My mind has been racing lately. I wake up in the middle of the night and mentally rework a piece of writing that I’d struggled with earlier in the day. Stories from my past, sometimes ones I didn’t even know I’d remembered, come to me from out of the blue. I start new blogs during my morning writing sessions, but I can’t stick with any one of them long enough to get a complete thought down.

It’s a jumbled mess, but for the moment, I like it. I can focus if I need to. I can fry an egg without burning myself. I can drive my car on snow-covered roads. The urge to write has actually been heightened. It is just that I come up with a half dozen disjointed ideas when I’d rather focus on one. For the time being I am going with it, writing down snippets and hoping that a few of them will grow into complete thoughts later.

I have narrowed the trigger for this unusual state of mind to one of two things. The first is that I recently read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. It is not the subject matter (i.e., the Vietnam War) that’s set me off, but the quality of the writing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a book slap me in the back of the head and tell me to write better. It didn’t tell me how to write better, just that I need to. In one of O’Brien’s early chapters, he wrote, “They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.” If I’ve ever written a sentence this perfect, I didn’t notice it. 

The second possible reason for my current condition is my Christmas present from Clare. She bought me a year’s subscription to Spotify and helped me create a playlist on my phone. I listen to my favorite songs for an hour each day while I exercise. Not surprisingly, most of the songs are from a time when music and my life were one and the same. Come Monday, Running on Empty,  LA Freeway, Desperado. The music does not elicit memories during my workout. It shakes them loose to surface later in the day. 

Looking out the window from my writing table this morning, I realize there may be a third contributor to my lack of concentration. It is mid-January, and I might have cabin fever. 

Steven Simpson