One Day in the Life of

Feature / Ken Baumann

Summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico is lush. In its center, Santa Fe is without billboards—its hues are the color of dirt; its buildings are mostly adobe. We live nearby, just off-center, near a little river.

In summer, when I’m not in school, I wake whenever and then grab my phone. How’d it come to this? This reptilian swiping? I fell in love with 2001’s monolith when I was young; technology still enables murder, though I try to confine mine to my mind and mornings. Having deleted five social media apps off my phone in order to be less milled, I’m set with email. Staring at messages wakes me to the world beyond bed, sex, reading, food; mornings are for disabusing myself—just a little bit—of my growing hermitage. Emails usually point me to something I have to do, to someone I want to keep conversing with, to some promise I’ve made.

Though this summer I’ve promised myself that I would keep the email slavishness to a glance, and then grab a white notebook and a blue pen to work on the novel I’ve been sitting with for about six years. The long novel, A Task, gets written in sits no longer than forty-five minutes to a couple of hours. I’ve pledged myself a chunk of progress on the thing before college returns, which means I aim to work on the novel every morning until the leaves turn.

As I currently understand myself, I’m a novelist and essayist who spends most of his time publishing other people’s books while fantasizing about being a pure mathematician. Which means my early to late afternoons—punctuated by a late breakfast (oatmeal and blackstrap, or eggs and sourdough)—find me futzing with files, emailing authors, nudging Photoshop layers, walking to the post office to mail books, and/or editing a manuscript. I run my press and its imprint out of my garage and closet; the books get printed by manufacturers elsewhere, but I wrap them up then ship them to customers.

If there’s not much to do for my publishing company or its imprint, and if my wife is at school or work, I read and go back to writing. If I’m on some kick with a book, I read for a few hours in our yard below the sun. If I’ve got fangs for the thing, the text and I don’t split for the rest of the day. If I’m If I’m writing something other than A Task, I type it on my laptop. The laptop tends to enable a mania in me; since the long novel’s about suicide and dissolution, I don’t permit myself to build it with the speed of a keyboard and the possibilities of a screen. Technological innovation is premised on the goodness of acceleration; I think acceleration is poisoning us, so I’ve been trying to use my quick tools less and less.

It’s just the case that days are made with money, so it’d be dishonest of me to not talk about cash. I used to work in film and television, and was paid entirely too much to emote for strangers; that money ran out, so now my wife and I are slowly eating away at savings from the sale of our house back west. She teaches yoga and indoor cycling; I scrape together lunch money via book design gigs, published stories or essays, the occasional royalty check, and odd jobs in Santa Fe.

Once a week I’ll walk to the gym or a basketball court to lift weights or play basketball. In the late afternoon or evening, my wife and I walk our dog. The little river dries up in the summer, so we walk on its sand and I run the dog on the rocks. Sunsets here reliably stagger. Santa Fe has seasons, real and perfect seasons of minor inconvenience; summer sweats us indoors soon enough, even in the evening. At night, movies or TV or more reading; if it’s Saturday, a weekly sabbath of D&D or some other game with friends. Sex throughout, and dancing to good rap.

We moved to Santa Fe to find a positive asceticism, to flee the Procrustean bullshit of the entertainment industry and the gastrointestinal stress of a megapolis. I’ve tried to continue this cutting away of what kills me, and this omission forms my days: no news, no cable, no reading gossip or listicles or other assorted instruments of waste. I do fuck off on the internet, but try to do so carefully. Let a new asceticism first urge its pleasures: we walk, eat, write, read, dance, study, fuck, cook, stretch, play, build. We’re trying to become, steadily and with focus.