One dark and stormy night, when lightning and thunder were battling it out for supremacy at the height of the summer storm season in Florida, I was – terminally bored. Lethally bored. Existential ennui does not even begin to cover it. No internet, no TV, no DVD player, and no books available I hadn’t already read at least four times before. Going for a walk was naturally out of the question – it was raining – pelting, more like – not cats and dogs, or even frogs, but armadillos outside. There was no distraction available, since the Resident Buttkicker was working late. Our two cats, normally far more fun than any TV sitcom, were parked out on our screened-in porch watching the rain. The house was spotless, even the bathroom. And the closets.
Such a state, any creative willl tell you, can do one of two things. You will either go ever-so slightly crazy trying to pass the time, or you will start something, no matter how bad, just to keep yourself from vaulting over a cliff.
So, I started writing a little story. At the time, I had no corrosive literary ambitions whatsoever. I was just trying to stay semi-sane. And it worked, Within half an hour, I was no longer bored. Within two days, I had 10 pages. Within a week, I had an entire Iron Age Irish tribe yelling simultaneously in my head. If you’ve ever met an Irishman or -woman, you will know that they are loquacious creatures. None of them have shut up since, although they did go suspiciously quiet around the time Damien the Sequel arrived.
By the time I headed back for the desert Southwest, I had seventy pages of a novel buried on the hard drive of a third-hand PowerMac. I had also managed to contract an itch I could not stop scratching. That itch is now in its seventh year, and the novel is in its third rewrite, the one that looks good enough, and credible enough, to eventually land on a bookshelf near you. Or any available MP3-player, I’m open to possibilities.
Along the path from there to here, I learned a few things. No matter how good you think you are, you will suck as a writer until you find that great Holy Grail of all writing – your voice. No matter how good you think you are, you will always suck as a writer if you believe you can’t keep improving. And no matter how bad you know you are, it’s never a bad thing to know spelling and grammar. And last but not least, even if you do write to escape the maelstrom of the 21st century into the vortex of the third century AD, your own life and the events in it will, willingly or otherwise, insinuate itself into your story. Often in ways you don’t expect. People you know will become characters, and so they will surprise you in several dimensions. People you don’t know personally might even become two separate characters, one major player in your story, and one minor.
You know that saying – “don’t get mad, get even?” Should anyone piss you off, in they go, to suffer the torment of uncaring fate, or to suffer in other ways cooked up by your diabolical imagination. Meanwhile, the process of torturing your nemesis can be wonderfully cathartic! And look, Ma – no consequences!
Should you ever meet someone who claims to be a writer, beware. You never know where you might end up – tied to the railroad tracks, buried alive, or ritually murdered and thrown into an Irish bog.
Oh, the possibilities!
The bad news is, if you think it’s tough being married, try writing a novel. And holding down a day job. And maintaining a household. And motherhood. Oh yes, and you’re married, too. To someone who just happens to think you’re going to be the hottest ticket in publishing history, so “why aren’t you writing?”
Now you know why I call him the Resident Buttkicker.
The bad news is, you will never, never, ever be Inspired with a capital I. You will be exhausted after a long day, you will be bored to tears with your story and your irascible characters who are always misbehaving behind your back, you will be sitting in front of your computer waiting, or even wishing lightning would strike you dead, for that visit by the Muse, and it just ain’t happening. Not tonight, not this month. Not, most likely, ever.
The only thing you can do is sit there. Type a sentence. Type the next one.
And long for the day when all you’ll be typing is “The End”.
Knowing full well, that once that turkey is sent out into the world, you will be sitting there, lethally bored. Suddenly, you’ll propel yourself to your laptop and begin typing:
“It was a dark and stormy night”.