In Bed with Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers

“I’m going to bed,” really means, “I’m going to lie in bed and … write.” 

Brent L. Kendrick (aka “The Wired Researcher”)

Chances are good that you did a double take when you saw the title of today’s post. You may have exclaimed, “No way! I’ve read this already.”

Nope. You haven’t. If the title seems familiar, you’re probably thinking of “Spaces and Habits of Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers.” But don’t worry. I’ve changed things up: this post has a brand-new set of linen sheets.

And if you aren’t thinking that you’ve read this post before, you are probably asking yourself, “What’s going on with the Good Professor’s seeming propensity for being in bed?”

Excellent question! I won’t try to pull the sheets over your eyes. It’s simple. “In Bed” makes the title catchy. It certainly makes me lie down and take notice. You’ll take notice, too, when I tell you that, on average, we spend 33 years of our life in bed: 26 years, sleeping; 7 years, trying to doze off.

If the “In Bed” part didn’t grab your attention, “with writers” surely did!

And I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking right now. Come on. Fess up. You’re wondering what they’re doing in bed. And now you’ve got me wondering, too. I’ll be right back.

Thanks for your patience. I had to do a little research. If you were wondering whether they were having…you know...sex, you won’t be impressed by the answer that I just discovered. On average, having…you know…takes up only about one third of a year (117 days) in the course of our entire life. Ironically, people think about having…you know...nearly 19 times a day. I guess we spend far more time thinking about having…you know…than we do enjoying…having you know.

Sadly, I suspect that the 117 days of romance is substantially lower with writers, particularly those who write in bed. I doubt that they would want to be interrupted with their word play. Maybe that’s why William Byrd II (Colonial Virginia aristocrat and man of letters; member of the Governor’s Council; and founder of Richmond, VA) had a fondness for romantic interludes on the billiard table. “He what?” someone gasped in disbelief. Yep. I tease you not. For your own in-bed reading, check out The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover (1709-1712). The content of his diary remained a secret until the 1940s when it was decoded. Now I know that I have whetted your literary appetite. Here, let me tease you more with an excerpt from his diary:

“in the afternoon my wife and I had a little quarrel which I reconciled with a flourish. It is to be observed that the flourish was on the billiard table.”

Now you know why he wrote his diary in code. Check it out, but not now. Or, if you must, please come back and finish this post.

But let’s get our writers back in bed where we found them to begin with.

For what it’s worth, I was in bed already, and I intend to stay there, smackdab in the middle. After all, it’s my bed, and in bed is where I write my blog posts. But I’m the not-so-famous writer mentioned in the title, so enough about me. Let’s snuggle up with some famous writers who wrote in bed, and, for the time being they can join me in mine.

Surprisingly, not many writers actually write in bed. That suits me just fine. Although my bed is big–fit for a queen–I still need to be able to pull up the sheets and get comfy.

Little chance of my doing that any time soon. Long-legged Mark Twain has jumped in already. What a bed hog: writing and smoking at the same time. He’s got some nerve! “Just try it in bed sometime. I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away. Thinking is easy work, and there isn’t much labor in moving your fingers sufficiently to get the words down” (New York Times, “How Mark Twain Writes in Bed,” April 12, 1902).

Joining Twain is Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence. (Well, maybe, innocent, but, after all, she is in bed with Twain even if I am the one who put the two side by side.) Wharton liked to write in bed because it freed her from wearing her corset, thereby liberating her thoughts. Now, at least, we all know where she kept her mind.

And I suppose we have to invite Truman Capote to hop in. He’s often quoted as saying: “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy.”

On the other side of the bed–to my right–let’s put some European writers. For bed-balance, we’ll add three only, arranged in the same gender order as the Americans: Boy. Girl. Boy.

To my right, William Wordsworth. He wrote his poems in bed in complete darkness, and, if he lost a sheet of paper in bed, he started over. It was easier than rummaging around under the sheets. Thank God for small mercies.

On his right is Dame Edith Sitwell who slept in a coffin from time to time. Without a doubt, she’ll enjoy being in bed for a change, especially since she once commented, “All women should have a day a week in bed.” That’s all fine and dandy as long as they’re not in my bed.

To Sitwell’s right is Marcel Proust, right on the edge of the bed. Writing in bed was not a quirk for him. It was a requirement. Age and illness forced him to stay in bed, and it was in bed where he completed Remembrance of Things Past as well as In Search of Lost Time. On the edge of the bed seemed perfect so that he could get in and out with greater ease.

OMG! I just heard a loud thud. Did you? Let me take a look. Sure enough. The not-so-famous American writer who thought up these shenanigans in the first place is at it again. He has pushed the European writers right out of the bed onto the floor.

Oh, no. I just heard another thud, though not quite as loud. Let me lean across the bed and have a look-see. As I live and breathe! Capote, Wharton, and Twain are all piled up on the Oriental rug. Twain is still smoking his pipe. Wharton is suddenly looking for her corset. And Capote is leaning back, still smoking his cigarette. Maybe he and Twain can blow smoke at one another while Wharton laces up her corset.

Well, at least the Americans landed softly. I really meant no harm, but I had no choice other than to kick the three of them out, too. Seven in my bed was six too many.

I don’t know about you, but it’s perfectly clear to me that writers–whether famous or not-so-famous–make strange bedfellows.

Foolin’ Around with Time

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

Hopefully, you paid close attention to the title of this post. I don’t want anyone jumping to the wishful conclusion that I’m fooling around. Well, I guess I am, but it’s not with someone. I’m fooling around with time which surely makes fooling around permissible albeit boring!

But let me share with you what made me start fooling around with time in the first place. When I look around me, I seem to see lots of folks who have time on their hands. Sometimes I even hear them saying to one another, “Oh, I’m just killing time.”

Thankfully, I’m not one of those folks. Instead of time on my hands, I seem to have time on my mind. I think about time a lot of the time. And I never have time to kill. I’m not even sure that I know how to kill time.

Both expressions–time on my hands and killing time–strike me as rather lame, but not lame enough to keep me from looking up their origins in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

“Time on your hands” goes back to 1668 with Flavell’s Saint Indeed Ep. Ded. sig. A7:  “Leave trifling studies to such as have time lying on their hands, and know not how to imploy it.”

Of course, I am intrigued by the reference to “trifling studies,” but I don’t have time right now to look it up.

“Killing time” dates to 1751, when it appeared in Richardson’s Clarissa (ed. 3) VIII. Concl. 266:  “The more active and lively amusements and Kill-times.”

In the next century, Coleridge used it in a way that intrigues me. In his Lect. Shakespeare (1856) 3, he writes: “Where the reading of novels prevails as a habit…it is not so much to be called pass-time as kill-time.” As an English professor, I am stunned that a poet would speak so unkindly of novels!

Sometimes folks killing time or with time on their hands look at me and ask, “How do you find time to do all the things that you do? You must have all the time in the world.”

I want to come back with, “Find time? How could I do that? You have 24 hours in your day, just as I do.”

But, instead, I count to ten, smile, and bide my time.

Even so, those questions set me to thinking, “How do I find time to do all that I do when I’m not foolin’ around with time?”

The answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. In reality, it’s not about finding time. It’s about managing time. It’s about realizing that when work is to be done–when goals are to be accomplished–time is not on my side. I have to worry not only about how much time I have to do the needful but also about how much time I will set aside to do the needful.

When it comes to managing time for goals and projects–both long- and short-term–I am downright SMART. I know how to get things accomplished on time or ahead of time.

S–Specific.

M–Measurable.

A–Achievable.

R–Relative.

T–Time-based.

In my head, I know that SMART can be applied successfully to daily time management, too.

But I don’t always practice what’s in my head. As a result, time and time again, I discover that I am not the best time manager, even of my own time. Nonetheless, I always develop some kind of plan for my time every day. Usually, I do that planning the night before, while lying in bed, right after I finish taking time to work on my blog post.

The way that I develop those plans has everything to do with how productive my time will be the next day.

Over time, I’ve picked up on patterns–what works and what doesn’t work.

Let me start with the latter. What doesn’t work for me is when I make sketchy notes of what I hope to accomplish for the day. I approach the plan so cavalierly that in no time, I’m done.

Here’s a perfect example of my sketchy planning for one day, a week or two ago. Let me share without any further loss of time.

Morning Goals

* Meditate

* Bike

* Student Engagement Hours at Laurel Ridge CC

By the end of such a day, I might well have accomplished those goals and more, but I know that they did not require the entire day. I’m left somewhat satisfied, but not entirely. I have the sinking feeling that time slipped through my fingers into soft, billowy expanses of nothingness.

We all need downtime like that from time to time. In fact, some of my best ideas appear in moments when seemingly I am doing nothing.

But, as a rule, I am no fonder of nothingness than I am of stillness. I like my days to be chock-full of activities so that at day’s end I can look back knowing that I had a whale of a productive time.

Here’s an example of what works best for me when I’m planning a typical day. For the time being, one example should suffice because time’s a-wastin’.

Morning Goals

5:00-5:30am | Meditate

5:30-6:30am | Bike 20 miles

6:30-7:30am | Shower, dress, and have breakfast

7:50am | Leave for Laurel Ridge CC. Stop for coffee and pastry at Flour and Water. Take the leisurely and scenic Valley Pike route to the college.

9:30am-12:30pm | Student Engagement Hours at Laurel Ridge CC

Hopefully, you get my point. When I anchor my goals to time allotted to each task, I have a specific plan for how I will spend my time.

The beauty of this approach–aside from being more productive–is that I escape to a once-upon-a-time world simply by setting aside time to motor to the college via Valley Pike–past cornfields and the meandering Shenandoah River–rather than whirring to the college mindlessly at 70 miles an hour on the interstate.

No doubt even Benjamin Franklin would have been proud of me on my days when I use time management effectively. Franklin, of course, was ahead of his time in so many ways. Aside from realizing that time is money, his way of scheduling his own days became the prototype of the American day planner.

Sadly, I am not ahead of my time, and, most assuredly, I am not a legend in my own time. But I am fully confident that my way of planning a fully productive day–of making time for the goals that I want to accomplish–will withstand the test of time.

Painfully, too, I know that time and tide wait for no man, least of all for me. For now, then, the time has come for me to stop foolin’ around with time, yours and mine.

Ten Guaranteed Tips to Increase Blog Traffic | Top-Rated and 100% Unproven!

How far that little candle throws his beams!

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (Act 5. Scene 1)

Without a doubt, you will recall my post from several weeks ago: “Take Four | Living with a Writer: Modern Applications of Ancient Writing Artifacts.”

It was characterized as “destined for fame … for greatness … for glory … the most historic and historical blog post ever published.”

It received rave reviews:

“Hilarious!”

“Hysterical. I would have laughed harder if I hadn’t been so horrified at your undertaking.”

“This is one of your most entertaining, funniest posts, and I thank you for … sharing it with the world.”

And it was LIKED by a comedian and a college president–two entirely different people, with two entirely different occupations, although the college president knows that humor is a close ally to successful and dynamic leadership.

All right. In the interest of partial disclosure and full but muddy transparency, I’m the one who characterized my post as “destined for fame … for greatness … for glory … the most historic and historical blog post ever published.”

And it was just one faithful follower who called it hilarious.

And it was just one faithful follower who called it hysterical.

And it was just one faithful follower who said that it was my most entertaining and funniest post.

But I believe in the power of one. If it’s good enough for a bank, I suppose it’s good enough for me, especially cents that bank does not have one cent of my money.

The good thing, however, is that those three rave reviews came from three entirely different followers with three entirely different occupations.

But enough of my noncents. I will, post mortem, return to my serious side instanter.

A stand-up comedian really did LIKE that post. Thank you! Please: feel free to sit down. (And, just as an aside to the stand-up comedian: I’m giving up my 25-year teaching gig at the end of this coming fall season. Do you need a jokester–I mean a writer? You know. Just hinting.)

And a college president really did LIKE that post. Thank you! Please: feel free to preside. (And just as an aside to the college president: I’m giving up my 25-year teaching gig–I mean professorship–at the end of this coming fall season–I mean semester. Do you need a Visiting Professor? A Visiting Scholar. Both? I’m good at wearing two hats at the same time as long as they don’t mess up my hair. You know. Just hinting.)

And again, just as an aside to the comedian and to the prez–who must be reading this post, right? I mean, you just don’t LIKE ’em and then leave ’em, do you?–it’s not like I’m desperate or anything, because, hey, I’ve got this blog, and after today’s unviral post, I’ll have talent scouts unlined up my ungraveled, rutted country road all the way to my no-parking space in the uncleared forest, assuming, of course, the scouts have four-wheel drive. Good talent these days is not easy to get to.

And let me not forget to mention what one other faithful follower advised me to do: “Perhaps you shouldn’t discard the legal pad and #2 pencil. …  To help your nightly challenges of writing in this manner, I can offer you … a backlit pen.

Well, as you know from many previous posts, I listen to my followers. So I immediately ordered myself two backlit pens from Amazon. You can get anything these days from Amazon, yesterday. Someone told me day before yesterday that I could even get a husband from Amazon, as soon as tomorrow or three days before. Dayum! Imagine that. I checked immediately. Unfortunately, Amazonian husbands are backordered. Unfortunately, too, they are not backlit.

My pens, on the other hand, were not back ordered, and they are backlit. They arrived just when I started writing this post, so what you see here was written in bed at night on a yellow legal pad that isn’t legal, using a pen that is legally lit.

Wow! Using this pen to write in bed in the dark is amazing. I am transfixed if not transformed. If I had known about these backlit pens decades ago before they had never been invented, by now I would have written the Great American Novel that has never been written. Or not. I’ll be dealing with that topic in a future post.

But I can’t deal with any of that right now. Right now, I am so enamored of this little backlit pen that all I can think about are little light quotes. Most are from songs, so I’m humming–can you hear me? Let me give you the links (below, in unalphabetical order) in case you want to hum along or sing along. It’s a FREE perk for being a FREEloader–I mean follower! Get someone else to follow, and I’ll let you hum along or sing along forever, for FREE.

“This Little Light of Mine.”

“Glow Little Glow Worm, Glimmer, Glimmer.”

“How far that little candle throws his beam.” (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. Act 5. Scene 1)

“Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.

Light My Fire.”

“A light unto the world.” (John 12:46)

Well, good grief. Why on earth did Euterpe muse me up like that? Your guess is as good as mine.

So let me hie myself back to the business at hand–sharing with you my ten guaranteed tips to increase blog traffic, top-rated and 100% unproven. Is that a deal or what? But before I do, don’t you just love that word: hie. I do. I love verbs and verbiage. (But I shudder to think about conjugating hie.) Anyway, I love that word. I’m not sure why. Maybe I saw it somewhere once, probably in a romance novel that I never read. Clearly, then, I have no idea who was doing what to whom in the novel that I did not read. I don’t think that anyone in the novel uttered the word either. But I happened to think of it just now, and I thought that it would be an awful lot of fun for me to use it right here. Now I feel funfilled.

Well, gracious me. Now I have to hie myself back once more. I guess all this is going down because my muse likes the fact that my pen is lit. That’s right: my pen.

As I was saying, the initial accolades calling my post historic and historical and the initial reviews hailing it as hysterical and hilarious and entertaining and funny got me all pumped up and gave me great expectations that my viewer stats would jump off the charts.

I had such high hopes, especially since the views on the day that I published the post were 555% higher than the day before. Talk about being pumped. I was beyond pumped. I had such heightened expectations that I set my alarm clock to awaken me hourly throughout the night for the sole purpose of watching my stats skyrocket.

Sadly, nothing skyrocketed. Nothing. Not one thing. Except my blood pressure and my stress from waking up every hour to check on my stats. My blog stats, mind you. I don’t need to check my personal stats. My Fitbit does that for me without even asking. And let me tell you: my personal stats dropped big time, especially my sleep score and my readiness to exercise score.

They were so low that I vowed that I would never do such a wired stunt again. I doubled my vow–Never, Never–when I charted my blog stats over the course of the next few days. It goes without saying that you can’t increase your blog traffic unless you chart it. Right?

So that’s precisely what I did on a flip chart–using royal blue and royal purple magic markers–to capture how the traffic plummeted. Those lines went so low that they fell all the way down to the floor where I continued to chart them all the way across the room.

When I finished the chart, I taped the unfloored part of it to my office wall–I write my blog in bed; I chart it in my office–and since then I have been waiting ever so patiently for my blog traffic to increase. It should. Right? I just charted it, and as I said in the preceding paragraph–or somewhere–you can’t increase your blog traffic if you don’t chart it.

And if you don’t believe me, you surely believe Kevin Costner. Who doesn’t? I know that I sure do, so much so that emblazoned on my chest–not too unlike Hester’s scarlet letter A–is the famous line from his Field of Dreams: “If you chart it, they will come.”

Now, listen up. Without further adieu–you wish, but not yet!–I am proud to share the ten hollow tips that lured you here, just like a moth lured to a flame. Yep. Ten tips. Guaranteed to increase your blog traffic. Top rated. 100% unproven. Trust me. They are unreal doozies.

Tip #1. AERIAL ADVERTISING. I cannot guarantee that this would work for you, but I am fairly uncertain that it would work for me because my mind is always up in the air. Why not skywrite my blog URL up there, too, maybe all up and down the California coastline where folks are more unwired than they are on the East Coast.

Tip #2. BILLBOARDS. Again, this might not give you more blog traffic at all. But, after I float down from my aerial habitation and walk once more upon terra unfirma, I am fairly certain that billboard advertising will be worth the cost. I plan to keep it short and simple, the same way that I keep my weekly blog posts short and simple.

I’m thinking something along the lines of:

Feeling WIRED???

Me, too. I’m here to help! Check out: thewiredresearcher.com

FREE Lifeline Subscription

Tip #3. DOLLAR BILL PROMOS. This tip would probably work for everybody, but only the bold and courageous should try it. Actually, it’s been around for years. I’ll bet you’ve seen one: a dollar bill with a Biblical reference written on it? Maybe even a phone number–call me? What I’m thinking is simple: Write your blog URL on the edge of a dollar bill. A dollar bill changes hands about 110 times a year. Wow! Write your blog URL on the edge of lots and lots of dollar bills and see how your blog traffic increases. I wonder, though, whether your increased blog traffic will be following you directly to jail. If I am not mistaken, writing on money is considered defacement under Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Blogger beware!  

Tip #4. BUSINESS CARDS. These can’t be just any business cards. They need to be all glamour and glitz and gimmick. Maybe something like: Limited time only. FREE Access to a blog destined to be featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the defunct Saturday Evening PostTrue Grit, and the 1931 first edition of The Joy of Cooking. But it won’t be enough to just have those cards printed. You’ll need to find someone to hand them out. In my case, my Linden (VA) and Front Royal (VA) correspondent–Yes. No s. She’s one and the same person–has been given the right of refusal to pass them out at all the unlarge stores in our unmetropolitan area as well as at the five churches located at each corner of a four-cornered crossroads in one of our unknown villages near us both.

Tip #5. FOOD TRUCK. This one seems perfect for me since I like to bake. You might get a rise out of it as well. I’m thinking about renting a food truck for a few weeks and customizing it, using temporary paint. A pale tan, maybe, about the color of lightly browned, crusty bread. With a slight stretch of anyone’s doughy imagination, the food truck might look like a loaf of bread. And for those who don’t have a doughy imagination to stretch, I plan to paint on one side of the truck, Oh, No! Sourdough. And on the other side, Baking Up My Past. On both sides, of course, I’ll paint my blog’s URL. I’ll offer up my full range of sourdough baked goods–regular sourdough bread, multigrain sourdough bread, as well as parmesan and black pepper sourdough bread, along with doughnuts, scones, biscuits, and dinner rolls. I’ll also offer up my full range of cakes including, but not limited to, my Chocolate Weary Willie Cake and my Chocolate Prune Cake. But here’s where the sweet part comes in. On both sides of the truck, FREE will be prominently lettered. Yep! Anyone who stops, gets one of my goodies FREE, with absolutely no wires attached–absolutely none, not one–other than signing up as one of my blog followers right then and right there on the spot while I watch. If this works, I promise to keep the FREE in subscription. (“Say whaaat? Are you lit?” Nope. See Tip #1.)

Tip #6. CHAIN EMAIL. Chain emails go all the way back to ye olden days of 1990. They waned but then returned with a boring resurgence during the pandemic. Their predecessor, of course, was the famed, infamous, and ancient artifact known as the litterae. Chain letters go all the way back to the 1930s when people included a dime in their chain letters. Later, they included recipes. And one of my Virtually (Anywhere) but nonetheless trustworthy correspondents tells me that chain emails these days often focus on sourdough starters and that she is certain that she unraveled the original Egyptian sourdough starter recipe cryptically hieroglyphed in the soon-to-be-famous post Oh, No! Sourdough. Well, to be honest and to be as transparent as the windowpane test that dough must pass, I’m not sure how a chain email could be used to promote blog traffic. I’m told, though, that chain emails are “Unstoppable.” If you figure it out, come back to my blog and send me a reply. Ka-stats, ka-stats, ka-stats!

Tip #7. CHALK WALK. I like this one a lot. It’s so cheap that it’s nearly FREE. Plus, it brings out the kid in me. Chalk my blog’s URL on sidewalks, using glow-in-the-dark chalk. It would bring an unsensational light unto an unliterary world. (I’m just kidding.)

Tip #8. CUSTOM BUMPER STICKERS. I am probably the only one alive who remembers this. But maybe not, so I will ask.  Do you remember the streaking craze that struck the nation in the 1970s? I’m reminiscing about one super special, balmy spring evening in 1975. I had a hard time keeping up with the others–1,000 or so, all of us students–streaking our their stuff across the USC campus. It’s a wonder that I didn’t get trampled or worse. The best part came a few days later. It was hilarious to see genteel Southern ladies and gentlemen in their 70s and 80s driving around Columbia, totally unaware that a “I’m a Streak Freak” sticker had been proudly stuck on their rear

bumpers.

I’ve often wondered how they got there. (I probably still have one of those stickers somewhere in my loft.) Mind you: I’m not suggesting a streaking revival, but bumper stickers promoting a wired blog would certainly stop some traffic. (Hopefully, not the traffic headed to your blog.)

Tip #9. PENCILS PACKAGED WITH YELLOW LEGAL PADS. This is another one that would be perfect for me. I could go to all the bookstores at the colleges and universities where I don’t teach and hand out #2 pencils embossed with my blog’s URL packaged with a yellow legal pad, referencing my Take Four | Living with A Writer: Modern Applications of Ancient Writing Artifacts, destined to go down in the annals of history as the most historic and historical blog post ever published, all because it was written in bed on a yellow legal pad using a #2 pencil.

Tip #10. DO NOT SEARCH FOR GUARANTEED WAYS TO INCREASE BLOG TRAFFIC. This is the most important tip of all. That’s why I saved it for last. Articles claiming to have ten guaranteed, top-rated but 100% unproven tips for increasing blog traffic are nothing more than bogus attempts to increase traffic to their own blog. Such hyped-up, sensational articles seem to be the unnormal norm these days. Don’t look for them, and, for God’s sake, if you do look for them, don’t tell anyone that you looked. Such articles lack the unmuddy transparency needed to be included in Wikipedia.

Please, though, finish reading this post before you wisely decide to follow my advice.

And–please, please–if you enjoyed this post, send the link to seven of your unfriends and ask them to do the same, starting with you at the top.

And–pretty, pretty please–if you enjoyed this post, share it via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and Reblog. And, for God’s sake, LIKE it. (I’m Beggin’.)

Go now with heartfelt thanks from the bottom of my blog. May the traffic be with you.

Take Four | Living with A Writer: Modern Applications of Ancient Writing Artifacts

We are always yapping about the “Good Old Days” and how we look back and enjoy it, but I tell you there is a lot of hooey to it. There is a whole lot of our past lives that was not so hot.

–Will Rogers (1879-1953; American Vaudeville Performer, Actor, and Social Commentator)

Hey, everyone! Listen up! Make certain that you keep a copy of this post in a safe, virtual folder. Maybe even the Cloud. It is destined for fame. It is destined for greatness. It is destined for glory. It will go down in the annals of history as the most historic and historical blog post ever published.

You will discover why as you continue to read. But let me start with one reason and that one reason alone will earn this post its deserved historical distinction. For the first time in my life, I am at a loss for words. I am. My students would be thrilled beyond thrills because they consider me to be exhaustive and, no doubt, exhausting when I start talking about anything that is near and dear to my heart.

No doubt, you–dear reader–are wondering why on earth I am at a loss for words. Let me explain. My post last week focused exclusively on me: “Take Three | Living with a Writer: Owning Up to My Own Eccentricities.”

One of my eccentricities that I felt comfortable sharing was the fact that I had drafted the general introduction and the introductions to the five sections of my The Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman on yellow legal pads, using #2 pencils without erasers. The really quirky part of that eccentricity was that whenever I made a mistake, I ripped out the page and started over.

One of my faithful followers challenged me to write my next post on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, and to share with you what happened as I wrote. Dear reader, you are so undeserving of the suffering that you will surely suffer as you continue to read. But please do continue to read. Remember: no pain, no gain. (Because I love you so much–whoever you are and wherever you are [including you, Mrs. Callabash, wherever you are]–I have timed the read-time for this post. You are now 6 minutes and 36.3 seconds away from full fatigue and brain drain.)

It was a commendable challenge, so much so that I really should quote it verbatim, and I would, but I can’t. I am lying in bed writing my post on a legal pad, using a #2 pencil, as challenged–I am such a sucker for challenges–so I don’t want to lose my grain of thought by switching over to my Smartphone to look at last week’s post so that I can quote the comment in its entirety the way that it deserves to be quoted.

Therefore, starting with the next paragraph I will use placeholders for anything that I would normally have the good sense to look up instanter on my Smartphone. I will use this placeholder convention throughout this post. My very first one follows.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Insert faithful reader quote from last week. I believe the reader signed herself “J.”

I responded to “J’s” challenge by asking whether yellow legal pads were even manufactured these days. I noted that if they had fallen out of usage, not to worry: I had seen such writing artifacts at the Smithsonian Institution and, perhaps, I could arrange for a Docupost: Modern Applications of Ancient Writing Artifacts.

My reply to “J.” was far more brilliant than it appears here, but, again, I can’t easily switch over to my Smartphone.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Insert my dazzling reply to “J.” Make sure to capture the correct title of the Docupost that I plan to propose to the Smithsonian Institution.

Not long after “J’s” comment, another faithful follower–“soyfig”–informed me that she had some yellow legal pads and #2 pencils that I could have.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: insert “soyfig’s” actual comment, especially since, as I recall, she used some figurative language.

I responded, of course. I respond to everything, seen and unseen, heard and unheard. But, sadly, I do not remember my exact reply, but I am sure that it was a beauty.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Insert my beauty-of-a-reply to “soyfig” who writes so figuratively.

Obviously, I accepted the challenge because, as I noted earlier, here I am writing about what it’s like writing a blog post on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, while lying in bed.

I should be euphoric, I suppose, because I am certain–and history will confirm my certainty–that what I am developing right here and right now is a new Creative Nonfiction genre. To mirror its counterpart in the world of fiction, I hereby announce–with all the power and authority that is not vested in me–that this new genre will be dubbed Creative MetaNonfiction.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Check the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to see whether the word and the genre exist already. If not, notify the editors immediately. “by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum,” fame awaits.

I believe that I have said so already, but I will say so again: writing my post on this yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, is not making me euphoric. I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for me. My bed is a place of immense pleasure. Trust me. This is not pleasurable. I’ve got a stupid yellow legal pad–six times larger than my Smartphone–propped up on my knobby knees and the stupid pencil does not have the same quality graphite that I recall. Yes: I still recall the quality–or lack thereof–of everything going all the way back to the cold and snowy day of my November birth. If that be true–and it is–then fast forward with me and you will know that I speak the truth when I say that recalling something from the 1970s is a piece of graphite for me.

Morever, lean in and listen carefully: the damned yellow legal pad is not backlighted. Why am I whispering? For one good reason. I’m whispering because I don’t want anyone to steal my idea! If an ancient writing artifact like a yellow legal pad is going to continue to plague us, at the very least it should be backlighted so that it will not plague us in the dark.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Check the dictionary. Backlighted? Backlit?

I just heard someone ask, “Why does it matter if your yellow legal pad is not backlighted?” [See above Placeholder.]

Well, that’s a splendid question. it matters a lot. It’s starting to get dark outside. My overhead light makes a glare on the yellow legal pad, so I can’t use it. My nightstand lamp is not bright enough, so I can’t use it either. I must be blunt. I can no longer see what I am writing. And, like my pencil, let me be blunt again. If I can’t see what I’m writing, how do I look into the heart of what I’m thinking?

Thank you very much for your suggestion. I expected it. But, as much as I appreciate it–and I do–I will not run out tomorrow to buy a lamp to attach to my headboard. Simply explained: I won’t be needing it. I will never write another blog post on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, while lying in bed at night. Never. Never. Never.

However, I will figure out a way to finish this post since I accepted the challenge, sucker that I am.

Already I can think of three possible solutions.

Solution 1. Fill a Mason jar with fireflies. They might illuminate my yellow legal pad sufficiently.

Solution 2. Jerry-rig a flashlight to the headboard of my bed, with the light beaming down on the yellow legal pad propped up against my knobby knees.

Solution 3. Go to bed at 6pm so that I can work on my post for several hours before it gets too dark for me to see.

“Too dark for me to see” reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s first-person account of death, “I Heard a Fly Buzz.” The poem ends, I believe, with: “And then I could not see to see.”

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Find the Dickinson poem and make sure that my quote above is accurate.

I am back to report that my tentative solutions–even though brilliant–were abysmal failures. That’s too kind. They were duds.

Firefly Solution. It was fairly easy to catch a jar full: they are everywhere in my yard. And, oh, my! Such a golden glow as they put out. For a while my bedroom looked almost like a nightclub dance floor with strobe lights. But it didn’t last long. The glow became dimmer and dimmer and dimmer. And, even more quickly, I grew a guilty feeling for having captured all those helpless little fireflies and for having put them to work against their will Contra Naturam. I set them free. Shine bright. Shine far.

Jerry-rigged Flashlight Solution. I thought for sure that this solution would work. However, I couldn’t figure out a way to mount the flashlight to my headboard, especially at the required angle. I considered duct tape which seems to work for everything, but when I recalled what I had paid for my Henkel Harris bed, I froze with tape and flashlight in mid-air. It took me hours to free myself.

Going to Bed at 6pm Solution. Forget it for one reason only. I have worked long and hard to earn the reputation that I now proudly hold as a wild, night-owl party animal. My friends and my colleagues have grown so proud of me as I have, over time, extended my bedtime from 8:00pm to 8:30pm to 9:00pm. And I have now, after years of practice, mastered the 10:00pm hour. When a party’s going down, I want to be found, and I certainly won’t be found if I am in bed at 6pm.

But I have come up with another solution that had not occurred to me initially. I will take the first hour of my morning routine to write my blog post on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil.

Well, I tried it. Let me just say that this is not what anyone might hooey it up to be. Now I am wishing that I had challenged my two faithful followers to this challenge. Thankfully–and luckily for them–I am not that cruel. Absit iniuria.

They wouldn’t like all these disruptions either. Up until now, I have made perfectly good and methodical use of a sensible and calming way of writing my post in bed on my Smartphone. Even though I have willingly taken on a momentary stay against my ever-so sane method, I will remind myself–in mantra manner–that I am blazing new trails into Creative MetaNonfiction. History and literature demand that I continue. History and literature demand that I see this stupid stint through to a stupendous end.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Look up Creative MetaNonfiction to see whether such a genre exists. Oh, no. I remember that I have placed this placeholder in the post already, but since I cannot erase or scratch through, I will build upon the redundancy and puff it up as best I can. Have I actually stumbled upon–simply by stupidly accepting a challenge–a new genre? Oh, joy! Maybe I will enjoy a footnote in the annals of something–anything, please–after all.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Revisit Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” As I recall, the unnamed narrator who goes insane–always be suspicious of unnamed narrators–may have written HER journal on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil. Well, I am fairly certain that she did not, but look it up anyway. Adding that twist to the original story would be masterful for an updated version. The narrator escaped from the yellow wallpaper. But I wonder: would she be able to escape from her yellow legal pad as masterfully as I am about to do, soon and very soon. You’re welcome.

What’s ironic about all of this is that when I accepted this challenge, I did so fully expecting fun, even if nothing more than hearing my pencil graphite its way across the page.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Can graphite be used as a verb? Well. Duh. I just used it as a verb in the preceding paragraph. Therefore, it can be. Therefore, I really do not need to follow through with this placeholder. I will keep it anyway in the interest of not ripping out this yellow page which is otherwise perfect.

But verbs notwithstanding, my pencil is not making those nostalgic sounds that I had longed for, not even when I bend my ear way down close and personal to the page. Instead, it glides along like a waxy crayon. And, in fact, my box of pencils is labeled, on one side of the box, Crayon. Oh, dear. I forgot. Crayon means pencil in some language. An esteemed English professor–a colleague–took great joy in beaming that to me when I showed the box to her. Well, never mind.

I do mind, however, that the only yellow pads that I could find anywhere were 8 1/2 by 11 inches, even though they were marked Legal Pad. Well, excuse me. If it’s not 8 1/2 x 14 inches, it’s not legal, and shorties like the ones that I ended up with ought to be illegal.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: (1) What companies still manufacture these so-called legal pads? (2) Do they come in true legal size? (3) Is it true, as I seem to recall, that courts no longer allow 8 1/2 x 14-inch legal pads because they do not fit readily into filing cabinets–not even virtual ones?

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Do a comparable search into #2 pencils. Focus especially on what kind of graphite manufacturers are using for these crayons–I mean pencils–these days.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: I need a pull quote for this post. What’s the one about a sucker is born every minute? How perfect would that be!

Okay. I need to wrap this post up–Maybe in a yellow graphite bow?–but before I do, I simply must achieve a sense of order with this post–the very first example ever of Creative MetaNonfiction. The annals of history await my final word. I do, too.

I know exactly what I will do. I’ll number the pages that I have written on this yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil. And while I’m doing that, I’ll write AMDG just to the right of each page number, just as a Jesuit lawyer friend of mine did on all his labor relations notes, always written on a genuine yellow legal pad, using a genuine #2 graphite pencil.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Look up AMDG to see what that acronym means. Marty had a perverse sense of humor, but, surely, he would not have penciled anything obscene or scandalous, especially since he knew that I would see what he was writing because I almost always leaned over him at the bar. But be sure to look it up anyway before publishing this post.

Wow! I have written 11 pages already about nothing more than what it’s like to write my post on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, while lying in bed. Maybe this Creative MetaNonfiction thingy is not as bad as I have graphited it up to be. Well, if I can type it up, I can certainly graphite it up. But lo and behold! Here I’ve gone and coined still another word: graphited. Who knows? Maybe a Creative MetaNonfiction Novel looms in your future.

I suppose the only thing that might have been more fun than numbering the pages would have been ripping each one out and then taping them all together. I seem to recall a writer who typed one of his books on a continuous roll of paper, created by carefully taping each page together. This would have been, of course, back in the good old, hooey typewriter days.

Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: Try to find out the writer who did this. I think that it was Jack Kerouac. I am certain. Yes. I recall it as vividly as if I had helped him! (Oh, how I wish.) He sellotaped enough pages to create a 120-foot roll when he wrote his On the Road. Check just to make sure. I would never dare publish anything without verifying all the facts before I spew forth. And also look up hooey. It looks like phooey to me.

As for any rhythm that I might be achieving while writing on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil, forget it. Forget. It. Trust me. This post is not riding along on its own melting like a piece of ice on a hot stove. Frost itself wouldn’t work. And Frost himself wouldn’t be able to make it work either. I am so focused on paper and pencil that any semblance of thought has wisely flown far, far away to someone sensible enough to write a blog post sensibly on a Smartphone.

Worse, perhaps, I feel as if I am straddling an immeasurable and unfathomable chasm between the 1970s (when I enjoyed writing on a yellow legal pad, using a #2 pencil) and day before yesterday (when I lost my sanity and sold my writerly soul to the Devil by selling myself on the idea of accepting this challenge). To be certain, the image of such a straddler is an intriguing one. Conjure it up if you can. I double dare you. You will see for yourself. But let me assure you, post haste, that my legs–metaphorical or otherwise–are not nearly long enough to bridge such a chasm, and even if they were, I would not stand for it. I would object vehemently for all the world to hear, as, hopefully, all the world is hearing now.

Hear me and hear me well. What I am about to say is quotable, so go ahead and quote me: Phooey to all this hooey.

I object to it so much that I will end it all right now, in one final declaration!

This is a nonsensical challenge up with which I will not put.

FINAL Placeholder for When I Return to My Sanity and My Smartphone: As I recall, Winston Churchill came up with the above quip as an objection to an editor who wouldn’t allow sentences to end with prepositions. Churchill’s retort memorialized the folly of editors who foolishly adhere to grammatical rules rather than to common sense and to the sense of sound. Try to find the specifics. Was it in a memorandum? I’m sure that it was, perhaps in 1941?

Halleluiah! I have freed myself at last from this yellow legal pad and from #2 pencils. I have returned to my sanity. (Wisely, however, I will not change one thing–not one hooey-phooey word–that I have written so honestly and so painfully as I soared my way to and through the heights of this challenge. “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on.” (No. I will not put a placeholder for that Shakespearean quote. You may kindly–if you please and if you need–google it yourself to obtain the specifics: play, act, and line.) And, thankfully, I have just returned to my Smartphone where I have just had joy beyond measure restored to every fiber–and even every fibre–of my being by doing nothing more than tap touching this post through to completion–one character at a time, using just one finger. Is that inefficient or what?

But the greatest joy ever is the knowledge that I have just written–and you have just read–the first example ever of Creative MetaNonfiction. May it not last forever in the annals of history and literature. May I be spared such notoriety. May I be remembered in far better ways. But, hey. What the heck. If you insist, I accept: better to be remembered for something, I suppose, than for nothing. Either way, it’s all hooey to me.