decide whether to keep getting monthly passes for the bus and light rail – probably not cost-effective for now – or if I should start getting books of tickets instead.
The car, thank goodness, lets me do more spur-of-the-moment or late-night things without having to worry so much about getting there and coming home, but the months of not driving at all, and my general habit of not automatically driving places anyway, have served me well. They reset my brain. Sometimes I’ll drive only once a week, to Fred Meyer, Safeway or Trader Joe’s for groceries. I will drive to Can’t Stop the Serenity tonight, but last year I went via the light rail, the bus, and my feet. Portland’s good for that combination.
2. So why did you stop writing for FSM (or, for that matter, writing in general) way back when?
I slowed down my Film Score Monthly writing once I was at the Hermiston Herald in 1997 and getting paid to write (FSM was still an all-spec magazine at the time). The Herald work, where I had to be a jack-of-many-trades as usually happens at small newspapers, kept me plenty busy. Also, Lukas Kendall and I had managed to rub each other the wrong way – my big mess-up was not finishing what was going to be a fairly in-depth FSM review of a music database – so the working relationship (even long-distance) wasn’t ideal. Meanwhile, I was still writing plenty, but only finishing the Herald-related work; I wasn’t finishing short-story ideas I had, for instance.
More generally, it was a confidence problem. My initial goal when I left Hermiston for Portland in 2000 was to get a writing job, for which I hustled pretty hard (talking to several print publications in Portland), but the stuff I wrote at the time wasn’t strong enough. (“This isn’t really about anything,” one editor said about a test article I’d researched and written, and I agreed.) By then I knew I wasn’t going to be good enough as a reporter to be an in-depth investigative reporter, but at the time feature writing had stopped appealing to me, too, which would’ve been another route to in-depth, substantive writing. And as an editor told me, print editors didn’t want people to write reviews, especially movie reviews, because they had plenty of people ask to do nothing but that. (That editor, by the way, later was coffeeinhell’s editor for a few years. Good guy.) So review writing, what I felt most comfortable with, was the least-sought skill set I had at the time. And online review writing for places other FSM simply didn’t occur to me yet.
My journal writing, especially recently, has been an exercise in regaining that confidence, in both review writing and writing in general. And the positive feedback I’ve gotten from my professional writer friends, you included, has really helped. (One pro I know suggested I try fiction: “I think you have the sentences in you,” he said.)
3. Working at home: Are you able to stick to a schedule, or is it pajamas all day and a mad rush in the afternoon to catch up?
Slow and steady wins the race. It HAS to. When I write, that writing tends to go in bursts (a little, then a lot, then nothing for a bit, then more), but the hospital work I’ve been up to these last few weeks – mainly online checking of hospital and nursing home info – is a “whittling away at the work” sort of job. Plus I’m on a slow computer, and trying to hurry up late in the day would be un-good.
I have to be showered and dressed at the day’s start, too, at least to be psychologically ready for the hospital work.
This answer is changing as today’s my last day doing the hospital work, but that’s how it’s worked since I made the change May 30th.