Saturday, October 21, 2017

Oscar Martens: My (small press) writing 1993

I have to go back that far to recall my ideal writing situation.  I'm marginally employed in Ottawa, working temp gigs at various Federal institutions such as the Public Service Commission, and the Department of Defence.  I'm living in the lower level of my father's townhouse on Britannia Bay.  I pay $200/mo in rent.  The forced air heating doesn't really make it to my room due to faulty ductwork, but I have a stand-alone space heater as backup.  The computer is a 286, and I'm running WordPerfect 5.1.

All that really matters is that I have the golden hours to myself, midnight to five in the morning, a block of time when I'm reasonably confident the phone won't ring.  Facebook doesn't exist yet.  I've heard about and rejected as ridiculous and unnecessary the new communication protocol known as email.  I write all night and leave the garbage morning hours to the worker drones.  This is the natural cycle that falls into place if there's no interference from anyone or any thing.  I'm not badgered by a sunny day and the tantalizing menu of options that comes with it.  I'm not tempted to slay my to-do list, shopping and running errands, because everything is closed.  No friend will tolerate a call at this hour.

A couple of decades later and I'm still in the basement, but that basement is in Vancouver, a very expensive city.  The rent is now $2500 and the heat still doesn't work because of faulty ductwork.  Despite having a hundred times the speed and memory, the iMac computer is still a dinosaur that will provoke giggles if brought to the "geniuses" at the nearest Apple store.  There's a comfy Herman Miller office chair upstairs, but downstairs things are rather spartan.  I have one of those folding chairs you bring out at Christmas time for the overflow, a plastic folding table from Costco, and not a thing on the walls.  This is a room for a writer, damn it, not some fancy media buyer (my wife)!

What is sacred is unchanged but more difficult to access.  Golden hours are harder to arrange, and there are so many barriers to production, many of them psychological.  My employment is lucrative yet sporadic, resisting every attempt to set up a regular schedule. While some set out word count goals, and others mark designated hours in a Daytimer, my measure of success is to look up after a few moments and realize that hours have passed.  Total immersion.  Knocked out, dragged under, lifted up, carried away.  That's the chemical hit that keeps me coming back.

Oscar Martens' most recent publication was a story story about a vigilante clown (Grain 43.3).  He runs the Media Whore blog, an exploration of self-promotion, located at

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