Old Town

Old Town
Pioneer Square

Friday, March 21, 2014

Block 1: Zen and the Art of the Purple Steamer Trunk

I decided to move to Seattle after seven years in Charlotte, NC. In most ways, you'd have thought, I was uniquely qualified to pull off a cross-country move, having done it six times in my life. But I'd put on some years, the economy sucked, and I found myself  strapped by logistics.

Th first thing that flummoxed me was how to move my stuff when I could scarcely move myself by either bus or train. But then it occurred to me : in one way or another, all of us are strapped--if not for money, then for time...if not for time, then confidence. What's hard for me now may be easy for you while your problems in plotting a novel might be child's play to me. Frozen by our own anxieties, we all need to learn how to move.

I made two basic decisions.
1) D-Day: I needed to move by October 15, the best time to find a job in retail or to transfer from one of my two present jobs.
2) I needed to get rid of nearly everything I owned--or, rather, which owned me.

I began with a mountain of clutter and trash:

No, my heap didn't look like that. Yet, before I knew it, I'd lugged out fifteen 50-gallon trash bags with junk, clothing, dead computers, newspapers, books, etc., etc., etc. And, though I'd barely begun, I felt good--cleaner and lighter than I'd felt in years.

The cornerstone of my move became a purple steamer trunk. Somehow I'd pack into this trunk the only clothing and personal items allowed. Four lightweight boxes would hold all the rest.
My purple steamer strategy:
1) Use of vacuum-compressed storage bags.
2) One layer for my best shirts, all dry-cleaned, folded and ready to wear.
3) A second layer for jeans and slacks.
4) A third layer for two sportcoats, a raincoat, a jacket--and a sweater or two, space permitting.
5) Room left over for best personal things.

My plan to pack the boxes:
1) Personal/professional papers.
2) Essential books.
3) CDs/DVDs.
4) Manuscripts.

Action Log
3/19/14: I began one task that I'd put off: sorting out personal papers. One box alone weighed 40 pounds--and hadn't been opened in over seven years. From here I plan to take my time. Page by page, as shirt by shirt, I'll lose all useless clutter. Meanwhile, I'll also start scrapping furniture that I can't sell.
Total weight of trash so far: more than 1000 pounds.

3/21/14: A trial run at packing the purple steamer trunk. At the rate I'm going, I'll need two Sumo wrestlers to batten the lid down for locking. Good grief!

3/23/14: I keep replaying the great scene in Any Given Sunday, where Al Pacino roars that 'It's a battle for the inches!' For me, it's a battle for the ounces and the single pounds--because I know how they add up. It's beginning to get bloody as I get rid everything my new life won't depend on. So long, books! So long, clothes! So long, lovely this and that! 

3/31/14: Since the last log update, I've taken out another half-dozen 50-gallon trash bags. And the battle of the inches has come down to brutally weeding out perfectly good clothing. Only the best of the best for my trunk! Today, as an experiment, I visited a dry cleaner with two expensive shirts that had been kept in an outside storage unit too long. Could they be saved, I wondered. One may need to be soaked for a while, she said, but both should be fit to wear. Cost $3.00 each for cleaning/folding/wrapping in little plastic bags. These will be fine, she said, for placement in a vacuum space bag. But the suede sport coast I asked about would coat $50 to clean. Out it goes! The plan is to dry clean 2-3 shirts every other week, constantly monitoring the space they take up in the trunk--before, then after, the vacuum space bags. Onward now with personal papers...and a new block for April.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Introduction: Personal Applications

Arranged in alphabetical order are possible ways to link your quests to mine.

The list will grow as we go along.

Attitude, Positive
Suggested reading: Block 4: Mastering the Seattle Quickstep, Parts 1-3
Application: Behave like a star to become one. Though important from the start, this principle comes into play, with urgency, in Middle Time. The more tired you feel, the more tired you act...until the circle brings you round into complete exhaustion. Intercept the circle with willed but free-spirited quicksteps as outlined in this block. Learn to make it look easy and you will prevail.

Baggage, Excess
Suggested reading: Block 1: Zen and the Art of the Purple Steamer Trunk.
Application: It'll do you no good to pare down two tons of physical clutter if you're weighed down by personal baggage. Take the necessary time to take out your internal garbage as well: the old gang of grievances, grudges and guilts. Take care to insure that your feelings and thoughts are as lovingly and neatly packed as a purple steamer trunk.

(See Attitude, Positive. This is the magic ingredient that is your ace in the hole.)

Suggested reading: Block 5: Action Hero Checkists 1 and 2.
Application: No matter how well we plan anything--a cross-country move, a job hunt or a book--we never end up being quite as prepared as we'd hoped. If we're to take advantage of an opportunity, suddenly we need to step up the pace...and we cannot afford any slip-ups. Checklists, such as the two you'll find here, can help you stay on point and giver your confidence a boost.

Suggested reading: Block 3: Working Seattle Cross Country: Part 2.
Application: The principle here, Pay the Man, could be called the better half of Protect the Plan. (See Plans and Protection of Plans below.) You grow as you go if your spirit is enriched by the payment you choose. Ask how you'll gain choosing this over that. And Pay the Man according to whether you would rather slither or fly.

Creative Visualization
Suggested reading: Block 2: How to See Seattle.
Application: In one way or another, you'll have to see your Seattle if you're to accomplish your goal. For any adventuresome journey is a form of setting sail. Whether you're starting a novel or searching for a new job...whether you're quitting smoking or trying to lose twenty pounds...sooner or later, you know this is true, the kind winds will abandon your sails. You'll need to row--or rot in place. And you'll need clear pictures in your mind of yourself succeeding. There's no mumbo jumbo involved here. If you see yourself failing, you're going to fail. If you see your Seattle, you'll there.

Editing Your Writing
Suggested reading: Block 1: Zen and the Art of the Purple Steamer Trunk.
Application: Many first drafts end up being twice as long as the final draft. The editing process entails getting rid of stylistic trash and clutter. The process grows more delicate as you go along. For you need to be careful to keep the right things--the things that are far more than 'stuff.' This means sorting and discarding with a keen sense of purpose.

Pacing Yourself and Putting on Speed
Suggested reading: Block 4: Mastering the Seattle Quickstep
Application: In any endeavor there will come a time, no matter how artful your planning, when you have to put on speed. So pace yourself in the beginning, don't rush. Follow your game plan as well as you can. Then...be prepared to hustle! Let there be nothing frantic about it. Be poised and graceful and quick. Attitude is everything at this stage of your quest.

Plans and Protection of Plans
Suggested reading: Block 3: Working Seattle Cross Country: Parts 1 and 2.
Application: You may have a thousand things to do on any given day. And the list may overwhelm you...unless you have an overriding master principle or two. In this block you'll find two three-letter mantras to simplify your life and help keep you on track. Part 1 presents the first mantra: PTP (Protect the Plan): in moments of doubt or crisis, remind yourself to PTP...and speak or act accordingly. Part 2 presents the companion: PTM (Pay the Man): in one way or another we all have to pay--for whatever we do or don't do, whatever we say or don't day. Take a day off from your novel, if you absolutely must--but then double your work load tomorrow or fall behind your schedule. You can't go wrong with PTP combined with PTM.