Monday, April 27, 2009

What Doesn't Kill Us ...

I got to thinking this weekend. And it hurt. So I stopped.

But while I was thinking, it dawned on me that these past 6 months have been arguably the hardest I have had to face, and yet I'm still standing. Winter 08-09 was a bitch.

The pipes in our bathroom burst, and now there are walls missing behind the toilet and shower; we ran out of fuel and had to resort to using 10 gallons of kerosene on a number of occasions; our 1994 Suburban crapped out numerous times, leaving us to have to tuck tail and ask to use a relative's vehicle; the porch roof, where the porch meets the house, leaks to the extent that there was an inch of ice in the last third of the porch; a new leak developed in the bathroom; the barn, which is three stories tall and connected to the house, is settling in the northeast corner, bringing with it the deck, which looks like the deck of the Titanic just before it sank. I'm the one out there rearranging the chairs...

The list is longer, to be sure, but that's a taste. Which leads me to the subject of this blog entry.

I got to thinking. Friday, we got a call from the mechanic looking over the Suburban. His job was to give it an inspection sticker after fixing the problems he found. Instead of telling us it was done and ready, his comment to Corrine was, and I quote, "If you were ever thinking of buying something new, now is the time."

It seems there is around $1,000 worth of work to be done in order for the thing to be road worthy.

That conversation just seemed to cap the winter. The sky was a crystalline blue. There was a warm breeze tracing down High Street. Buds on the trees were popping. It was spring.

We had survived sleeping on our mattress in front of the wood stove; we had survived having to shower using a bucket of water warmed up on said wood stove; we had survived thawing the pipes in the basement; we had survived another winter of shoveling tons of snow off our precariously unstable deck.

That call on Friday was not good news. We're using my father's truck. Have been since I got stopped by the State Police for having no sticker...and a missing rear view mirror...and a missing side view mirror...and balding tires. The second time I had been stopped in a week's time by the police.

Somehow, even though that telephone call should very well have sent both of us over the edge, it didn't. Spring does that. If winter is a night of bad dreams, spring is the next morning when you realize you are still alive. The monsters are not as big as they seemed.

This winter did not defeat us. It put things into perfect perspective. Especially for me.

So as I said, I got to thinking. My biggest problem lately has not been broken pipes and broken cars. It's been a broken creative spirit. What I love to do more than anything is to sit in isolation and relative quiet and chronicle the problems - the failures and the successes - of make-believe characters.

And lately, I have even failed at doing that.

And I could not figure out why I was so blocked, blaming it on the overwhelmingly piss-poor winter. One thing after another distracting me away from creativity. Emitting from my mouth the kind of self-defeating, self-pitying blather that only weak people use.

When the answer has been right there in front of me.

I'm trying too hard. I'm working too hard on making believe, struggling to string together fictional narratives about people to whom I cannot relate. It's no wonder I feel like my writing is so fake, because it is.

I'm not putting into practice the number one bit of advice all writers hear when they begin their careers: to write what you know.

Last night I began to jot some notes down. Notes about a man who lives in a house and, over the course of one winter, has to deal with burst pipes, a broken car, haunting debt and coming to terms with his own limitations.

It's a comedy.


  1. Burst pipes, a broken car, haunting debt, limitations...and a effing HOT WIFE!!!

  2. Actually, that sounds like it would be a wonderful comedy. I hope it takes you places in your writing that you really want to go, because I suspect it'll be brilliant!

  3. I hear ya! Only my "story" would resemble one of those B thriller movies that is too lame to watch yet you can't look away. Kind of like a good train wreck.

  4. Yes - funny in that "gotta laugh so you don't shoot yourself" kinda way, right?

  5. Mary Ellen ..