When I was working on my first book, my wife made a T shirt for me. On the front is a quill, on the back “Writer at work” is written in red letters. Being married to a graphic artist is filled with such things. I wear the shirt when I am not writing, attempting to share the idea that a large part of writing takes place away from the keyboard. As I think about it, a large part of my time at the keyboard is not putting words together, but doing research and confirming sources.
Some of my best poetry came to me when I was mowing the lawn. Complex plots occur while I’m in the shower. Watching the network news or a cardinal in the garden have similar, often annoying, results (Rascal sets the birds into warning mode), as my blood pressure rises and my mind clears. Noticing the ironies and inconsistencies in society are hard things to miss, my problems stem from realizing that there is no cure, I survive by knowing there isn’t supposed to be.
My full time job is “House husband”, one of my more enjoyable vocations. I’m not a huge fan of the vacuum cleaner, but I actually enjoy doing the laundry, and cooking is pure joy (The other day I made falafel stuffed peppers, and falafel patties with guacamole for dinner, and banana bread). Shopping is dangerous, I always want to try new recipes or ingredients, usually successfully, always a learning experience. Caring for the cats is interesting, their microcosm of society always a curious blend of passive aggressive behaviors.
I spend my days wondering how people can be so mean to each other. Maybe not so much how as why. I know how. I’ve known people who couldn’t learn from their own mistakes, usually because they can’t admit to their own mistakes. I used to think such people were stupid, or masochists. Now it occurs to me that such people are the catalysts for the rest of us to do better. I no longer pity the wankers, I’m thankful for them.
When my grandfather was very young, shotgun shells used black powder, prior to the popular use of smokeless powder, or “cordite”. As kids, they would open shotgun shells, place the powder in their hand, and ignite it. The powder would flash, like an old time camera flash. Black powder essentially explodes, leaving little residue. When the first kid with a cordite shell tried igniting the powder, it just burned. Right into the kid’s hand. My grandfather said other kids tried it (I suspect not too many), but seeing the first one was enough for him. He would tell that story when talking about learning from your own mistakes. He had gone one better, learning from other people’s mistakes.
There are some people, however, who learn from their mistakes, but what they learn is the wrong lesson. Every new technology manages to be turned into a weapon, positive ideas are used to mask evil, pain motivates as much if not more than love. So we just have to speak louder. I honestly believe there are more of us than them, so why allow them any time in the spotlight?
So I’ve spent much of my life learning. That’s what a writer does. I made plenty of mistakes of my own, and I spent a lot of time listening and reading. I assembled a huge inventory of stories, with a lesson inside each. I’ve tried to guide others with the lessons within their own lives. When someone asked the other night “How long have you been writing?”, I said “Three years”. In reality, I’ve always been writing.