I used to brag about living on Pacific Time. Let me explain.
It’s been said that writer’s tend to do their best work either first thing in the morning or very late in the evening. I fall into the latter category. I don’t know if I consciously chose that category or if the category chose me. As many of you know, I have a fairly successful day job. This precludes the “first thing in the morning” category from my list of options as a writer.
Truth be told, I’ve been writing in the evening (and late evening) since my investment career took off in the 1980s. I didn’t start writing that way. I can remember my first true roots of writing because I wanted to and not because I was assigned to. It was during “reading period” in the final term of my senior year in college. Reading period is that time between the last official class and the beginning of the examination period. It was time when most students crammed for their (final) finals and wrote and re-wrote their reams of final papers. As a hard science major, I had no more finals to study for and my senior thesis (all 12 pages of it) was long completed.
OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking: “12 pages when most students wrote 100 pages and beyond? What a slacker!”
Well, see, that’s the difference between a humanities major and a science major. We were never graded on words (well, I was – once – but that’s another story). Our professors judged us by our ability to process data, connect the dots, and on the innovativeness of our theoretical proposals. In my case, I was given data from a satellite measuring ultraviolet frequencies. I had to come up with a suitable theory fitting that data into a model of stellar evolution and then develop a computer program to iteratively test my hypothesis.
If you think those words are a mouthful then I’ve achieve my goal of convincing what I did was at least the equivalent of a 100 page humanities paper.
Now, about that reading period. What’s a humble college senior to do when he has all the time in the world, nothing left to accomplish before graduation, and whose classmates are still entombed in some cloistered library carrel? It so happened that Yale, in its infinite wisdom, assigned me an extensive budget for computer time. As luck would have it, I had about 80% of that time left over. I was all alone. There was a computer keyboard in front of me. It was attached to a line printer.
So I wrote.
I wrote fiction. I wrote satire. I wrote humor.
And I never stopped.
Today I write mostly non-fiction, but I sprinkle in a dash of storytelling, satire, and humor whenever I can. And I do this mostly at night. Which is why, for many years, I told people I resided on the east coast but lived on west coast time. And I truly believed that.
Until my most recent visit to the west coast.
You see, whenever I travel, I bring my computer. In a way, I never leave the office. Some people might call this a symptom of workaholism, but I attribute more to my control-freakness. It’s really a form of insurance. If an issue pops up in the physical office, I can rest easy knowing my virtual office is just an internet connection away from checking things out. I traveled with a high degree of confidence I could work anywhere as if I were still in the office. I assured myself the Pacific Time schedule I lived in would protect me from coast to coast.
No more. After spending a full week in California, I’ve come to learn Pacific Time stinks. No matter what you do, you’re always three hours behind. At home, my crazy hours gives me much flexibility in meeting the 5pm Mountain Time deadline of the Denver-based magazine I write for. I can eat dinner and still meet the 7pm Eastern Time deadline for my weekly submissions. In California, it’s got to be done by 4pm Pacific Time – that’s still during the business day! So much for a little down time before tickling the plastic keys on my well-worn laptop!
It gets worse. If I work into the wee morning hours writing (again, my normal modus operandi), I find myself going to bed with barely enough time to sleep before they wake up in New York. This puts a rush on everything. Add this to the crazy LA traffic and you can easily see how, given my lifestyle and work ethic, the west coast is way too hectic for me to live in the west coast time zone.
You may have more convincing reasons to despise California, but avoiding Pacific Time is enough for me.