I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD SLAPS, SPEED BUMPS and LIGHTBULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Puff, write, save a life

Years ago I smoked. It was back in the time of eyes watering within thirty seconds of walking into a bar. I smoked at school, at work, hell I could smoke while waiting in the doctor’s office. Cigarettes were less than fifty cents a pack and I smoked three packs a day.  If I didn’t have at least a three pack back-up in my purse when I left the house I panicked.

Two things got me to quit. I started tapping on a fourth pack and I lived with a guy who never smoked. (We will be married 35 years in a few months). His friends didn’t smoke either, I always had to hunt down an ash tray when I went to their houses. This was before friends and family had you take your secondhand smoke outside. Partner and peer presser was a strong thing but that I was so addicted to the ‘habit of smoking’ made me uncomfortable.

I wondered, what must it be like to not smoke? Imagining a world without my three-plus pack a day habit was impossible.

“If I quit,” I said to my live-in, “what do I do between courses of a meal in a restaurant?” He was quiet for a few seconds, not really believing that smoking between the appetizer and the main meal might be a reason to continue blackening my lungs and emptying my wallet.

“Talk,” he said.

“Oh, of course,” I said feeling as if the nicotine had already worn holes in my feeble brain as well as my lungs.

That was 36 years ago. I won’t go into how I actually quit, (oh yes I will), suffice to say that God stepped in and gave me the flu. If I smoked I felt sick. After a week of nothing but ginger ale and Saltines, I decided if I didn’t take advantage of the fact that I was already one week in to not smoking, I would never be able to quit cold turkey again. (This was before there were drugs to help you get over the hump).

I never smoked again, not once, never ever. If I had not quit smoking when I did, I am convinced I'd be bankrupt or dead.

Which has me wondering now, what it’s like to not (habitually) write, to not (want) to write, to not take pleasure in my by-lines or the quest for a title page, to not think about writing when I’m not thinking about writing? If I don’t leave the house with a head full of ideas or a quick focus on one, I panic. What would I do during my evenings (like right now) if I were not sitting here tapping away?  

“Talk” to my husband? I don’t think so, he’s upstairs watching TV from the inside of his eyelids.

What if I had not started writing my first book during the hell-week of ten years ago, when I took on a new, very demanding job, my dad was dying, my strong mom became an empty husk of neediness, our oldest went off to college and we delivered our youngest to her very first dorm room, in a place she did not want to be. What if, in my empty house and changed life, I had not placed my ass in a chair every night and put my MC in a car headed west away from her own miserable life? She was alone but I rode shotgun. I gave her a new life, while not realizing at the time, I was wanting any other life but my own. What if I didn’t have that book to edit when my mom past-away seven months after my father did?

That book saved my life, and yet, (after a hundred or so queries, which did not garner one request for a full), you’ll never get to read it.

What if I didn’t write a second book and a third book, or the hundreds of op-eds and essays that have put a little change in my pocket? What if I stopped writing before I became a columnist, before my picture accompanied my column and strangers recognized me over the broccoli endcap at Stop and Shop? As difficult and frustrating as writing is, as tough (and enlightening) as rejection can be, I cannot even imagine a life without my words being carefully and deliberately placed on a page.

So, I guess if I get the flu and subsist on nothing but ginger ale and Saltines, I’ll still write. The skill, from synapse to fingertips, takes me away just like my first novel did. It saves my life every single day.

Does it save yours?




  1. Funny, I was watching Sister Act yesterday afternoon and Whoopie Goldberg tells one of the students about a book she was given and says that in the book the guy says,"If all you think of when you wake up in the morning is writing and if all you think of throughout the day is writing, then you're a writer." She then of course applied it to this young gal about singing. I rather para-phrased the quote to the best I could but you get the message.
    That made me think of you and then I wake up to see your blog post in my feed on blogger. I've been struggling lately over whether to give up my blog or not. But the blog saved me - unfortunately not from smoking but from so many other things. If I don't have the blog, the cooking and testing recipes then I really don't know what I would do.
    Your blog made me realize that to each his/her own passion is something that despite whether there is any modicum of fame or fortune, is a passion that must remain in order for our souls to be satisfied.
    I must acknowledge that my blog will never be profitable the way I would like but rather serves a purpose which is to touch the few that read and visit it and to keep me somewhat sane. Sorry for rambling.

    1. Oh but your blog is immensely profitable. It has made you rich beyond belief with followers. What you have done is VERY impressive.
      I too get very frustrated and sometimes think that the looping tune in my head ( to write) will drive me crazy. But honestly, if I don't write I don't know what the hell I would do. Maybe go back to painting...I haven't a clue. To turn my back on something I have been doing for most of my life, is pretty much unthinkable.
      And, you didn't ramble. Never a ramble when it's from the heart. Happy cooking, happy blogging.

  2. While I never smoked, I have known people who did. And, strangely, smoking features a lot in the novel I'm querying. It's interesting how much the culture has changed with regards to smoking, in the past ten or twenty or thirty years. My grandmother worked in Pathology at a hospital, and the doctors smoked in their offices! Thinking about it now, it's shocking. Back then, it was just a nuisance to her, a non smoker.

    Writing...has been a lifeline for me in many ways. I'm not a "talk about my feelings" and/or weep when other people can see me kind of gal, and processing stuff into story really, I think, helps me. More than anything else has, except maybe getting Elka (my doberman). Writing plus dog has only ever improved my life.

    1. Writing plus Elka, sounds like a wonderful and healthy way to deal with whatever shortcomings or unique traits you might have. For those of us who need a way to express ourselves, via whatever means, creativeness seems the deepest and most gentlest way for me. I have never had difficulty talking about my feelings, actually I've never had a problem talking about ME at all. My family, friends and co-workers would attest to that. I talk, they selectively listen, works for me.

  3. I don't get specific about this a lot, but ... the man I love lives four thousand miles away. He's been gone ten and a half years, and though there are plenty of folks who think that means I should love somebody else, I've never round reason to come to this conclusion. He's been suffering depression and any number of other setbacks over the past three years (if not longer), and there is no current plan for him to come home.

    He left about a year and a half after my dad died, at a period I was still in mourning.

    I have a joyous array of absolutely wonderful friends. My mom is in my town, and she and I get to spend good times together, with my stepfather, whom I love. My home is cheering and more than halfway paid for, and populated by the dearest dog and cat an ageing biddy could ask for. But without Mr. X, my life is ... less. I'm no gothic heroine, I'm not Penelope to his Odysseus. But I have never known anything else to do but love him. Even though I've looked, from time to time.

    I can share none of my blessings with him in any way that makes a difference to his life, and the impotence is profound. Indeed, we go through periods we don't even communicate at all, which can be giddily terrifying, on top of the helplessness.

    And it was almost at the same moment he left, less than two years after dad died, that my brother took me to a James River Writers conference, and ... life got seriously different.

    My life doesn't need saving, but even so writing "The Ax and the Vase" did something like it.

    1. For some of us writing is the sharing of our deepest selves which we are not able to experience in any other way. Like Stephen Stills said, "...if you can't be with the one you love then honey love the one you're with". Writing is the love for you.
      It's the listener, it feels what you feel. It's hearing is not selective and it doesn't forget what you say because it's saved. How wonderful to have that.

      If I had not unknowingly placed myself in that car, as my father lay dying and my life was falling apart, I would have crumbled into tiny pieces and blown away.