I have a friend who says, (and I’m paraphrasing, probably incorrectly), “You can only call yourself a writer if you write.” In other words, on the days you don’t write you’re not a writer. On a technical level this seems pretty obvious, and I often wonder: what is a plumber on the days she doesn’t plumb? A carpenter on the days he doesn’t… carpent?
But it goes beyond the technicality.
I believe there are people who were placed upon this round rock for the purpose of writing books, writing poems or short stories or plays. It’s what they were equipped for. It’s what their whole lives led them to. However many of these people never write a word, creatively.
And, as an independent author swimming an a figuratively-literal ocean of other published indie authors I can tell you there are a LOT of people writing books who are not equipped to do so, and whose whole lives have been leading them elsewhere. That they’ve refused to follow is a topic for another day.
The topic for today is my favorite: ME!
Yesterday was a rollercoaster day which started with the awareness of significant physical pain. I have for several years now been susceptible to changes in the weather. Especially rapid changes. Especially rapid changes of an extreme nature, like temperature fluctuations of more than 20 degrees in a few hours time, or the switch from high barometric pressure to low, or back to high again. It all hurts.
But then my daughter got some awesome news and texted to tell me. Nothing hurt for a while as we celebrated.
Then my wife texted to ask me if I thought we could use some storage shelves that a fellow who lives near us made. (If you need any let me know. They are relatively lightweight, all wood, and sturdy.) A quick look at the picture let me know they would most definitely help us wrangle some more organization in our storage space. A few moments later she texted to let me know we were picking up two of the units at 1:00 pm. It was just after 10 am when she passed this news along.
I was concerned. We own a Toyota Corolla, and it’s… well let’s just say if it were a dog it would have crossed the rainbow bridge by now. Now, my wife and I have moved amazingly large and unwieldy things tied to the top of our car over the years. We’ve taken it from an iffy proposition to a science and finally to an art. But I felt rather like the car had most recently been used to drive back and forth over my prone body several times. I did not yet know that Mark’s creations were of a manageable weight. But I did know that if we’d purchased two, I’d have to make two trips. The Corolla’s roof is mighty, but physics will always win out in the end and surface area could only accommodate one at a time.
And so my mood darkened. But in the time between the announcement of the appointment at 1 and the completion of that appointment, I sat down and gave myself a talkin’ to: “You are fortunate to have a wife that diligently looks for ways to improve your life.” “You are fortunate to have a wife.” “You are fortunate.” That sort of thing. Now you need to know that I don’t suffer BS very well, especially my own, but I heard the truth in this, and determined to go with a smile, do what was needed of me, and if necessary lie down in the afternoon.
I skated through the ordeal on the choice to be actively happy that I was able to do it at all. And on the personality of the seller, who was one of those instantly likable fellows. He was listening as Kim and I talked about the practical issues of securing the shelves to the roof and said, “Oh my God, I love the love between you two!” At first I was a little confused, but then I realize not every couple together 34 years addresses each other the way we do: “Help me spread the blanket, handsome.” “Do you think the rope is long enough, love?” We just talk that way. Always have.
When we’d gotten the first shelf all tied down (the destination was less that 2 miles from the point of purchase), he asked if he could take a picture of it up there because he couldn’t believe we’d pulled this feat of guerilla big-item-transport off.
We zipped over to the storage unit, made the necessary space to fit it in, making sure we left room for the second shelve, then went back and retrieved the twin, duplicating the first effort, sans photo the second time.
Through all of it my body didn’t really complain too much. Light but sturdy, as I said.
And so my mood brightened. Then came the banana. Kim had left again and I was home alone. I was a little hungry and she’d recently brought home a nice bunch of bananas, lengthy and at the perfect stage of ripeness. As I was pulling one off the bunch – I hurt my back. Is that not just about the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? Able to move two wooden storage units in a single (okay a double) bound, but rendered helpless by a banana.
I slunk to my bed. I activated my Sharper Image weighted vibrating heating pad and… and…
Sorry I drifted off for a moment thinking about my heating pad. It’s sweet.
But by this point my mood was not. Let me put it all together for you.
I started the day in pain, but then got good news. Before I could fully bask in the glory of that news I was queried about storage shelves, and then in very short amount of time had to begin preparing myself mentally for the things I’d have to do physically, but the pain, but the love, but the blah blah blah. Then it turned out to be not so bad, then I hurt myself obtaining a banana. And through all of this madness I’d done no writing. I was not a writer.
I laid in bed watching NerdTV (aka Discovery+ and Curiosity Stream) waiting for the various pain remedies I’d employed to kick in.
[Ed. Note: No opiates were consumed during the inspiration for this blog post.]
Usually science documentaries have a calming effect on me, and yesterday was no exception. And so as I lay in bed listening to Mike Rowe explain galactic collisions to me, some of the anger I’d gradually built up began to leech off. After all none of this was anyone’s fault, expect maybe that damn banana. (Spoiler: he got what was coming to him.) So there was really no one to be angry with. When that’s the case the anger will generally get pointed inward, (it know the route well), and I’ll end up being pissed at myself for letting my circumstance dictate my outlook.
You are a writer, I told myself. But not until you write something. It was me talking to me. But it then I heard a different voice which I didn’t immediately recognize. It was softer than my own, more nurturing, kinder. A little sexy. And it said, “So go write.”
The voice didn’t say anything else, but I got out of bed and walked to my office and, back in my own voice again, I said, “I’ll just write 500 words. It will be something. Approximately 500 more than nothing.” As it turns out it is precisely 500 more, but as most of you know math is not my strong suit.
I’d left off the day before knowing what I wanted to do and so I started with one true sentence. As always everything began to flow from that. I got down the ideas I wanted to be sure not to forget, I moved the story forward, and I got a very clear picture of what I would write tomorrow, (which, by golly, is now today). And when I highlighted the day’s production I saw that I had written 798 words, exceeding my planned output.
At precisely that moment I got a message from a friend, just checking in on me, and whose voice I immediately recognized as the one that had prompted me to do what I was meant to do, and thereby live up to my self-attached moniker for one more day at least.
I told her the story of the roller coaster, and we both celebrated that there was a positive outcome. “Yay! Good story! Happy ending,” she said, then added, “798 is better than 500, is better than 100, is better than grumping in bed:) glad for you.”
I didn’t check any of her math, because MATH ffs, but I am taking her numbers as gospel and, oh my damn, isn’t it wonderful to have friends like mine!!!
As a footnote, I later remembered a key instance that I wanted to be sure to include and so my final word count ended up being 1067.
I think I’ve written about word counts before, and how many of us obsess at least a little about them. For me on a “normal” day (hahahahahahahaha – normal) I generally hit about 2.5 k before coming up for air. So even 1067 is “subpar.”
But yesterday it felt like a billion words, and I have a feeling it would have felt so if I’d managed only the originally intended 500. It might have been okay if I’d only been able to write the one true sentence.
Because I would still have written.
I would still have been a writer.
So here’s to 500, and 798, and 1067. And here’s to one true sentence.