Friday, January 28, 2011

Defensive Writing Skills

Sometimes, writers get no respect. Non-writers think we’re just sitting around having fun, when the truth is, writing demands concentration, deep introspection and a good supply of Cheetos.

“Honey, there’s something wrong with the garbage disposal. Can you take care of it today? After all, you’re home all day . . . uhhh . . . writing.”  They usually manage to say that last word, with a sarcastic bite.

“Sweetheart, the leg fell off one of the kitchen chairs. Can you fix it, you know, in between chapters?” Does she really know how much time it takes to repair that chair? Clean the joint. Dig through a garage full of disorganized tools. I find the Elmers glue, which I left the cap off and is now hard as a rock. I give up looking for my wood clamps in the mess, so I drop $20 at the local hardeware store for some new wood clamps and glue . . . and a Snickers I see at the checkout stand. Crap, half the day is gone and I'm ready for lunch. Screw the chair leg.

“Babe, the bushes along our entry walk need to be trimmed. You’re home all day, would you be a dear and take care of it?”  Here we go again.

You get the drill. Being a full-time writer might not command the same respect that going to a “real” job does. Stay-at-home moms experience the same lack of respect. “Honey, you’re home all day. Why can’t you take a few minutes to paint the spare bedroom? Maybe when you have nothing to do while the baby takes a nap.”

Unless you’re a Stephen King or a Tom Clancy or a JK Rowling, you’d better develop a host of defenses to support your writing career. Here is a sample of my essential writing skills:

-  Little white lie.  “Honey, I’d love to mow the lawn, but the gas in the mower went bad and the mower doctor can’t see the Toro until next week.”  You just have to make sure she doesn't know how to start the mower. She might call your bluff and that could get ugly.

-  Art of misunderstanding the question. “Oh, you meant trim the whole hedge. I thought you just meant the part by the front door.”  You can usually get away with a half-hearted effort once or twice. Don't over-use it.

-  Skill of the craftily inserted letter.  “Your note on the white board said, ‘Please clean fish tanks’ and I thought it said, ‘Please clean fish, thanks.’ Since we didn’t have any, I went fishing all day. I did it just for you!”  Gasp, choke, snicker . . . if she falls for this one, you've got a real keeper!

-  Feigned illness trick.  I learned this one from my younger brother, Jon, when he used it to weasel out of school as a kid. Take your shower before bed, but leave a thin layer of soap under your armpits or behind your knees. In the morning, you’ll have a bright rash and can point to it as proof of how “under the weather” you are. Wives are suckers for a sick husband. No chores today!

-  Compelling world conflict.  “I didn’t have time to fix the faucet in the shower, babe. I’m writing a political thriller and had to research, all day. Followed FOX news for drama and studied the latest data on global warming. Man, sweating polar bears are a sad sight. And, you’d be surprised how Russian spies hide microphones in toilets . . . works great until they flush.”  (Really played online poker, checked for latest Facebook downloads, and looked at a Where-are-they-now website featuring my high school class. Wow! They got old.

The real key to defensive writing is to stay one step ahead of your mate. Here is Rule number one (of course, there IS only one rule):  1)  Ruses always work once. Most spouses catch on pretty fast, so you have to be creative, constantly producing new defenses against those pesky interruptions to writing. Now, where did I put my new fishing pole? I’ve got a busy day of “writing” ahead!

1 comment:

  1. There is rarely a time vacuum that isn't potentially filled with something, many times not planned. And I hear you about..."while you're home writing, when you get the chance please..."


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