by Janis Patterson
My refrigerator died Friday. After being coddled and fixed and theoretically repaired, it simply gave a loud bang, blew a wisp of smoke from underneath and quit completely. The Husband and I scrambled to clean it out and save what we could before we rushed out to buy another. Talk about sticker shock! We paid more for the new refrigerator than I did for my first car.
Friday was also my birthday. It was a big one, and I would have been depressed if I hadn’t been rushing about trying to save a refrigerator’s worth of food. Neither was it fun to spend the day after my birthday moving furniture so that when the retailer finally decides to deliver the new fridge they will be able to get it into the kitchen.
Also on Friday, before the refrigerator’s suicide, to celebrate my birthday I released one of my backlist, a traditional Regency romance called THE FAIR AMAZON. Moving by how quickly my previous self-published books went up, I did a boatload of publicity. Lots of sales? Huh? Every other book I’ve published has gone live within a few hours, but this time Amazon would not play nicely. There’s been some change in the genre notations – changes Amazon did not notify its authors about, at least not this author – and the book was hung in some vague never-never-land of pixiliation until Monday, all the while fans, having seen the release announcement, chastised me that the book wasn’t available on Amazon.
Needless to say, this last clutch of days has not been particularly fun for me nor for my work in progress. I haven’t made my word count in days.
If that weren’t enough, The Husband and I were at a long-planned meeting on Saturday. (I would have rather stayed home and nursed both my accruing years and aching muscles.) And the unspeakable happened.
I was at the buffet, happily noshing on jumbo shrimp, which I love, when this person comes up and says he’s heard I write books. This is not an unusual situation, so I said yes and prepared to answer the same, somewhat banal questions of “Where do you get your ideas?” and “How do you keep all the characters straight?” and suchlike that people always ask as if they think they’re being original.
“Boy, have you got a soft job,” he said in a civilized snarl, scooping up half the onion dip on a single cracker. “Most of us have to work for a living.”
“Soft?” I asked. “Writing is hard work.”
He laughed enthusiastically, showing the unlovely remnants of his mouthful of onion dip. “Sure it is. You sit at home in your pajamas and churn out a bunch of words for an hour or two and then run play all day while most people are doing real work.”
Being a mystery writer, it’s not surprising that my first thought was homicidal. The butter spreader in the onion dip was too dull, the cheese knives too short. Even the toothpicks in the shrimp were too flimsy to be of any real use. Drat. I considered dumping the onion dip over his head, but after his second scoop there wasn’t enough left to make a statement. There was no way I was going to sacrifice the shrimp (I love shrimp, did I tell you?) and flinging peanuts at him would be plain silly, like something out of the Three Stooges.
At last my abortive murderous rage abated somewhat and I was able to answer in honeyed tones, “Then I wonder that you haven’t written a book.”
He winked at me as if we shared some cosmic secret. “I’m going to – just as soon as I get time. Maybe I’ll knock one out over my next vacation.”
I didn’t tell him I wasn’t going to hold my breath. At least he didn’t make a thoughtless and blatantly ignorant comment about how all writers were filthy rich. It would have made an interesting experiment in just how lethal a butter knife could be.
Some people never learn, do they? No matter what it looks like, writing isn’t easy; creating worlds and people out of nothing more than caffeine and imagination is as hard or harder than any profession in the world. Still, real life happens. Refrigerators blow up. People get sick. People get older. Accidents happen. Families need attention.
Every instance of life that happens happens to writers, but still we write.
We have to take precious writing time to do publicity, but still we write.
The ideas dry up, we become nothing but stuttering jackdaws, but still we write.
The car develops an ominous squeak, Aunt Violet comes to visit, Mother breaks her arm, Junior needs a chaperone for a school trip, we get pneumonia – but still we write. It’s hard work, but still we write.
And even sometimes in our pajamas. So what? We still write.