Tornado sirens rang the other day while I played mahjong with the in-laws. The sun went down at 9:02pm, the humidity is building, and there’s a supermoon tonight.

You can never see further than your headlights: this old slice of trucker philosophy makes more sense to me with each passing year, how I stagger through my life, pretending I know where I’m heading even though I haven’t got a clue.

But there’s also the rearview mirror. I’ve been rewriting the same book for so many years. Each time I think it’s ready to submit somewhere, I strip it for parts and start again. With each draft, I’m becoming a better storyteller, and this steady improvement keeps me going. This also means learning to keep my eyes on my own page and run my own race. (Quitting social media has helped tremendously with this.) But I’m determined to finish this book this summer, so I’ve shifted gears, and now I’m focusing on output. At least five pages per day, come hell or high water. Progress not perfection, as they say. Clichés are learned the hard way.

I’ve honored this quota for four weeks, except for taking yesterday off to recover from a head cold. Snuffling in bed feels unwholesome when the sun is shining and it’s eighty degrees. When you have a cold in the summertime, it feels like you’re doing something wrong.

After revisiting the bonkers wonderland of The Running Man last month, I picked up the original Stephen King novel from 1982. He wrote the whole thing in a week when he was 35, just to see if he could do it, and he later called it “a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing.” It’s a little unpolished, sure, and it definitely reads like something written by an angry guy in ’82. But still, the story rips along, and few writers can summon bug-eyed, fever-dream crazy like King:

A carnival of dark mental browns . . . names came and repeated, clanging in his mind like bells, like words repeated until they are reduced to nonsense. Say your name over two hundred times and discover who you are.

Tonight I’m dipping into Murakami’s 1Q84 to see how a brick-sized epic from a master works. I’ve never fully tuned into his wavelength, but I’ve admired him from a distance.

And all the while, I’m itching to move to the desert and drift along new roads at night with tunnels of sand in my headlights. But now is the time to stay still and count pages. First things first: another durable cliché.

Chromatics – In the Headlights (Johnny Jewel Remix)

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