Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Robin Sinclair's Writing Day

Talking about my writing space and a typical day is somewhat difficult, mostly because I don't live and work in one place.

In 2018, my partner and I got drunk on great wine and started doing some “budget math” in our living room. It turned out that we could live exclusively on the road for less money than it cost us to live in our apartment in Brooklyn. The only reason we'd moved there was for their job, and they were quitting because it was slowly sucking any semblance of joy from behind their eyes.

We gave up an apartment that took every penny and favor to secure, gave our furniture to our neighbors, and left. Other than my first date with my partner and the “no thanks” to a drug run that ended badly back in '03, giving up that apartment was probably the best decision I've ever made.

My first book, Letters To My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls was published in October of that year by Cosmographia Books (cheap plug alert!), so I scheduled as many readings as possible throughout our travels to promote the book. We're fortunate in that we're both people who don't need much to live and be comfortable, and I have the privilege of a job that I can do from anywhere. We also don't mind shady, fuck-palace hotels near airports and we're very good campers, which is important for a tight budget.

I chose to share a writing day from my travels that seemed an appropriate example of how things tend to go, both in the outside world and in my head.

Robin's Writing Day - Missouri.

11pm: My partner and I arrive in Missouri to stay with a friend. We hug a lot, and I'm a little bleary-eyed. I'd done ten hours of highway, which isn't the longest day, but certainly enough to fry your senses. It will be nice to stay in one place long enough to see a couple doctors and to build up new podcasts to listen to.

1am: We cuddle on the sofa and drink terrible, terrible wine. I actually notice my shoulders and neck relaxing as we curl up under a blanket and watch some so-bad-it's-good show on Netflix. We take turns pretending we didn't fall asleep. We occasionally look at each other and smile.

6am: Wake up. Everyone else is asleep. Fucking time-zones. I have the key to the backdoor of my friend's apartment. Grab my black notebook and a few pens and creep out the back. She lives on the third floor and has a little balcony. There's frost on the ground and I can see my breath, and this is the exact kind of situation that calls for smoking. Don't smoke. You're a quitter, remember?

6:15am: Walking down quiet streets. The air is a bit bitter, but I like it. I stop and sit on the curb in front of a blue house and jot a few lines down. Lines about an old friend. I write about her, and to her, often. She's become my Virgil. A dog starts barking. I miss my dog, and start writing about the day she died.

7am: The coffee shop boy doesn't like how I look and makes his feelings known. The bigots have gotten bold since 45 took office. Don't worry, I'll kill this kid in a story. Little prick.

7:30am: A neighbor is smoking on the second floor balcony, and now I also have hot coffee to add to this equation. The only thing better than smoking on a balcony on a crisp morning is smoking on a balcony on a crisp morning while drinking a piping hot cup of coffee. There's Amaretto inside for the coffee. Just keep moving and don't ask to bum a cigarette.

Inside, everyone's still sleeping until the back door is closed just a little too hard – oops.

9am: A few more lines written amid the chaos and bustling about the apartment. I switch to reading, but my head is stuck in the poem I'm working on. Someone is asking me about yoga or something but I'm not really there.

It is one of those days where my I'm not completely gone, but not completely present. If I work at it, I can manage days like that. Sleep, water, and practice are important factors, but I was up all night. My loved ones are patient with me. My partner is kind enough to fill me in on what I miss. They keep tabs on the day, and on me. They make sure I drink water and eat real food and don't get too lost, if it is at all possible. This is a maybe day.

10am: My friend runs a shop in town and I sit with her and write while she works. I've switched over to my laptop, so I put on headphones (yes, I still have headphones and not earbuds, shut up) and turn on a playlist. 

·        Ani Difranco
·        Skunk Anansie
·        The Birthday Massacre
·        Sigur Ros
·        The Smiths
·        Iggy Pop
·        The Cure
·        Cibo Matto
·        Peter Gabriel
·        Jack Off Jill
·        T Rex
·        B52s
·        Molotov Jukebox
·        World/Inferno Friendship Society 
·        Talking Heads
·        Strap On Halo
·        Cypress Hill
·        The Cramps
·        Prince
·        Alanis Morrisette

I pick up on a story that's been stuck in limbo for about six months. I have a breakthrough and am able to finally make some true progress. God, it feels good. It was my own fault. I was in the way. Once I shut up about my own ideas as to where it should go and just let the words happen, they happened like an avalanche.

12pm: Everyone is hungry. I order food and try to socialize. I fail. Again, my loved ones are patient with me. The store starts to fill up with people and I head to the basement. The basement looks like it could be part of the boiler room in one of the A Nightmare on Elm Street films. It is musty and probably filled with all sorts of things you shouldn't breathe. I quote Freddy lines to myself to hear how they sound bouncing off of the basement walls, and laugh as I get myself set up to write.

12:45pm: The circus upstairs has died down and I sit with my friend and my partner for lunch. We talk about books and which city has the best drag shows.

1:30pm: The bar next-door is open and mostly empty.

3:30pm: I'm getting a lot done at the bar, but I sort of miss everyone. I have so few people I truly love, and two of them are in the adjacent building. It isn't quite guilt, but it is certainly a paradox. I want to be alone but also not without them. I need to not have the noise of interpersonal expectations right now, but two voices I love the sound of are on the other side of a double brick wall. God damn it – pay the tab.

3:45: I've had enough to drink and had enough time to write that I sort of feel functional. I'm either brave enough to try to bullshit my way through how I'm supposed to act around other people, or maybe just tipsy enough not to care about screwing it up.

Or maybe, stupid, you should trust that they love you and aren't judging you for who you are and how your mind operates. Nah – definitely one of the other ones.

5pm: Update my website and post on social media about a reading that just fell into my lap. Update my spreadsheet to keep track of the rejections that came in through Submittable this week. Ignore a call from my boss. I'm grateful for the opportunities working online grants, but I hate the actual gig, and the day I find myself giving up writing time for work is the day I swallow a bottle of pills. Send to voicemail.

6pm: I can't get anything done because I'm dwelling on shitty work thoughts and how absurd it is that I participate in an evil, throwaway fucking commerce culture so that I can afford doctor visits and food. I'm a hypocrite because I take a check from an e-commerce industry that perpetuates things I hate. But I'm mainly a poet, so there's not exactly rent-paying money in my writing future, and I'm not going back to living in a fucking crack house. I didn't break this wold, I try to convince myself. I'm just trying to survive it. I'm in the thick bog of self-hatred.

My partner notices where I'm at and hugs me tight. We all go back to the bar together and have a few drinks. My friend puts her head on my shoulder and says, “Luff youuuu.”

7:30pm: Eating leftovers at the apartment. The neighbor is outside smoking again. We can hear them talking. My friend, who is also a quitter, looks at the back door like a widow. She feels it, too, but we stay inside. “Come on, you guys are doing so good!” My partner nudges us in the right direction.

I think of a few lines that I try to remember. I know it is not the right thing to do, but I want to get up from the table mid-conversation to go write them down. I'm going to lose them, or only be able to come up with watered-down versions when I try to remember later.

9pm: Watered-down versions jotted into the black notebook. Maybe I will be able to fix it with a fresh head on my shoulders. We head to a queer-friendly bar. I'm feeling a bit better, and the night becomes fun again. I flirt badly and dance even worse. Just believe me – it is a train-wreck.

Some time between 9pm and 12am: Bad drag but very sweet Queens. Friend starts drinking sugary drinks and stops ordering water (classic mistake). Hilarious sex in bathroom. Someone is mad at someone but I don't think it is about me or the sex. Quiet tension. Discussion about healthcare as a right. Ah, that's what someone's upset about.

I'm desperately trying to note it all in my mind so I can write it all down later. I can't take out the notebook mid-conversation or mid-sex and take notes, right? Come on, bitchremember. Burn it in.

After 12am: It is quiet in the back of the Lyft, but not because anyone is upset anymore. No one wants the night to be over, but the booze has kicked in pretty hard and we're struggling to stay engaged. Someone pitched movies and wine on the couch again and it was an easy sell.

Around 1am: My partner and our friend are asleep under the covers on the sofa. I don't blame them – this movie is awful. Someone got paid to write this piece of shit, meanwhile I spend hours looking for places that don't charge for submissions just so I can get someone to even consider my weird books. I must be terrible, but I'll keep doing it anyway. It brings me happiness. Like the two drooling weirdos on the sofa. I kiss each of their heads, and I'm not even pretending or acting like I think I'm supposed to, I just want to do it. It feels like a real thing and a happy thing.

I sit at the kitchen table with a glass of whiskey and much larger glass of water. I work on the poem I've been hung up on, and make notes about the day. There's some meaning or truth in it somewhere, something I can learn as I write it out and read it back. I'll find it.

Robin Sinclair is a queer, genderqueer writer of mixed heritage and mixed emotions, currently on the road, reading from their debut book of poetry, Letters To My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls.

Robin's work has been published in various magazines and journals, including Gatewood Journal, Across the Margin, Shot Glass Journal, Black Heart Magazine, Red Bird Chapbooks, The Cerurove, Yes Poetry, and Pidgeonholes.

Find Robin at

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