The day of the writer


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A day of writing is never what it seems.

Distractions are everywhere. From the beautiful weather outside to the dog that wants someone to pay attention.

Oh, and are dogs ever good at distracting a writer.

You know how a superhero has a sidekick? Well, dogs are wonderful at finding a spot in the office… a chair in the corner to climb on, a section of floor near the feet to curl up in… and joining in for an afternoon of writing. They can be an amazing sidekick for a writer.

But… then again…

Let’s now place the dog into the role of a superhero. It’s kind of like they always want a sidekick along on each and every adventure. So when they get distracted or for any reason want to leave the writing space, they want someone to tag along.

Now, the main personality of a dog can be summed up by this. Their excitement and love for their owner has no measurable end… they also have no concept of time. And that does strange things.

You could go away on vacation for a week, come home a week later, and the dog will be at the door, wagging its tail with a look on its face that says they are absolutely thrilled to see you and couldn’t wait for you to get home.

You could go to work for the day, come home eight or nine hours later, and the dog will be at the door, wagging its tail with a look on its face that says they are absolutely thrilled to see you and couldn’t wait for you to get home.

And you could go outside and walk to the mailbox, come back barely two minutes later, and the dog will be at the door, wagging its tail with a look on its face that says they are absolutely thrilled to see you and couldn’t wait for you to get home.

Yes… you could literally walk into the bathroom, and if the dog doesn’t spend the entire time you are in there crying, scratching or leaning on the bathroom door, when you open the door the dog will give you a look that says: “Thank goodness you’re back. I thought I’d never see you again.”

And… well… if you don’t think a dog can distract a writer, then realize a dog just took up about ten paragraphs and roughly more than 350 of the first 400 words in this essay.

Enough said about that.

Basically, the general problem facing the writer is simple enough, and has two parts.

Number one… quite generally speaking… the writer is facing an empty page.

Now, I’m not talking about writer’s block and other such concepts. (The cure for writer’s block is simple… write something. Anything! Edit your mistakes later.) Instead… consider…

If you were getting ready to mow the lawn, what would you do?

If you were going to wash a load of laundry, what would you do?

If you were going to drive to work… play fetch with the dog… get a drink of water… what would you do?

My point being, for most tasks, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The empty page doesn’t really allow for that.

I had zero clue how many words this essay was going to include. And, now, as I defy the empty page while rambling on with intentions of proofreading and editing later, I don’t even know if I’m halfway done.

There isn’t really a “Ready… set… write!” switch that works the same way as pouring in the detergent or finding the leash kicks off the start of some of those other tasks.

Sure… at times any writer can sit down with an agenda, or maybe even an outline that directs the journey an effort will take. But, for the most part, it’s an exercise in creating something from nothing -- grasping at the open and vast emptiness of imagination in an effort to capture the most brilliant and poignant piece of perfection ever developed in any language.

The writer faces an empty page. No directions offered. No end destination clear. No edges to do first with a picture on the box to use as a guide.

Number two… Rodney Dangerfield. (Or, more precisely… to paraphrase… “I tell ya, I get no respect.”)

There’s something about writing that goes vastly, incredibly, and perhaps even dangerously unappreciated by many.

Just about everyone you meet can tell you about the book they plan to write someday. (Because… you know… all that has to happen to write a book is finding the time to sit down and do it. It doesn’t require any special abilities or talents.)

There doesn’t seem to be an appreciation of any tangible product at the finish line of an effort. Even when compared to something like a painting or a sculpture, there is an incredible lack of recognition for the art that is involved. (And don’t even get me started on the lack of consideration given to the skill.)

Writing gets a woefully undeserved anyone-can-do-it label. And even family and friends tend to brush aside the work involved.

They don’t understand the writing, reading, editing, proofreading, rewriting, reading, editing, reading and on and on demands that go into crafting a finished essay, story or novel.

And perhaps even worst of all… that anyone-can-do-it label brings with it a devaluation of worth, often inspiring requests to do something for free.

(Sure! Why not? It’s only my time and energy and creativity and… doing something that leads to a completed end result. I’ll give you an hour or two or four from my evening or weekend.)

Now that doesn’t mean I mind… or that any writer minds… helping out family and friends with things. That’s not the case at all.

Instead, I’m trying to pass along the sense that a writer’s contributes are viewed with a great sense of lacking value.

Four hours of a writer’s time isn’t seen in the same light as four hours of another effort. And it’s a situation where people don’t think they’re interrupting whatever you are working on, since you can write any old time your heart feels like it. You can just fit the writing in wherever it fits in later on.

But the laundry must be done now… the person on the phone must be spoken with now… the errands need to be run now… and so on.

Here’s a way of summing it up. When things aren’t getting posted on my web site… when a new book isn’t available for purchase… when I’m not getting published in magazines… the impression most people seem to take from that is that I haven’t been working.

It simply could not be possible that I’m tackling multiple projects and investing time into the beginning stages of each project… you know, producing the uncorrected rough drafts that begin after dirtying up that empty page.

Mind you, I’m certainly not complaining. Venting, perhaps. But not complaining.

Because when people give you positive feedback, it can be unbelievably incredible.

I remember the first e-mail I received about the web site from someone that wasn’t a relative or friend… someone that had just found In My Backpack. It was Deirdre Flint, and she was connecting with me about the essay “A special set of glasses”… which she had found when looking for information on S&H Green Stamps.

I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with people like Keris Stainton… she lives in a different country (England), and, when I first exchanged e-mails with her she had yet to publish her novels such as: Della says: OMG!, Emma (Hearts) LA, and Jessie (Hearts) NYC.

And the stories go on.

In those moments… yes, absolutely… there is a reward and a satisfaction.

Instead, while not trying to sound frustrated, I’m just trying to say that there isn’t a simple perspective that works in viewing a writer. People tend to not understand at all when you’re busy, and that interruptions… however well intended or innocent in motive… do matter. And when you can’t put a dollar sign on it, or see a physical structure, there tends to be a lack of value associated with it.

And it can all make for a very long day.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at