R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Hillside Monday: 5/23/16

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“Iris Leaves with Rain and Garden Hose”
LaGrange, Georgia – 14 April 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Trumpet Vine with Mural

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LaGrange, Georgia – 19 August 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 5/18/16

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“I Always Wanted to Live in an Old Caboose”
Pine Mountain, Georgia – 30 April 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

‘Til His Wheels Fall Off

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Let me tell you something: I like a man with a hundred thousand miles on him. I like a man who’s been cross-country again and again on the long haul, on the short haul, down interstates and dirt roads. I like a man with a few scrapes along his fenders. I like a man whose windows have deflected a quarry’s worth of rocks, whose slightly busted windshield bears a long, wandering, starry thread running east to west.

I like a man with some wear and tear on him. I like a man who’s been in an accident or three, who doesn’t mind trading a little paint—a man who sees no reason to fear a bucket of Bondo. I like a man who isn’t so concerned for his delicate paint job and fancy chrome details that he’s too scared to roll down the driveway. I like a man who, when he really is too scared to roll down the driveway, puts on a new air filter, intakes a deep breath, and rumbles out anyway. I like a man who knows how to fix himself, who values what he’s learned by hammering out his own dents.

I like a man who’s run hot, spewed smoke, blown a gasket. I like a man who knows the metallic growl of his own stripped gears. I like a man who’s found himself coming down a 6% incline outside Monteagle with his clutch completely gone and his trailer brakes on fire and no emergency pull-off in sight. I like a man who’s been stuck in the mud up to his wheel wells, who’s had to sit there with the shame of knowing that he did it to himself. I like a man who recognizes, sitting there in the mud, that there is no shame in letting someone with a little more horsepower—and a 12,000-pound bumper winch—drag him back to solid road.

I like a man whose axle bearings sometimes sing high and ghostly of too-heavy loads, of too-light grease. I like a man who’s somehow wound up at the edge of the yard, as far from the house as possible, with FOR SALE, OR TRADE FOR TRACTOR scrawled across him in white shoe polish. I like a man whose odometer tells me that he has been driven, that he has been broken, that he has been repaired—that he has been loved.

He’d rather be scrap than admit it, but he wishes he were shiny and new. I don’t. Give me crumpled rusty panels, a short in the eight-track player, a hiccup under the distributor cap. Let me tell you something: I’ll drive him ’til his wheels fall off.

Photo: “Yes, It Still Runs” (Heard County, Georgia – 15 May 2014)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

NOTE: I first posted this piece on 16 May 2014.

 

Hillside Monday: 5/16/16

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“Doc Speir’s Front Window”
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 October 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

 

Neon Bicycles

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Pine Mountain, Georgia – 30 April 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 5/11/16

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“Bank Building Mural, Late Afternoon”
Meansville, Georgia – 6 November 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 5/9/16

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“Monday Meditation, Drawing Studio”
Lamar Dodd Art Center, LaGrange College
LaGrange, Georgia – 18 April 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Track and Sky

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Abandoned mining camp, Leadville, Colorado – 9 August 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Just another conversation with my dressmaker mother

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ME:  Val and I went in together on this one. It was kind of expensive. Looks like it’s from the late ’30s or early ’40s.
MOM: 
Yeah, probably so.
ME: 
Whaddya think?
MOM:  So you’re going for the Joan Crawford look.
ME:  [heavy sigh]
MOM:  Wait, no—Buck Rogers! That’s it!
ME:  Dammit, Mom.

Text © R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 5/4/16

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“Dilapidated and Dignified”
Nashville, Tennessee – 25 May 2014
© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

What does a writer do all day?

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“What does a writer DO all day?”

Funny you should ask, because for several weeks now, I’ve been making a list of the activities that fill my days.

Of course, “write” would be at the top of that list, correct? You’d think so, anyway. And on good days, it is. On most days, I get in three or four solid hours of writing, and I feel like a million bucks when I’m done. On good days, the rare five-writing-hour days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon when I’m done.

But I have to be honest with you: working from home is neither for the faint of heart, nor for the easily discouraged. When I get distracted, I’m the only person who can get me back on track. Self-reliance is a helpful trait to have, for freelance writers. Those 37 minutes I spent this morning unclogging my pores? I can’t get ’em back. You see what I mean.

So here are some of the things I spend my day doing when I’m not writing.

COOKING
Without breakfast, I’m not accomplishing diddly-squat. This was not true when I was younger, but my experience of middle age states that brain fuel is a must. I prefer a hot breakfast, too. Last week saw me eating home-fried potatoes covered in cheese, two scrambled eggs, and a big link of andouille or boudin (Cajun sausage delicacies). But there are the other meals of the day to deal with, and I don’t like eating the same thing two meals in a row. This means I cook—a lot.

I own two large slow cookers and often have both simmering along at the same time. Sturdy food reigns supreme around here. Think rib-sticking meals like pot roast, chili, jambalaya, chicken soup, stuff I can eat and then not be hungry again for five hours. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure do hate stopping in the middle of a writing “roll” because my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut. When I make a non-Crock Pot recipe, I make enough of it to last for several days: Greek pizza, buttermilk fried chicken, lentil-sausage stew, cornbread, and the occasional batch of cupcakes. At my house, cooking happens almost every day. It has to.

BUSINESS
In addition to my freelance writing career, I work as a writing coach and corporate communication consultant. If you’re thinking about starting your own business, I’m here to tell you that doing so is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. So much research! So much paperwork and legal red tape! So much to figure out so I can protect my intellectual property! So many ways to get (or miss) start-up funding!

And that’s all while drumming up new B2B clients, preparing to launch an online creative writing course, and making new connections. I spend time every day making calls, returning calls, writing emails, answering emails, filling out forms, figuring out fees, and writing website copy. It’s exhilarating even when it’s confusing and exhausting—because it’s my own business we’re talking about here.

ERRANDS
Groceries, pet food, car care, the vet’s office, the Post Office, the tax office, the bank, the doctor, the drug store…you know how it goes. If I leave the house early enough in the day (by 8:30am, ideally), I still have enough mental energy when I get back home to write for several hours.

However, if LaGrange traffic keeps on screwing up my day the way it has been since, oh, August 2010, I may not have enough brain power left to do anything when I get home. Surviving a town half-full of transplanted Gwinnett County drivers uses up all my smart.

And if these people keep getting between me and my beloved Waffle House—well, let’s just say that things are gonna get mighty ugly, mighty fast.

RESEARCH
This may or may not involve actually leaving the house, but on occasion it does. I’m out and about taking photos, interviewing people, retracing steps, or trying to retrace steps told to me in oral histories. I find this time out on the road to be highly productive. When I’m driving down US 27 or up I-85—or even when I’m lost on some dirt road in Randolph County, Alabama—my mind spins with new ideas and new connections. Troublesome knots in my daily writing untie themselves when I’m driving to talk with someone who’s the last person to do [X], or the first person to own [Y], or one of only three people to witness [Z].

And even when I’m sitting at the computer in my home office, I find research time very rewarding. Last weekend, I researched selling fine art prints of my photographs, and came up with much more satisfactory answers than I’d thought possible. A couple weeks ago, browsing the Troup County Archives’ online photo albums, I discovered photos of my own beloved Hillside neighborhood from almost 50 years ago. These photos sparked three new project ideas…and all while I was sitting at home. Pretty good, for a quarter-day’s work.

CLEANING
As a recovering slob, I can tell you that not only has regular housecleaning saved my life, but it’s also saved my sanity. In general, I vacuum twice a week (I have no carpets, just hard floors), and sometimes more depending on how writing’s going. If it’s going poorly, I may vacuum every day. There’s just something about vacuuming up cat-sized dust bunnies that makes the ideas pour back into my brain.

Every day, I wipe down the kitchen counters, and I wipe down the bathroom about every other day. Sheets and blankets get changed and washed once a week—sometimes more, if the weather’s hot and/or I’m sweaty. And don’t get me started on how much I enjoy ironing. That’s right: ironing. As in shirts, dresses, tablecloths, aprons, cocktail napkins, dinner napkins. With heavy starch.

For some people, this is way, way too much. But remember: I work from home. If it’s not at least passably clean, I am NOT going to be able to concentrate. The modernist aesthetic (open, light, clear, free of clutter, lots of empty white space) has truly saved me. (More on this later.) So: you live at your house, and I’ll live/work at mine.

PET CARE
“How many cats do you have?”
Too many.

My hand to Bastet: I never meant to be a cat lady. Really, I didn’t. But people are crap, and throw them out, and you know the rest of that story. All these cats, plus two sweet dogs and three hilarious chickens, require daily care. Scooping litter, feeding, cleaning up messes, triage for health crises, vet trips, breaking up inter-feline fights….yeah, it’s a lot of work, in short bursts spread over the course of the day.

But these animals are the best writing companions I’ve ever known. They’re patient, loving, funny, quiet, and mostly non-judgmental. As I type this, Nooz, Flannery, Hank, and Zora doze in the kitchen floor, pretending not to notice that I’m drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer—a salute to my late father—with my afternoon pretzels-and-hummus snack. They’re beer snobs. What, you didn’t know? (Note that I said “mostly non-judgmental.” Mostly.)

So this is a lot of what happens when I’m not writing—and I write just about every day. And now you know.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 5/2/16

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“Goldfinched, Part 2”
LaGrange, Georgia – 18 March 2016

(Here’s Part 1.)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

 

A Song in May

Silver sequins pour from a charcoal velvet sky through lacy gold afternoon light. As I sprint back from the mailbox, ten thousand tiny quicksilvery splatters sprinkle across the dusty, clean-swept yard. Six miles away, across the Alabama line, thunder laughs low, clears its throat, laughs again. The air smells like wet asphalt, like kudzu, like lightning, like dreams—like home.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Ladies’ Room Floor, Mercy Lounge

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Nashville, Tennessee – 18 September 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Still another conversation with my dressmaker mother

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ME:  Check out what I bought on Etsy.
MOM:  What?
ME:  [handing her the pattern] Total badassery, à la 1959.
MOM:  Have you lost your mind?
ME:  Awwwww, Mom! How can you say no to sewing something this awesome?
MOM:  Easy. “NO.” See there?

Text © R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)
Pattern and envelope design/illustrations © McCall Pattern Company

 

Wednesday Photo: 4/27/16

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“Yellow and Gray with Window”
Wedowee, Alabama – 19 September 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Metro Living

Fifteen years passed before I saw him again. This time, it was by accident: at the edge of a photo in the Atlanta paper.

At first, I thought he was dancing with the curvy redhead, her sparkly sequined back to the camera. His leg and foot stepped toward her at a jaunty angle. The band blazed away behind them—good. He’d finally found someone.

But her feet were flat on the ground, and her weight shoved firmly into one hip. She’d turned her head to better see the guitarist giving it hell onstage.

He wasn’t dancing.
He was dodging bodies, escaping glances, leaving the festival while it was still daylight.

Years before, he maneuvered a hot iron with incredible grace and skill. He liked sharp creases in practical fabrics: twill, denim, broadcloth. Whatever he had on was fresh, clean, neatly pressed. But now, that rumpled shirt, those wrinkled pants—how many days in a row had he worn them?

Inside the yoke of the forlorn plaid he still buttoned too high, his proud shoulders sagged. His belly clambered over his belt. Strong and sure when I knew him, his hands now simply dangled from his arms. Gaze locked on the ground, he seemed to study where he would next place his right foot. His face had fallen the way faces do when their owners sleep flat on them. He hadn’t aged so much as retreated into “Don’t look at me.”

At the edge of the photo, I saw a man trying to disappear. I saw a man telling the universe “NO” before it had a chance to say the same to him.

I folded the Metro Living section, and wished I didn’t still love him.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 4/25/16

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During their epic March 2016 tear-off party, the roofing crew discovered four layers of shingles—including the original!—on my century-old Hillside mill house. Most houses can bear the weight of (at most) just two layers. No wonder the rafters and deck on my home were in such terrible condition.

In my hand sits one hundred years of nail history. With each new layer of shingles, the nails had to be longer and longer. Their shapes and relative condition speak to how nail manufacturing evolved from the first roof (circa 1915) to the fourth one (circa 1975).

“100 Years of Nails”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 March 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Blue Fountain

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University of West Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia – 3 November 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

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