Junior Bucks said to read Writing Down the Bones. So I am. One small, patient chapter at a time. I love that she keeps using the word “discursive”. Nice coincidence there, considering that the book was written around the time I was finishing high school, and about 25 years before I settled on the title for this blog.

She encourages self-indulgent writing, which is great news for me. Or maybe she cautions against it? I’m not sure — it seems to vary from one mini chapter to the next; but I don’t hold that against her or the book. Like poetry or any other art, it can be two things. Maybe more.

So how indulgent is this, Natalie? Writing — aka “doing my writing practice” — on a pad of perforated, heavy cardstock Guest Checks, front and back, one per morning, right after I finish that day’s chapter of your book and before I clear away breakfast and start running down the day? Too indulgent?


writing practice

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How about fooling myself into thinking — just long enough to make it happen — that my practice should then be churned into blog material? Is this the performance, or a recording of me playing scales, or something else entirely? “This can be whatever you want.”

In any case, so far, it seems to be working. (However I’m defining that term.) Well, I can say for sure that it’s making me write — no, wait, it’s making me interested and even a little excited to write, which is even better than somehow being coerced into it. It is fueling a genuine motivation. Perhaps that will only last as long as the book does; perhaps that’s okay. But for now: words! Fun!

This pad or tablet or receipt book or whatever the hell it is feels like a fillable frame; just fancy and odd enough, and also not too stupid. I’m crossing out the heading “Guest Check”, first thing, and replacing it with one word; trying to grab the one that is top-of-mind in that moment. Or maybe the word that is just below that one, the second, as-yet-unseen item in today’s mental stack. I’m doing that “don’t aim too directly at the bullseye” thing; trying to squeeze my perception down an avenue I’d otherwise miss. Like: what word is almost in my brain — formulating out at the edges of my synapse network — but not quite there yet? What word, if I don’t pause for this half a breath to catch it, will never reach escape velocity from my subconscious? It seems possible that left hidden or revealed, either way it might impact my whole day. Schrodinger’s Thought.

So today’s word was “stability”. Ha. Hilarious.

I keep my hand moving across the whole front, filling in the lines, or at least, I try to. (There is no do, only try.) Flip. On the back side, the gridded chalkboard green and all the BEV | APPET | DES nonsense gives way to perfectly ruled, pale blue lines on a porcelain-white background {come on; give me your white skin}, with a big, all caps serif “THANK YOU!” at the top. This is so dumb, but when I flip it over and see that I can feel the chemicals fire off in my brain; tricked into feeling gratitude for the heroic effort I just expended to filling in a 3” x 7” card with a string of flimsy words. (Is it any less sincere, though, coming from a printer robot on the other side of the world some untold number of months ago, than it would be when paying the check at a restaurant, circled with a little smiley face by the server? In this postmodern era, I’m not sure where the boundaries between authentic human interaction and simulated human interaction are. If the same thing happens in my brain in either case, does it even matter? Can we fool ourselves into feeling appreciated, like imagining a stadium crowd breaking into cheers and holding up (lighters and/or cell phones) as I lift a freshly thrown pot from the wheelhead?)


So everything after the flip is pure DES; vegetables eaten, let’s binge on some sugar!

In today’s bonus section I wrote the first pass at what you read (or skimmed) above:

“I’ll add — perilously — that I think this thing is working — so cool that I accidented my way into it, instead of planned and guilted. All you’ve gotta do is fill one of these cards every morning after your muffin, and before childcare begins. That’s not hard; it’s like wedging my consciousness so it’s ready to get pulled up through the day.


Not bad, really.

Sometimes, later, I type in the good parts here, and tear off the little perforated strip at the bottom; complete with red ink CHECK NO. So lovely how it’s actually embossed into the paper; not just ink, but ink plus metal. This one was NO. 4889-27.

Rip up the card, to hide the evidence, and recycle. Keep the stub for proof: that I wrote, that I was here, that I lived a little.