Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Allison Armstrong : My Writing Day

My writing day isn’t a day. It’s a decision.

Right now, I’m entirely self-employed. I do as much art modeling work as I can get, take on one-day and one-week temporary office contracts, work as a virtual assistant, sew “dog accessories”, and pick up occasional other work as and when I can get it.  Sometimes I manage to get a piece published by a paid market, or sell a self-published chapbook or two, but those are still pretty rare.

Because writing isn’t my “job” in the sense of “something I am definitely and reliably financially compensated for doing”, and because my weird little income quilt involves a lot of half-days, or half-weeks, or flexible work-from-home hours… I have a lot of free time.
“Free” in the sense of “scheduled at my discretion”, but also “free” in the sense of “unpaid” or, more to the point, “Shouldn’t I be hustling right now”.

This is time for me to write, sure. It’s also time for me to grow food, cook from scratch, and take... honestly, pretty mediocre… care of the house I share with my wife and four talkative little birds.  As such, it’s also time in which to spin, feel guilty, and tell myself I should be washing dishes or vacuuming or looking for jobs on craigslist, rather than “wasting” time on writing.
Which we all know is a sure-fire way to not get any writing done either.

Thence my writing day being less a full-time (or even part-time) “day” and more being a decision that I make over and over.

My writing day happens at my computer (surrounded by clutter, accompanied by the chatter of indoor birds), after doing my virtual assistant tasks and checking my own email for modeling or temp gig offers, and while steadfastly NOT checking twitter (again) (yet).

My writing day happens in the twenty minutes between walking to my modeling gig and the art class actually starting, scribbling in a slightly floppy, spiral-bound notebook, using turquoise, purple, fuchsia ink and relying on the different colours to show me where one poem finishes and another begins.

My writing day happens between starting the bread dough and kneading it after its first rise, or between prepping the ingredients – onions, chick peas, barley, carrots, dandelions, sunchokes, tomatoes, chives, sage – and taking the slow-braised dinner out of the oven.

My writing day happens in between phone calls when I’m working a reception job (or when I need to stop staring at the spreadsheet I’m filling in, if I’m doing data entry), sending emails to myself through MS outlook, and then deleting them from the Sent file.

My writing day happens after I’ve spent an hour weeding and watering the vegetable garden or foraging for service berries or wild greens (perhaps unsurprisingly, food and gardens are as much a reoccurring theme for me as tarot cards or lunar cycles or feelings or relationships), or while waiting for the previous rack of just-washed dishes to dry.

My writing day happens, pretty frequently, during mid-afternoon visits to a hopefully-deserted laundromat, while waiting for the spin cycle to finish, and between flipping the wet clothes into the industrial dryer and folding them (warm and mostly dry) into the backpack for the walk home.

Sometimes, if I’ve had a particularly paid-work-heavy week, my writing day happens for two or three glorious hours in the afternoon (specifically between Lunch Rush finishing and Happy Hour Rush starting up), sitting in a favourite café, nursing a cup of coffee, and telling myself I can buy myself a cookie once, and only once, I’ve drafted at least two decent poems.

But that isn’t the norm.

My writing day happens in free moments, and fits and starts. It happens because I decide to make it happen.

Allison Armstrong is a queer Scorpio leather femme, a Cancer moon kitchen witch, and a Professional Naked Girl with Gemini rising.  She lives on an ancient seabed, and unceded Algonquin territory, in Ottawa where she writes poetry, reads tarot, and makes things with her hands. She has been published by Hyacinth Noir, Cuir & Queer press, Bywords.ca, and Venus in Scorpio. Follow her adventures on twitter @amazon_syren and at https://queeroticpoetry.wordpress.com/.

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