Oh, Crap

by Rob Gregory Browne

I can’t believe how quickly two weeks go by.  In my mind, I just posted a blog a couple days ago, yet here it is, my turn again and suddenly I have to come up with an interesting subject—hell, just a subject, period—and as usual, I’m bumbling about, looking for something to say.

Since I’m a writer, you’d think this wouldn’t be tough for me.  But it always is.

The truth is, I’m just not very interesting.  Ever since I quit the day job, I barely ever go out of the house.  In fact, I bitch and moan about it every time I have to.

“Rob, can you go to the store and get some sugar?”

“What???  Don’t we have some in the cabinet?  I mean, Christ, how much of that stuff do you put your coffee?”

“Rob, just go to the store.  You can walk up, get some exercise.”

“I exercised last week.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m suggesting it.  Your ass is massive.  So’s your gut.  Have you looked in the mirror lately?”

“I try to avoid that at all cost.”

“Yeah, well you’re avoiding life in the process.  You can’t spend your whole day sitting in that goddamned chair.”

“I don’t have a choice.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Excuses, excuses.”

This is me talking to myself, of course.  I do that sometimes.  Don’t we all?

Anyway, the bottom line is that quitting the day job and being without a lot of human contact has turned me inward.  Not that I was exactly outward in the first place, but you know what I mean.  And I am now officially a slug.

And I don’t mean one of those cute Santa Cruz banana slugs, either.

I think Mr. Battles may have the right idea.  He gets up in the morning, gets dressed, grabs his laptop, jumps in his car and drives across town to a cafe, where he can watch the world go by when he’s not busy writing.  Oh, and he also goes on hikes and breathes in that pristine Los Angeles air.

But I don’t think I could deal with all that.  I work in a room with the door closed and the shades drawn and a fan drowning out all outside noise.  I call it my “back to the womb” method of writing, where the darkness and the constant drone of that fan lull me into the creative state, allowing me to lose myself in my story.  And sometimes it even works.

Rather than crave more human contact, I seem to crave it less as time goes on.  I guess we adjust to our circumstances, no matter what they may be, and even become comforted by them.  The routine becomes our friend.

So it shouldn’t be all that surprising that two weeks has gone by in the proverbial blink of an eye.  And here I sit, searching for something worthwhile to say, and coming up blank.

My wife often suggests topics to write about.  For today’s blog, she said that maybe I could talk about how I replaced a faucet yesterday—the kind of task that would normally be beyond my reach—and quickly learned that you need the right tools, the right parts, and a willingness to make mistakes in order to succeed.  I could then compare that to writing and all of its stumbling blocks.  The moral, of course, being, as someone much wiser than me once said, that “many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”

Now that would have been a good topic.  Why didn’t I think of it?

Today’s Questions:

Are you a slug, or do you get out and exercise?  If you do, what kind of exercise do you like best?

And if you don’t, why the hell not?

31 thoughts on “Oh, Crap

  1. Chris Hamilton

    Been walking. A lot. More than twenty miles this past weekend.

    And it’s not those pants that make your ass look fat.

    It’s the fat that makes your ass look fat.

    Always wanted to say that.

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Rob, um, have you ever thought of wearing vertical stripes? No? Just a thought…:-]

    Rushing round doing photoshoots is pretty good exercise, but so is moving several tons of walling stone.

    But as for REAL exercise, erm, no. I really should, I know. I used to do three hours of aerobics every day, and cycle I don’t know how many hours a week, and felt great on it. Can’t quite remember what happened to all that energy.

    Right, this is me just off to check my own wardrobe for anything with vertical stripes…

  3. Barbie

    LOL! This made me laugh. Now, that was a surprise element!!! I thought for sure that was your wife talking to you 🙂

    I’d gladly stay home for the rest of my days, but, apparently, you actually have to attend class to graduate from University. It blows. No exercise.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    In general, wakling more. The last three days … not so much. Flu like you wouldn’t believe. This will be the first day back to work.
    Slughood would be nice. Sometimes I just don’t like cubicle-land and the look my dog gives me in the morning — you’re leaving me again? — makes me want to figure out how to make working from work.

  5. Spencer Seidel

    Creativity is so fragile for me. When I’m not living well, I don’t write well. As soon as I start getting lazy about the gym or what I’m eating or drinking (ahem), my writing discipline goes out the window. So, that’s my long-winded way of saying, yes. I exercise every day if I can, running or biking.

    PK the Bookeemonster: Sometimes thinking about another day in my equivalent of cubicle-land makes me want to steer my car into a bridge abutment on the way to work. Oy.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    When I was 15 I saw a road show production of A Chorus Line. And just like in the song, I stared down at that incredible dancing and thought, "I can do that."

    I started my first jazz class the next day. Of course I had no idea how many years it would take me to be able to do that! But now it is torture for me to go even two days without working out. The key is to find something you love to do, as much as you love writing. And just like with writing, STARTING is always a pain in the ass, but once you start, you can’t believe you put it off for so long.

  7. Mark Terry

    Uh, compulsively. I started about 5 or 6 years ago when I started freelancing full-time. Gets me out of the chair and out of the office. I lift weights 3 days a week. Run 3 days a week. Bike 3 or 4 days a week. Study sanchin-ryu karate at least 2 days a week. Walk the dog 2 or 3 times a day. That makes, uh, 3+3+4+2, yeah, 12 days a week.

  8. Louise Ure

    I can surely understand that "crave even less human contact" thing. But if you don’t get out, where are you going to get your ideas? That character walking his dog is going to show up in the book, I just know he is.

  9. Rachel Brady

    If I didn’t exercise, I would be on meds! In fact, I teach fitness classes at my local Y. Love to swim, bike, and run, so triathlons are fun. Have done a few marathons. Used to play ice hockey. Yoga’s great for soothing body and mind. You’d be surprised how many great plot ideas come up after a few miles of solitude on a run or a some laps in the pool. Give it a try. 🙂 And if you don’t want people to bother you and turn you into a social creature again, just put a really focused look on your face that says, "I’m in my zone." Athletes will respect that and leave you alone. No talking to the outside world required!

  10. Alafair Burke

    Looks like we’re running about 50/50 so far but put we down with the gym rats. I have so very few good habits, but exercising is one of them. I run 20-25 miles a week plus some minimum amount of weights and bikram yoga and/or pilates. Given my ways with food and drink, I’d be too big to leave the house if I didn’t freak out a bit on the exercise side. I am also intensely social and have to have big doses of human interaction, even if it’s just people watching in the neighborhood. I get greats ideas when I’m exercising or walking in the city.

  11. Robert Gregory Browne

    Barbie, my wife thought it was supposed to be her talking, too — and she was starting to get upset. Guess I fooled you both. 😉

    As for all of you who seem to not only exercise, but even ENJOY it, I officially hate you.

  12. Rae

    I’m a bit like you, Rob, in that I crave less human contact as time goes by. As a matter of fact, if I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to go into complete hermit mode – I have to make a point forcing myself to go out in public every once in awhile (aside from going to and from work). Of course, when I do go out in public, human behavior almost always redlines my cranky meter and sends me scampering back to my cave.

    And oh yeah, I’m a slug 😉

  13. Judy Wirzberger

    Ah, I think you ordered a case of ennui from the internet. Nice in small doses. Revitalizing at times. However, an overdose kills creativity, stifles productivity and gets your wife mad as hell.

  14. pari noskin taichert

    Walking. Walking.
    Occasionally lifting weights or jogging or walking steeply uphill on a huge treadmill machine at the gym.

    The older I get, the more true silence I crave . . . the more aloneness I cherish. This is challenging in a home with two kids, two young dogs and a husband that wants at least a tiny bit of attention when he’s home.

  15. Stacy McKitrick

    Until recently I went to the gym 4 days a week and exercised. Then suddenly I stopped going. I like to blame it on a person there that pi$$ed me off, but other stuff got in the way (a new job with a longer commute being one of them). I should go back. I do miss it. It’s just so hard to start over! And I don’t have tons of time to write (since I work full-time), so I see exercise taking me away from that. Yeah, I know. EXCUSES!

  16. Eika

    I exercise, but it’s a sort of coincidental thing: when I’m thinking, I pace.

    It drove my parents nuts in elementary school, because I’d be walking in circles around the kitchen table every time we tried to have a serious discussion and I’d make them dizzy. Now, I head to the basement- there’s a relatively large area there, and the basement’s generally ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house. Doesn’t matter what I’m working on: Geometry homework in high school, plot problems, whatever, I will be walking and talking to myself.

    Not an ideal solution, especially depending on space, but it works. And if you decide to try it, a word of advice: try to avoid circles. L’s work a bit better than straight lines. And try to turn left at one end of the line and right at the other, so you always turn towards the same wall; it helps prevent dizziness (a trick I learned from a dance teacher when my parents insisted on lessons).

  17. Allison Davis

    Hand up, slug, that’s me. I never got joy out of exercise and was always jealous of people who liked the gym — I quit because I hated the outfits and couildn’t stand being faced with big screen CNN. I take a lot of yoga, which I do like, and walk everywhere, in heels preferably, more calf exercise that way…

    And even though I’m a lawyer and very outgoing, I want to hide out…no one would believe it, but that’s me, too, or wanna-be me. Yeah, yeah, known as a party girl, but I am good actress. I get three months sabbatical next year and I long to be a monk somewhere near water and just write. Hate it when the phone rings, and love the solitude. But I like lots of air and light around me so rather than close the world out, I need to be somewhere really remote. Did it once and the effect was great.

    You and J.D. Salinger, eh?

  18. toni mcgee causey

    I go through phases. I spent a lot of years dancing, though, so I tend to get back in shape fairly fast. I was a slug for the last couple of years, but I’m sick of it and it’s bothering me to not be in shape. We’ve just gotten the exercise room fixed up, and I’ve been walking there on the treadmill at least five times a week. I’m probably never going to be a runner, but I’m moving. And weights. Some pilates, though I get bored with it too fast. I finally have some space for dancing, too. But I can (typical Gemini, I think) swing back to slug in a nanosecond and be perfectly happy not leaving the house for weeks at a time. (That is not an exaggeration.) Hell, the house is always so full of people showing up for something, I practically have to hide to get away from the world as it is.

  19. Allison

    Not a slug at all, though I know exactly what you mean about turning inward. When I quit my last job, I spent six months at home writing freelance and the exact same thing happened to me. Socializing suddenly became a chore. Just the thought of turning my personality "on" to go out and about was exhausting for me. The hardest part of going back to work at an office was remembering to smile and make light, friendly conversation with people so you’re not known as that weird, awkward, anti-social writer that they hired. Took a few months, but now I’m back to my old self again!

  20. Lil Gluckstern

    I don’t remember when I enjoyed a so-called non-post more. You’ll probably get tired of doing what you’re doing and then do something else. Just so long as you’re writing too. As for exercise, so-so.

  21. KDJames / BCB

    Do I exercise? Pffft. What a question. It’s a lot of work, I’ll have you know, hiking all over the internet every day from one blog to another. Then rappelling down into the comments and climbing back out again. Damn hard work. In fact, I almost never manage it on Mondays. Just too exhausting after a long day at work.

    Thank god for the internet. I’d never get any exercise without it.

  22. Robert Gregory Browne

    I can’t tell you all how encouraged I am — by those who don’t exercise. You exercise fiends? A curse on you! 😉

    See, I know I should exercise, but it just kills me to get out there.


  23. Barbara_NY

    Ahhh, the comfort of knowing that I’m not the only slug who works at home, fan humming, curtains… well, open (sorry). Enjoyed the ride.


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