5 Minutes Contemplating the Perfect Job

Several years ago, I attended a book signing/reading event featuring 2000 Newberry Winner Christopher Paul Curtis, on tour for his YA novel Bud, Not Buddy.  I remember several aspects of his talk.

  • Curtis had a fabulous reading voice, making his excellent prose and dialogue lively and funny
  • His protagonist, Bud, Not Buddy, had a witty, authentic voice
  • Curtis conceived and began writing his first YA novel during 30 minute breaks from his full-time job of attaching car doors at a General Motors Assembly Plant in Flint, MI

When I heard Curtis’s story related to his “perfect job” for fiction writing, I was pursuing entry into YA fiction, and searching for my perfect job.  At 5’2″ and 110 lbs the potential of finding a high-paying job lifting doors into place was unlikely.

I didn’t realize that I might be in the perfect job.  I worked four days a week at a state-wide nonprofit, had earned respect and autonomy from my boss to get my work done and control my schedule.  I rarely took work home or worked weekends.  This might have been the perfect writing job for me but I became bored after my boss retired.  When I gave birth to my first and only child, I quit my job to raise my son and pursue an MFA.

As I heard from so many students, the concept of writing and teaching part-time seemed like the ideal combination.  How wrong we were. MFA in hand, teaching composition for $500 per month per class and spending weekends grading the three classes I was offered left plenty of financial stress and no time to write.  Post graduation, I asked my mentors how they pursued their writing careers.  The advice was 1) keep a low overhead and 2) don’t teach composition.

The general advice from a Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI) workshop I attended was that writers are best off not teaching at all, given the emotional and creative drain required to prepare, inspire and grade. According to one workshop leader, teaching middle school students is among the worst jobs for writers. Summers off doesn’t make up for the mass drainage that takes place during the other seven months.

Since hearing Curtis’s proclamation about the assembly door job being a good one because it required mostly braun, little brain, I have considered what might be the perfect job for me now that I have honed my skills and have several drafts behind me.  I’m not alone in this quest. Countless writer’s blogs focus on how to find time to write and pay the bills.   What I have experienced is that when bills are stacking up, any creative energy is directed to finding a paying job, not creating a novel.

From my experience and research I offer the following components of the “perfect job” for writers:

  1. Jobs requiring great creative energy reduce the creative energy available for one’s own writing projects
  2. A steady paycheck without heavy supervisory expectations offers time (during the work day) for creating stories, imagining characters, and minding your own business
  3. Respecting your supervisor is not essential provided that s/he respects you enough to give you space (all definitions suitable)

At the time of this writing my job includes these components.  It is soulless in itself, yes, but if I consider the soul work of my 8-hour workday the creation of stories, than it might be the “perfect job.”

Trees Not Considering Perfect Job

Today I spent 5 minutes in a tree considering what constitutes the “perfect job” and inferred that many jobs (vastly more rewarding in their own right than mine) would not 1) have a tree nearby in which to spend 5 minutes, and 2) include a string of tasks that require little brain power so that I can clear my mind sufficiently for a story idea, or a blog post, to emerge 3) offer graduate level writing courses free to employees.

I have the perfect job.

Wait for It

We studied Hamilton — The Revolution, the musical, the fantastic, the snappy history lesson — in our creative writing course.   When I checked out the original cast recording from the university’s music library the clerk behind the desk warned, “These tunes will stick in your head,” and stick they did, not only in my head, but in the head of my 12-year-old middle schooler who listened relentlessly, applauding his ability to openly listen to songs with curse words in the presence of his mother.

I reluctantly admit that Aaron Burr’s signature song, “Wait for It,” has been a mantra for much of my writer’s life.  Write the manuscript, send it out, wait for it to be a) accepted enthusiastically, 2) rewarded with a complimentary paragraph about my writing style before issuing the “it’s not quite right for our …” 3) unacknowledged.  I wait for it while continuing my day job, pursing a writing course and raising a child.

Unlike Burr in personality and mantra, Hamilton’s signature, “I’m not going to miss my shot,” stirs me back to a manuscript that I’ve been writing, revising, ignoring, entering, submitting for upwards of a decade.  There’s been more wait for it than attention to not missing my shot in my recent (post MFA) writing life.   My shot, to be practical, won’t happen if I wait for it, whatever it may be.

I’m not the first writer who asked the question, “What should I do with a manuscript that wants a life beyond my computer screen?” when I’ve spent so much time waiting for it to… ?

Top Three options:

  • Workshop it (again)
  • Discuss with my professor
  • Give it 5 uninterrupted minutes in a tree
Weeping Beech Waiting for It


  • Workshoppers: too many characters
  • Professor: streamline to find the actual moment where change happens and grow from there
  • Tree: wait for it, but not in stillness

I’m returning to the manuscript taking the suggestions of all three.  “If you love this woman,” says Hamilton to Burr, “go and get her.”

If I love these characters and want them to have a life, I must take action.  And like the weeping beech tree, I must be in motion, in the process of growth even as it appears that I am simply waiting for it.

Master Class Revisited

He entered the room wheeling his carry on luggage.  “This has never happened before,” he explained by way of introduction.  We four students stood as he bowed prayerfully, hands together namaste style, and took our seats at the round table.  He’d been traveling for 10 hours, our host explained, and “may need some time to get oriented.”

Our master was slight of build, soft blond hair, a tailored blue blazer and warm hand extended as we pronounced our names, each hoping he could tie us to our manuscripts, those which we’d submitted and won the right to sit with Israel’s great writer.

Two weeks before, when I learned of my place in the master class, I checked out all the David Grossman books our library held and began reading, alternately watching video interviews on youtube.  A master worthy of the title, his work had been translated into 40 languages, his reputation marked him as a prophet, a man of soul, the greatest writer of his generation.  This man had ten pages of my new manuscript.  The master had lent his eye and brain to my characters Alessandro and Therissina, to Blanche my protagonist. How would he see them?  What might he offer to inspire or crush me?

We discovered with the insight that comes from stepping into a puddle and feeling the wetness soak our soles, shoes, socks and feet, that our manuscripts had not been read on the long flight from Israel with a mug of strong coffee.  Our manuscripts did not slide into the side pocket of his luggage, wrinkled from a close read, checks and yeses noted in the margins.

The words, “this has never happened before,” didn’t end with the late arrival. He hadn’t received our manuscripts.  He arrived with his luggage, but not having read a word of our work.  I could not hear the collective sigh that must have registered on each eager face.

Our manuscripts were to live for a moment, read aloud over a period of less than two minutes, within which he would pronounce our fate.

“You seem eager to go first,” Grossman said to a student.  And the reader began, too fast.  I could tell immediately that the student wouldn’t finish his scene.  He wouldn’t get to the most intriguing section.  He glanced up every few paragraphs until the master’s invisible hand rose to say, rest now.  I have decided upon your work.

Before he spoke he asked for our comments.  I didn’t want to comment.  I didn’t want to hear the students thoughts about my work. Likely, they didn’t care to hear mine.  We wanted the master.  But he was orienting.  I was called on first and spoke about authenticity of voice, details, something quick so we could move on.

I went second.  I was prepared.  I had a strategy.

For six years at the university I’d taught public speaking.  I coached a middle school competitive speech team.  I understood the importance of delivery. Here, in my first master class, I didn’t think I’d need to call upon these skills. And yet, it was precisely these skills that were needed now.  I knew this from the quick reading of the first student.  I had decided that when presenting to a jet lagged master for less than two minutes, that the quality of the delivery would make a difference in his ability to respond.

“There she is, barely walking.  She drags her instrument along the rug, pulling dirt, though I keep my floors clean, like her brother might drag his stick. Always the box, my violin, she says, and plucks the strings, as if she knows what she does.” 

I read two pages aloud, using voices best I could.  I have no German accent, but I tried to convey one.  Did I succeed?  He listened.  He heard.  Even the conversation happening on the bench paused momentarily.

As students expressed confusion in that I didn’t add punctuation in the form of quotation marks, he disagreed.  His works were translated with quotation marks for U.S. markets but otherwise, there were no quotation marks.  He said that not knowing who a quote belongs to adds to the layering, and uncertainty. What if the comment was true to both characters, in varying degrees?  What if it was also true to the society in which the characters live?  I heard his remarks understanding that writing with a lack of attribution could help me find the soul of a character who speaks in her own mind and aloud without separation.  I liked my characters as the master spoke of them and their lack of attribution.  You won’t push me into quotation marks, quipped Blanche.  At least not in this early draft.

I learned that Professor Grossman valued layering.  That readers benefit from doubt. Situations need not be clear. The sense of uncertainty will play out.  The reader must trust that action must lead to a grander internal process, that shifts in the right order (in my scene, the child taking control of the parents) add to that complexity.  Action and emotion must present early in the manuscript.

How does one truly understand the character?  How does a master achieve this authenticity?

Professor Grossman understands his characters not by entering their psyches. You must get to their souls, he said.  And then the work follows.  Get to the soul of the character and let her/his story play out.

My master class wasn’t what I’d expected.  It ran 30 minutes short. The professor arrived travel weary without manuscripts.  And yet he offered insight to inspire me back to the work.  Did my reading aloud make a difference?  I have no idea whether it mattered to him or his understanding of my work.  And yet for me, proclaiming my characters aloud, giving them voices and personalities in the presence of a master was something to remember.

One day when I publish my novel I can say, “David Grossman was the first person I read aloud to.”






Tree at rest

I am always breathing and then

bright white screen flattens my breath until I forget

I am body, not just brain.  5 minutes.  Now.



seep, slide.

Breath quickens. I scurry

from my mole hole office

stride towards the tree

plant foot then reach shift hoist listen

to my breath calm.

I lean into the bark, find the sun

the branches the buds

Puffing breasts growing

Breath and then breath and brea


and this is the only


in my life


5 minutes later — a meeting

Manual Manual Emmanuel

framed boats in the water

brush strokes even


short and then

long blue watercolors stripe safe harbor

breathe boat one



breathe boat two



I’m changing the order

Manual Emmanuel

Breathe boat three



How many boats?

8 next count 10


Table of Contents


Breathe boat eight broad sail

Boats one and two sails alone

Breathe boat four

Table of Contents



Centers for Medicaid and Medicare


Boat 5 with red flag

Breathe in 5 breathe out six

I am always breathing and then

The meeting ends


Above lines to the prompt “I am always ………. and then I ………….” and off we go. A writing course assignment and I haven’t made the word count.  There’s something splendid and agonizing about a word count.  I had all I wanted to say about the “I am always” topic and then not enough words.  I’ll discuss my process getting from:

Where I started to where I ended.

I humored myself to imagine that I am always observant.  Take 5 minutes in a tree.  I’m full of observation in the tree, approaching the tree, leaving the tree. Walking through campus, usually. Sometimes. Not always.  Can’t say always.

At lunch today at the ever cheerful dining room of the Brown Hotel I shared my prompt with my mom (age 88, English Major) and she said, “Always optimistic,” which cannot be true.  Not for me.  She read my poem and laughed. That’s something fabulous, my mother’s laugh at my poem.

The only other “I am always” I could come up with was “I am always dying,” but I didn’t want to put my head around 500 words worth of decline,  so I opted for breathing.

The meeting verse (is this how you describe the second scene of a poem) was absolute truth.  That’s an always.  When I’m in particular meetings, I am always trying to avoid being critical, always searching for something in the experience where I can practice my imagination, divert attention to the arts.  So as the mundane of the meeting bored on I started observing (not an always) the framed print on the side wall. A watercolor of some boats.  I counted the boats with a full breath each.  When my practice was interrupted by some aspect of the meeting (table of contents, sigh) I started again.  Losing count of the boats, the process went on until the meeting ended.

5 Minutes in a Tree is about Sanity in the Midst of Chaos.  This takes many forms.  Counting breath and boats, climbing a tree, trying my hand at poetry.

Each a portal to sanity.  Each an antidote to chaos.


Tips for Concealment

Top Coat in Tree

Tip One: Wear the right clothes

Tip Two: Don’t move

I’ve grown tired of sitting on the lower branches of my tree acting civilized in case I am spotted.  The thrill of being in a tree is being above ground.  Not inches but feet, yards is even better.

When I approached the tree, the idea of lounging on the lowest branch wouldn’t suit.  It was too sunny, and I hadn’t enjoyed the squirrels’ view in months.

Unable to resist, I climbed boot to hand into my comfy perch.  I am entirely visible.  And yet, the afternoon shadows play tricks on the eyes.  And students and staff are usually not looking in any direction save the pavement or their phones.  How could they miss a woman sitting in a tree?  You’d be surprised how many people never look up.

Having secured my favorite spot, I pressed my boot to the branch and lay my chest to the thick upper limb.   I peered down through the branches (I’ll guess 15 feet to dusty earth) and listened to the robins. Spending 5 minutes in a tree enables one to identify common bird calls.  Here I am with the robins motionless in my tree.  I am in joy.

I remove my topcoat and boot and place them in my sitting spot.  As a child, I loved the Highlights Magazine Seek and Find section.  I created my own.  Find the coat and the boot.

  • Notice their stillness
  • Notice how they blend
  • Imagine a human wearing these items
  • Imagine 5 minutes in tree not moving
  • Imagine five minutes well spent
Top Coat and Boot
Self-Portrait #1


5 Minutes Cut Short

A young dogwood is visible through my kitchen window.  Only a child of seven should climb the dogwood, and not too high, lest the nimble branches bend and break.

Dogwood with Pergola

I wasn’t holding this rationale thought while seeking a distraction from tedious Saturday chores.  I simply wanted to spend 5 minutes in the dogwood.  The sky was cloudless blue, the temperature a balmy 64 degrees.  Seemed like a good idea.

With torso wedged between two thigh-sized branches and feet pressed against an ever moving limb I did not find my place of mediative calm.   After a minute of discomfort, I entertained the possibility of climbing a little higher so I could reach the pergola.

Mistake number two.

I touched the pergola with my hand, but the movement in the tree, my weight shifting, my feet pinched was far from a soulful experience.  I needed to sit.  I extended my right leg and pressed my bare foot against the beam.  The cedar was cool, somewhat slimy.  I’d say I held this position for seconds before losing my balance.

I am upright by the dogwood trunk.

My shin hurts like mad.

I have not broken a bone.

2 Seconds in a Tree

When I sought my MFA, we explored gathering research through direct experiences, primary research.  A classmate stuck her head in the toilet bowl and flushed to experience rushing water sweeping her hair into a troll style.  I had no desire to flush my head.   But the tree experience seemed worth trying.

In conclusion.

I would not recommend falling from a tree to gather research.

There are safer ways to spend 5 Minutes in a Tree.

That, too constitutes research.  Sane research.


In Plain Sight

“I hate flowers.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

She couldn’t have said that — not Georgia O’Keeffe.  Here is the artist who painted hundreds of flowers during her lifetime.  It was her flower paintings that  introduced her to New York City; her flowers that made O’Keeffe among the most famous painters in the world.  Even by today’s standards, her flower paintings command critical acclaim from art collectors.  In 2014, O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold at Sotheby’s for a record breaking $44.4 million.

O’Keeffe’s images were not the staid flower shoppe variety common of botanical paintings of her time.  Instead, critics and fans alike suggested that her flowers expressed the essence of womanhood and depicted female sexual organs. Stieglitz’s marketing savvy saw this as an opportunity for press, and sales. O’Keeffe claimed this was never her intent. Beginning in 1923, when Alfred Stieglitz sold six calla lily images in for $25,000 she began to support herself and him.

In 1923, Alfred Stieglitz opened her annual show 100 Flowers in The Anderson Gallery. Five years later, he sold six calla lily oils for the astounding price of $25,000.
Calla Lily Turned Away, 1923
Pastel on Paper
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Fast forward 94 years. I climb into my tree, grocery store hydrangea in plastic sleeve.  Scissors in one pocket, camera in the other. I wear brown cords, military green vest, brown sweater, brown boots, brown hat.  Having memorized O’Keeffe’s flower images, I know what I want – to capture a photograph in her style, frame full of flower, nothing to distract.

I am eight feet up. Students walk past.  No leaves to conceal me.

I am in plain sight.  I hover above the flower, my hands shake.

The photographic feat requires pressing my head against the trunk to free both hands for the shot. I give no thought to falling.   I am consumed with a vision.  I do not hate this hothouse flower.  I think of O’Keeffe and her quote. What would make her hate what she spent so much time capturing?

White Flower Suspended

My research on O’Keeffe and her husband Stieglitz (who she married in 1924) gave me a hint.

Her 29 year relationship with photographer Alfred Stieglitz was complex, illustrated in hundreds of letters between them and with family and friends. Stieglitz, her senior by 24 years, was a city boy from affluence, a man in love with discourse, a man who thrived on work, on routine, on familiar places. O’Keeffe moved quickly, explored, experienced life sensually.

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way… things I had no words for.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

In 1937, an invitation came from the College of William and Mary to show her work, flowers among them) and receive a Doctorate of Fine Arts degree. Stieglitz resisted. She shows in An American Place, he claimed. She bristled.

O’Keeffe’s work.

Stieglitz’s opinions.

Dorothy Norman’s financial support.

I hate flowers.

Hydrangea in plastic

From GEORGIA and Genevieve–excerpt from a novel 

Georgia O’Keeffe sat at her husband’s bedside pretending she didn’t know who’d sent the flowers. They came without a card. Just the arrangement delivered to his hospital room when she’d gone down for a coffee. An informal arrangement. That’s what the florist might call it if he’d placed it in the shop window or ran an advert in the New York Times.

As much as she liked flowers she didn’t like these.

It wasn’t personal. She rose from the wooden chair and went to the window. Scads of arrangements filled the marble sill, the bedside table, the chest of drawers. They’d come filing in once news of Stieglitz’s heart attack got out. Most of the cards had flattering messages and familiar names written in bold type. If he recovered, and the doctors said he would, he’d remember who’d sent what. But this one had no card, no sentiment. Nine white roses, a dozen or so daises and a mess of greenery tucked in between. She’d never found the appeal of such arrangements. If you wanted to send flowers, why not just pick a bunch and send them? Why force them into symmetrical order and call what you’ve done the art of flower arranging? She turned away from the flowers, flashing angry.

Georgia snatched the arrangement from the sill, marched down the hall and entered the first open door she came to. A woman with the hair of a newborn robin raised an empty hand in greeting.

“For you,” said Georgia, striding across the room and setting the glass bowl on the barren sill. “From someone who wishes you well.”

“They’re gorgeous,” said the woman, her eyes brightening. “My niece Eleanor?”

Georgia smiled broadly. “Yes, the very one.”

“How kind of her. How thoughtful. She always was such a dear girl. And considerate. Never missed my birthday. Not once.”

“And she’s remembered you again.”

“Can you stay and visit?”

“I must go.”

“Other flowers to deliver?”

Georgia nodded.

“You’re so kind,” said the woman. “Giving us old folks a spark of daylight. That’s the prettiest arrangement I’ve ever seen. Bring it close,” she said, gesturing to her bedside table. “Where I can admire it.”

Georgia moved the flowers from the sill to the table hoping that was the last time she’d have to touch them. But when the old woman leaned in and smelled the roses, and a tear slid down her deeply lined face, Georgia forgave the flowers for their giver and remembered how much she’d always like roses, especially white ones.






O’Keeffe Shanty Rock — View from a Tree

“I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.” 
― Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe has been my companion these dozen years. I’ve studied her facial and physical features through photographs, her letters collected by friends and lovers. I’ve hiked the shore of Lake George where she gathered rocks and leaves.

In 2014, I traveled to the Adirondacks, climbed the hill to where O’Keeffe’s painting Shanty once stood, and pried a rock from the clay where bulldozers’ tracks dug fresh furrows.

This morning, I took the Shanty rock from my writing desk and glazed it with coconut oil to bring out its fine lines, its aged surface that O’Keeffe’s young face did not possess when she walked the hill. The photograph of her on the hill, pencil in hand, old wool sweater and worn leather boots constant companions, is my favorite. Taken by her lover, photographer Alfred Stieglitz in 1918, it captures the muse he claimed her to be.

Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918, Adirondack Museum

Digging a rock from the hill was not my intention when I crossed the grounds and started up to the thicket of trees where the Shanty offered O’Keeffe a view of Lake George.  Once committed, however, I wanted a rock deep in the earth, one that would have lived there during her time, when her own feet traveled the path from the lake’s edge to the hillside Shanty to paint.

On my desk is the rock, on my screen, the O’Keeffe photograph glancing round, her much photographed hand resting on her knee.

It was this photograph that drew me into O’Keeffe’s world and had me traveling to Wiawaka across Lake George from the Shanty to glance into the single room where she summered after winning an art prize, to Williamsburg, where she spent her teen years distinguishing herself in art and life, and to Maine, where she fled from Stieglitz’s infidelities.

The opening scene from my novel GEORGIA and Genevieve comes from these direct experiences.  The land, the rocks, the studios where she stood are my inspiration.

I polish a rock taken from her hill. I set it at the base of my tree.

I climb onto the lower branch and aim my lens.

I lean against the trunk to steady my arm.

“The sun slants over the mountain. Her strokes come swiftly. Large images on small canvases. She’ll paint a dozen colossal flowers, lean them against the Shanty then slip tanned feet into espadrilles and wander through the grasses to the shoreline searching for branches, shells, and smooth rocks.   Yesterday’s find sits on the windowsill, three black rocks in a neat stack. She has something to say about rocks; she’s still deciding what it is.”


Hot Beans in a Cold Tree

I’d made a commitment to spend 5 minutes. But the day was cold, the wind at 15 mph and the sky grey. While my desire to leave the stark comfort of my office was high, the option of dining somewhere other than the tree was tempting.

Picture this, a woman striding across the quad balancing a bowl of steaming beans on its cardboard packaging, a plastic spoon in her pocket, her eyes on the tree. She parts the bare branches. Sits sidesaddle on the lowest branch, presses her back to the truck, and removes the plastic. The steam rises. She lifts a spoonful to her nose. Cumin.

My tree is cold in the winter, the seat chilled, the view through the canopy transparent. I am in plain sight. I swing my legs along the branch and recline. My goal is to finish the beans before they grow cold. Of all the goals I might construct, eating beans in a tree is not something I might share during a visioning session. And yet, my passion to complete this goal rivals any goal I’ve had and builds upon the overall promise of spending five minutes in a tree every day.

A thousand or so small leaves cling still to the tree and rustle with the wind. A pair of crisp stalwarts holds fast whipping round like a monarch emerging from its chrysalis to dry its wings in the breeze.

Students and suitably attired adults tuck chins to chests and stride through the quad. Do they see me in the tree or hear the leaves whisper? Do they plunge ahead thinking of lunch or meetings or goals seemingly more important than mine? How do we weigh the value of our goals?

Is five minutes of intention a goal so remote that we don’t count it among those worth achieving? The beans grow cold as I finish my last bite.



I had not intended to climb a tree in the middle of campus in broad daylight. A middle-aged woman working in the research department isn’t typically spotted in a tree wearing work clothes, sans shoes. And yet one day, my mind was so tortured with meaningless work in a windowless room, that to climb a tree, spotted or not, seemed the only sane thing to do.

Sanity was the ultimate goal, and then perhaps bliss and rapture, a simple state of contentment, of happiness. But in the beginning, I sought solace, a companion in the darkness. The tree called and I climbed.

Before you imagine a lunatic, know that this tree was discrete. An elephant skinned variety, with grey wrinkled skin, bark too rough a word for this strokeable surface.   Tendrils thick with teardrop leaves hung deep to the earth creating a canopy that all but concealed the trunk. Weeping willowlike, no. This creature bore thick, climbable branches inviting me to hold onto knobs and twists and reach upward into the thick so as to be hidden to all save the nest of squirrels high to the northern rim.

I found it in the summer, when the students still scooped ice cream at the Hot and Cold, or shoveled mulch or glued their souls to their machinery. In these warm days I hurried round the quad, my eye on the distant tree, my tree as I now called it, and slipped under the canopy with hardly a glance up or down the sidewalk. Still recovering from a broken arm, I was careful with my climb, unprepared to fall from the tree, slither out or be found face down having to explain myself and give up my hideaway.   I took to choosing clothes each morning measuring their ability to blend. The bark was grey, the leaves fresh salad green and, given my isolation at work, I could wear the grey pants three out of five days and not a human soul would notice.

Five minutes would service my soul. My goals were simple, stay concealed, enter and leave without notice, pay attention to the sky, the sounds, the skin and promise to come back every day. Weather would not prevent me. Five minutes from the screen, the bent forward posture that ached my wrists and shoulders, five minutes from the monotonous sameness of the workday could be my salvation.