Like most writers, I need to set deadlines. I don't have a boss telling me when I have to get things done. I am my boss. And, I am lazy. So if I don't give myself deadlines, along with the threat of being fired (aka the threat of having to get a 'real' job), I'd get nothing done. When I'm writing a screenplay, I mark the calendar with page counts I want to reach. I don't always reach them but I do usually make the final date for a draft completion.
Writing Everybody I Shot Is Dead is a completely different animal. I haven't quite figured out how to set my deadlines. Mostly, I'm working by 'feel'. I love it. You know, whatever part I 'feel' like working on today. Actually, it's more like letting the dead speak to me. For example, Frank Zappa led me to Tom Waits (not dead, btw) and then Tom Waits led me to the discovery of the missing Chicago/Terry Kath pictures. I was so happy. So happy, I even said the word "Eureka!" Out loud. Now I 'feel' like putting those in my scanner next. And then, I'll 'feel' like writing a few Chicago memories.
The same thing that happened with John Fahey. When I came across his pics and found out he was dead, I scanned and smiled and immediately the first draft of the 'drug deal, airplane, dog and me' story poured out of me. The loudest dead guy speaking to me during this time was Michael Bloomfield. He was invading my head and my heart. Looking for attention. Very persistent. As a matter of fact, he wouldn't leave me alone. He was the last thing on my mind when I fell asleep and the first thing on my mind when I woke up. He was even infiltrating my dreams.
After I shot Chris Parker at the Yamaha Groove Night in January, I put one of his pictures on my computer as my desktop background. By the end of February, Michael made me replace it with the photo of us in his hotel room (the one I'm saving for the book). Okay, fine. I only put it up there to appease him. Well, that's not really true. I was hoping it would shut him up. It didn't. Then I thought, maybe if I write my MB story for the book he'll stop hounding me. He seemed to agree with that. Then again, I was torn. Did I really want him to go away? Part of me was enjoying dating a ghost. But the other part of me decided it wasn't healthy. When I told friends I was dating Michael Bloomfield, they looked at me kind of funny and asked, "Isn't he dead?" "Uh, yeah. But it seems to be working out pretty good." Silence.
I decided I had to set a deadline. I was about a week away from boarding a plane for my New York writing vacation, where I was also planning to meet up with Michael's brother. Perfect. "I will finish writing my Michael Bloomfield story by the time I get to New York."
Tick, tick, tick. I'm on my way to the airport. Maybe I've written half a page. That's okay. It's a five hour plane ride to NYC. Yeah, but your laptop only has a two hour battery. Whatever. I remember our story like it was yesterday. Just need to write it down. I'll finish by the time the plane lands. I promise. Besides, I'm getting to the airport early. I'll plug in at the gate and write until the plane boards.
When I check in at the automated kiosk, the machine offers me an earlier flight - no extra charge. Great. I'll get into JFK at 7pm instead of 9. So much for plugging in. Don't worry, I'll write on the plane, as soon as we're in the air. Trust me.
I board the plane. I'm on Song, the recently defunct "we're going to compete with Jet Blue" offshoot of Delta. Guess what that means? They have screens in every seat...with DirectTV! Don't have to crane my neck to watch Because of Winn Dixie followed by reruns of Frasier. Shit. I have a deadline. I can't watch TV. I have to write.
The plane takes off. We hit the altitude where it's safe to turn on our electronic devices. I take out my laptop. Open up "MichaelBloomfield.doc". Ready to write. Tick, tick, tick...I wonder what's on DirectTV? Turn it on. Hmmm. That looks interesting. I wonder what they're saying? Plug in my headphones. No sound. Must be on the wrong audio channel. Switch the dial. No sound. Plug it into the empty seat next to me. No sound.
I look around the plane. Everybody else is watching TV. Why can't I? Hit the flight attendant call button. "Hi. I'm not getting any sound." "That's odd. It was working fine on the flight into L.A." "Well, it's not working now." "Turn it off for a minute and I'll reset it." "Okay." I turn around and watch her open a console and push a bunch of buttons. She comes back. "Turn it back on. It will take a couple of minutes to go through its cycle and then it should work." I turn it on. It cycles. Plug in the headphones. No sound. "Sorry, it's still not working." She resets it again. Turn it on. No sound.
The flight attendant shakes her head. "I don't understand. I've never seen anything like this before. It's the only row that's not working. That's not possible." "Really? It's never happened before?" "Never. It doesn't make sense." It makes perfect sense to me. She offers to move me to another row. "Uh, thanks. But I think I'm supposed to be writing." I switch the headphones to my iPod. Crank up Michael Bloomfield's Don't Say I Ain't Your Man! album - okay, I won't - and write.
I wonder what he would have done if I changed rows?