building a routine

As we’re all navigating the strangeness of being trapped at home, I keep hearing time and time again that the best way to mitigate depression and insanity during this time is to stick to a routine.

While I was in college, I spent my summers working as a camp counselor in rural Ohio. The camp operated on a set daily routine that was followed to the exact minute and hadn’t changed since the camp was founded in the early 1990s. The morning wake-up bell rang promptly at 7am. Meals were served at 8am, 12pm, and 6pm on the nose. 12:30pm to 2pm was mandatory rest hour. After following this schedule all summer long, my body naturally stuck to this rhythm, even after returning to normal life. If I didn’t eat lunch at exactly noon and take a nap afterwards, my entire day was thrown into chaos.

We’ve all experienced this in some form or another, often with our sleep patterns. It’s why so many people can’t sleep in on the weekends, even if they try. Their bodies are accustomed to waking up at 6:30am and getting ready for work.

In these times of uncertainty, where it’s hard for us to make the most of our newfound free time, I thought I’d share how I’m trying to structure my days.

Daily Routine:

8am — wake up, put on a pot of coffee

8:15am — meditate

8:45am — make cup of coffee, sit down to write

9am — write (currently working on revisions for a play and the first draft of a book)

11:30am — spend time in my “Bliss Station” (as described by Austin Kleon)

12pm — make lunch and eat

12:30pm — read, take a nap

2pm — work on my To-Do List (send emails, draft correspondence, misc. work)

3pm — go for a walk, listen to a podcast

4pm — creative play (work on collages, play my guitar, etc)

5:30pm — meditate (again)

6pm — cook and eat dinner, clean kitchen

7pm — “Free Time” (watch TV and movies, go for a walk, phone calls, etc)

11pm — read in bed

12pm — lights out

spending my days

Thought I’d share a few thing I’m using to pass the recent days.

Movies:

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) – The greatest cinematic crossover event in history. Don’t @ me.

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

Revenge of The Creature (1956) – yikes…

Frankenstein (1931)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Wolf Man (1941) – You know I’m going through it when I dig this one out.

House of Frankenstein (1944) – Avengers: Age of Ulton, but for Universal Horror flicks.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Remember when Dashboard Confessional played over the closing credits for superhero movies, back when emo music slapped? Those were the days, folks…

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – I spent most of this most recent rewatch face down on my living room carpet screaming. COVID-19 was not a factor.

TV Shows:

Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix) – What starts an a Mad Men rip-off set in the world of personal computing quickly spins into something all too magnificent.

House of Cards (Netflix) – While this show flew off the rails after showrunner Beau Willimon made an exit, in a time where we’re all powerless in our present circumstance, there’s something cathartic in watching Frank Underwood bulldoze anyone and anything that gets in his path.

Barry (HBO) – As an artist living in Los Angeles, it’s so real it hurts.

Billions (Showtime) – I’ve been a fan of showrunner Brian Koppelman’s podcast for years now, but I’m just now getting around to this show. Phenomenal acting, stupendous writing, even if it has the visual look of a CBS legal procedural.

Podcasts:

The Moment with Brian Koppelman – As mentioned above, I’ve been a fan of this podcast for a long time. Koppelman is someone I always look to for creative insight. His recent conversation with Seth Godin is especially noteworthy, as they offer some wisdom for the times in which we live.

The Trap Set with Joe Wong – A recent discovery on my part, but worth a listen. Check out his recent conversation with Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service).

Lead Singer Syndrome – Hosted by Shane Told of Silverstein, this show features interviews with a variety of (you guessed it) lead singers from various punk, emo, hardcore, and metal bands. As someone who grew up in this scene, I cant’ recommend this show enough. It’s a fantastic peek behind the curtain with the members of Bayside, The Used, Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack, and pretty much every other scene band you can imagine.

Books:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie – “What happens when our heroes don’t even know how to pay their bills?”

Just Kids by Patti Smith – always a classic

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Collected Poems of W.H. Auden – “O let not time deceive you, you cannot conquer time…”

Plays:

Lemon Sky by Lanford Wilson

Burn This by Lanford Wilson – It hurts so good.

Frankie and Johnny in The Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally – Almost enough to make you think love might exist out there somewhere.

Music:

A Beautiful Place to Drown – Silverstein

Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

Opening for Steinbeck – John Cragie

Best Buds – Mom Jeans.

“Blow Me” & “Paradise Lost – The Used

“Sudden Desire” by Hayley Williams

revisiting tumblr

With the entire world on hold at the moment, I’ve had a blast combing back through the Tumblr page I ran between 2012 and 2019.

I only ever used Tumblr to collect things I thought were interesting, whether they be quotes, gif sets from movies, ideas for interior decoration, or pictures of the kind of women I wanted to date.

There’s something to be said for revisiting what inspired you once upon a time and letting yourself look at it a whole new way.

Let’s all keep creating.

slowing down

As I’m reading and watching and living lately, I keep bumping into tiny reminders about slowing down.

I recently started reading Danny Gregory’s The Creative License, which I can’t recommend enough. I’m only about thirty pages in, but so far, it’s a tremendous education on allowing yourself to abide in your own imagination.

One of my favorite quotes so far:

“The most important part of drawing is seeing. (And I’m not talking about eyesight — Matisse drew beautifully when he was legally blind.) You need to see what’s in front of you in a way you probably don’t right now. You need to slow down.”

It reminds me a lot of this poem by Anis Mogani:

I’ve been trying to slow down and pay attention lately, whether leaving my phone in a different room when watching TV or stopping to notice the flowers while walking to work.

As we move into the holidays, where there’s a constant rush to get work done before flying home, to finish buying and wrapping presents, to get the roast in the oven before the relatives arrive, it’s important to slow down.

The joy of the holidays lies in being with the people we love, which requires taking a breath and slowing down long enough to truly be present with them.

paying attention

I was working on an art piece recently and found myself so focused on the finished product, I didn’t pay attention to the details along the way. The result was a piece that didn’t come remotely close to match my intention, all because I was focused on the product and not the process. I wasn’t paying attention.

I’m about halfway through reading Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in which an autistic teenager attempts to solve the mystery of a murdered pet. In one passage, the protagonist reflects on the nature of details and how most people fail to notice them:

“…most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing…and the information in their head is really simple. For example, if they are in the countryside, it might be:

  1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
  2. There are some cows in the fields.
  3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
  4. There are some flowers in the grass.
  5. There is a village in the distance.
  6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate in it.

And then they would stop noticing anything because they would be thinking something else, like “Oh, it is very beautiful here,” or “I’m worried that I might have left gas cooker on,” or “I wonder if Julie has given birth yet.”

This seems like such a profound truth about our world: we all struggle to be present. We’re always thinking about other things. We’re always distracted.

Cell phones and computers on make this worse. As companies are competing to occupy space in our brains, we’re texting while talking on the phone, sending emails in meetings, and scrolling through Instagram while watching Netflix. No one stops to do one thing at a time. No one pays attention.

If anything, we could all stand to unplug, stop, breathe, look, and listen a little more. I wonder what we’d discover.

hearing vs. listening

According to Merrian-Webster, the word “hear” is defined as “to perceive or become aware of by the ear,” whereas the word “listen” means “to pay attention to sound.”

Hearing is a transitive verb. Listening is an intransitive verb.

Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

I’m telling you all this because I’m trying to hear less and listen more.

what i’m listening to — 5.13.19

I’m a big believer in sharing the work that inspires us. As a result, here are some songs and albums that I’ve had on repeat lately.

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties — Routine Maintenance

Imagine if Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years fronted The Mountain Goats, then wrote a series of songs detailing a cross-country odyssey that ends in making the conscious choice to be “someone you can count on for a change.”

Key Tracks: “Lead Paint and Salt Air,” ” Rosa & Reseda,” “Routine Maintenance”

2. Jimmy Eat World — Clarity

Always worth revisiting when you find yourself in a period of self-discovery.

Key Tracks: “A Sunday,” “Goodbye Sky Harbor”

3. Vampire Weekend — Father of The Bride

Duh.

Key tracks: “Hold You Now (feat. Danielle Hiam),” “This Life”

4. blink-182 – “Blame It On My Youth”

I’ve been a blink since I was a kid and their recent releases with Matt Skiba are some of their best efforts. While this first single off an upcoming album that promises to be more experimental than 2016’s California doesn’t quite pack the punch I’d like, it’ definitely shows the band pushing in a more experimental direction.

5. Amanda Palmer – “The Ride”

I’ll make the embarrassing confession that I hadn’t listened to Amanda Palmer or her band, The Dresden Dolls, prior to reading her book, The Art of Asking (which I highly recommend for anyone and everyone). After hearing her on a recent episode of Brian Koppelman’s The Moment, listening to her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, became one of my top priority’s. This particular song, a sweeping ballad depicting the despair and restlessness so many of us encounter these days, absolutely ruined me the first time I heard it. “The climb to the crest is less frightening with someone to clutch you, but isn’t it nice when we’re all afraid at the same time?” she asks in the gradual slope towards the chorus. Somehow, picturing Amanda sitting and singing beside me makes getting through these days a little easier.

the problem with expertise

No one enjoys feeling stupid.

We avoid it at all costs. We want to be seen as informed and educated to those around us. We devour news articles and binge-watch YouTue videos and when we see a movie or read a book, we’re cautious to share our opinions until we’ve confirmed with those around us that our thoughts are valid.

We’re all trying to prove that we’re experts.

I saw Austin Kleon speak last week and he said something interesting when someone describes him as a guru. The problem with gurus, he said, is they’ve elevated themselves beyond the work. They’ve stopped asking questions. If you really want to learn from someone, look for the person working amidst the muck, still trying to figure things out.

It seems that with the entirety of human knowledge slotting into our pocket, we’ve all promoted ourselves to guru status. We’re all experts because we all know everything. It’s right there in our phone (or the “magic box of knowledge” as some members of my family have come to calling it.) “I read an article recently,” you’ll hear someone say just before positing a political opinion or movie review. We’re all so eager to prove that we’re experts, but in doing so, we’re also robbing ourselves of the opportunity to learn and grow.

We as a society have ascribed value to conversation. There are winners and losers. Those who are proven right in an argument win and those who change their minds lose. But I think this is really backwards. When you’re the expert or the winner of the argument, you don’t grow. You don’t change. You don’t learn anything.

When you don’t know something, you have the opportunity to expand yourself. Changing your mind can actually change your life.

There’s the old saying that goes something like, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t.” And I think this is truer than ever. If we really know anything, we’d all recognize how much we don’t actually know.

This isn’t me granting permission to dismiss science or logic or anything like that, because, let’s be honest, that’s what got us into this whole mess in the first place. All I’m saying is, what would happen if we set aside our egos long enough to consider that our beliefs, our opinions, our worldviews, aren’t the definitive truth. What would happen if we let ourselves be wrong?

Maybe we’d all grow. Maybe we’d all learn more. Maybe we’d all speak less and listen more. Maybe we’d find we’re capable of more than we ever anticipated.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be wrong more often…

a confession and a promise

I’m bad a blogging.

Maybe you’ve noticed. This is the first post that appears on my website since I’ve redesigned and relaunched it. Every few years, I clean house and start over.

I used to blog a lot. I shared things that inspired me, ideas I was thinking about, music I was listening to, and tiny snapshots from my little corner of the world. Some of these things were really just rough drafts, tiny bits that weren’t even truly shareable. They were embarrassing, to be honest. And it’s difficult to have tiny parts of yourself on display attached to a URL that features your name.

I was listening to a podcast called The Moment with Brian Koppelman last night. During Brian’s conversation with TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller, they discussed how the internet has made it difficult to keep record of great criticism and entertainment writing. Before, if you wanted to find Roger Ebert’s thoughts on a particular film, all you had to do was sift through the backstock at your local library. Now, when looking for a particular piece of criticism, be it a blog post, a tweet, or comment on a website, it’s likely you won’t find it. Blogs disappear. Tweets get deleted. Websites get shut down.

Gee, that sounds familiar…

In his book, Share Your Work, Austin Kleon talks about sharing something small every day. As you do so, the days accumulate into weeks into months into years. The more you share, the larger your archive.

Somehow, this is a lesson that never stuck with me. I’m often embarrassed by what I’ve made and therefore, throw it out the first chance I get. Instead, I should be trying to be better. If you’re busy making and sharing new work, you stop worrying about the old work.

So here’s my promise to you moving forward: no more spring cleaning. As I keep writing and creating and exploring, nothing gets deleted. This whole thing is a process, so let’s walk through it together. It’s not as if we’re going to run out of digital drawer space anytime soon.

Let’s get to work…