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Copyright © 2011 JAS

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The Writing Life
Or so I’ve been told

You don’t often hear phrases like "the law life" or "the electricians life".  It seems the "writing life" is a particular fascination with some people. It actually constitutes a search on the search engines online.  Plug in "writing life" and watch the list that pops up. It is almost as though people are shocked and amazed writers have lives.

We do.

Kind of.

In an odd sort of way.

Our lives are just a bit different from many folks and their professions. We live and have our being in words. We use everyday words as fodder. We use family and friends and foibles as fodder. (say that one five times quickly!)

Other professions may bring work home. They may spend much of their off time thinking about or doing more work, but for writers, our work is something we cannot get away from. We cannot close our briefcases or turn off our computers and announce to our families "we’re done".  They won’t believe us anyway, so why bother. Besides, we aren’t done. We may clarify that statement and say -we’re done the article/novel/review/ acceptance speech, but we’re never really done.

We don’t write as work.  We wear words like underwear after laundry day. Fresh smelling and comfy, our words are squirreled away for that day when we just might need them.  Under this sweater, I have a perky pair o’ phrases that are just waiting for the right article or fiction to call home. We’re word-packrats. We have more internal trunks than you have images of the aforementioned pair o’ phrases.

We tuck away the most (to others) nonsensical things. Bits of paper litter our lives and work spaces, things jotted down in moving vehicles that we have to ask our loved ones to translate. If we’re very lucky, they may have an inkling of what our scribbles mean, but it’s doubtful and they’re tired of being asked. Another heartbreaking loss to the literary world.

How many notebooks lie around with one or maybe two pages of scribbles? How many stacks of jots and bits can you count from where you’re sitting right now? If there are more than two but less than a million, you’re either a writer or you live with one.

Like any profession, we have tools of our trade. Generally, these are a computer or pencil and a dictionary. The bare bones. We can make something here. We can create. If our memories would just hang in there for a full lifetime, we wouldn’t even need those things. We could run naked through our lives and still produce fine work. Unfortunately, at about the time most writers are actually making progress, our memories are going to seed. The gods didn’t plan this too well.

You will know when a writer is truly comfortable in his/her surroundings. You’ll never throw scraps of paper away again in fear for your life. You know better than to file anything. File being a dirty word to many wordmeisters, our lives consist of an ILLUSION of filing. We imagine ourselves as neat and orderly. We understand this is a fantasy, but like all things in life, we keep it up there in the hope that one day our brains really catch on.

And we can remember why we walked into the room.

Copyright 2002


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Martin & Harriet
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