I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Dat Writin’

First, let me say: I am the worst.

Show me an honest, self-aware writer who’s never had that thought, and I will…be flabbergasted at their level of confidence and self-importance, actually.

But really, I’m the worst. I’m a writer, even when I didn’t say it. Even when I put my name to things, I didn’t really talk about it. When friends mentioned it, I assumed it was pity praise and a testament to our bond more than anything.

That assumption’s done. For better or for worse, this is my fate. I might as well embrace it, cause it’s not going away.

I delight in reading suggestions for writers. It’s cool, it’s romantic, it’s got that je ne sais quoi. Of course you want to write your personal opus. And you want it to be the best. Mediocrity isn’t in your vocabulary–which is superb. You know the person you are meant to be. Fill yourself up with that good good, those magic tips that’ll land you on the bestsellers’ list, get on college syllabi, earn yourself tenure. When people say your name they’ll say “You mean the writer?” Yasss, I love some good writing tip porn.

My biggest dream is to have that writer’s space they always talk about (a room of one’s own…sorry, I had to). Squeezing in a bit of typing on lunch breaks, after work on an uneven couch, or stomach side on a bed before a nap just doesn’t give the craft the respect I feel it deserves. I make do, but my Pinterests lean toward big oak desks facing huge windows with clutches of trees outside.

Oooh, another favorite is to set aside time every day to write. That right there is a fabulous life. I’m childless and unmarried, but finding time away from Star Trek reruns, Amazon surfing, last-minute brunch dates and darts to the corner store for last-minute tea? That’s gonna be a problem. But how colorful and quaint a concept: Muting all influences except your mind’s own, preferably staring out the window of your London pied-à-terre, a perfectly warm mug of tea to one side, a stack of completely legible notes to the other. Sixty. minutes. every. day.

Now lemme tell you how I get down.

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Twitter Bop

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In a nutshell: I’m entrenched in social media, for work and for enjoyment. I resisted Twitter for years, presuming there was nothing to be gained there but confirmation that the world is completely illiterate. Eventually I caved, and it’s been a blast. I’ve got about 160 followers from all over (maybe less after this post…hmmm). I enjoy following fellow writers, bantering comedians, History in Pictures (@HistoryInPics), my own friends’ varied projects, and ranting babies (@HonestToddler). Like most, I throw stuff out there, random thoughts, split-second observations, not necessarily expecting a response–particularly when dealing with people in media. I mean, when would they find the time? And really, why would anyone even work up the energy to reply in 140 characters to some inane goof I just tweeted? But let me be clear: they FIND the time, and when they do respond, it’s like someone delivered an unexpected bouquet to my door. There’s:

The TV Weatherman
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Skinny Pete AKA Charles Baker from Breaking Bad
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Your Reluctant Breakfast Stop
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Salute

When I was 12, my grandmother took me on Greyhound to Virginia and North Carolina to meet her two sisters. Along the way we stopped off and stayed the night with a distant relative on a pullout couch. I’d been dozing for about an hour when I heard one, then two screams in rapid succession. I was more shocked than scared; living where I do, I’m used to hearing all sorts of street noise. But this was different. There wasn’t arguing. Someone seemed hurt.

Before I could sit up my grandmother touched my arm. She told me it was OK, that my cousin had been in Vietnam, and that’s what he did in his sleep. We’d had dinner together with his wife and both were friendly and polite. But when he tried to rest, he shouted, barked, and cried out. Even though I was only 12, I knew what Vietnam meant. I often saw men on the street in green army jackets, looking grizzly, carrying baggage. I read a lot and knew people had spit on them and treated them, mostly, as criminals when they came home, not as men in an unimaginable situation doing what their country had asked–or forced–them to do: serve. Later I would read about men escaping to Canada and monied young men who took medical deferments, but my cousin served overseas.

In 1984, PTSD was not a concept. My grandmother told me he was shell-shocked but he was OK, his wife was there, and to try to sleep. I did, but it was fitful. I knew military men like my uncle who drank, or shot heroin or were homeless, while others managed a more seamless transition back to civilian life–mainly by not discussing the war at all. It was simply off the table as a topic.

I’ve never forgotten that visit. I don’t remember my cousin’s name. But I remember he was a veteran, and his night echoed with screams. He came home but brought with him a haunting.

I’m liberal. I’m anti-war, particularly as war in today’s society is rarely about the citizens and more about profiteering. For years I struggled with the idea of men and women choosing to put themselves in dangerous situations. Why would any rational person do this, given the choice? Now I understand it’s a complex matter, it involves shifting variables, and it’s a personal decision. I’ve learned not to judge: how can I, when I see so many of us, with horrible internal and external damage, being undertreated and inadequately supported upon their return home?

It’s a vacation day for many in America, there are sales all over the place for big-ticket items… And that’s fine. It is what it is. I’d like to be more active with my support, but for now I remember my cousin, I respect our troops, and I pray for their safe passage. They’ve earned that, at least. At the very least.
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