I gouged out part of my soul and hurled it into a wood chipper the other day. It was no fun, although I did get to eat pie while I did it. It happened because I’m trying to write something longer than the instructions for assembling an armoire made in Korea, and hopefully with better grammar. I’ve been racking up the word count, developing characters and making them suffer, and following my plot storyboard. Then a few days ago I wrote a scene that I adored, and I read it to my wife. That’s when it happened. After I was done, she paused and said, “It doesn’t really add anything, does it?”
Writers, like all artists, are by definition insane. They don’t perceive the world the way other people perceive it. People may or may not agree that I’m a writer, but I do have a piece of paper that says I’m crazy, so there. My wife had spoken the evident truth, which forced me to do the crazy thing and destroy those words, each one a child of my creative spirit. I wanted to make a surgical excision, but in the end I slaughtered them with all the finesse of a mustard gas attack.
I found myself a bit unmotivated after that. But motivation and inspiration should make no difference to writers. You write unless your hands have been crushed and you’ve been kicked in the jaw by a horse. So I sat at my keyboard, Diet Coke at my left hand, and discovered the Five Good Reasons Not to Write.
- My tools are defective. My monitor is dusty, and it’s giving me a headache, so I’d better get the Windex. I should wipe down the kitchen counters while I’m passing through the kitchen with Windex in my hand. Oh, and Windows is telling me to install a security update, so I should do that to avoid losing all my work through insecurity. I’ll defragment my hard drive too, just to be safe.
- My work environment is oppressive. The jumble of picture frames on my desk is breaking my concentration, so I should organize them. But I need to find places to put half of them, so I have to rearrange the bookshelves and move the printer. I’ll have worked up a sweat by then, so I should install the ceiling fan that’s been sitting in a box since I bought the house nine years ago.
- My thinking apparatus is under-fueled. I have a headache from staring at the screen in impotence until my blood sugar drops to single digits. I need a sandwich. However, I only have ham in the fridge and am trying to watch my cholesterol, so I have to go to the store. I should also get everything else on my weekly grocery list since I’m already there.
- I need to document my life. My cat’s sleeping amongst the orderly picture frames and looking cuter than any creature on Earth, including bunnies. I have to take a picture because this will never happen again. When I reach for the camera, my cat moves, so I have to wait until she reassumes a cute pose. It may take a while.
- There’s this thing called the internet. For my story I need to research how expensive bribes should be in Bangkok in 1948. Wikipedia has an invaluable entry on Southeast Asia, and on Google I find a photo of elephants dressed like panda bears. That has to go on Facebook right away, and while I’m there I like a bunch of posts, wish I could dislike a bunch of posts, and post about my sandwich. Now I’m hungry for Thai food.
Oh yeah, the sixth good reason. Update my blog.
Photo from the L.A. Times