The Death of My Writing Career
The Death of My Writing Career
Once, years ago when I was married, we found mouse poop in the garage. We put out some traps and Voila! one day, one of the traps did its thing.
While it did, indeed, trap the mouse, it did not kill it. So the top half of the mouse was writhing around while the bottom half was disgustingly smushed. The mouse squealed loudly. In fact, its loud agony is what drew us to the garage in the first place that day.
“We have to put it out of its misery!” I declared. “When I was a kid, my grandmother once finished off a mouse with a can of hairspray. Let me go see what aerosols we have!” I ran off to find the most noxious things in the house. I figured the more potent the better, that way this poor mouse could get on to the business of attending the Afterlife Orientation seminar that he was most certainly scheduled to attend later in the day.
I delivered my armload of poison to the garage and started for the door. “Wait! Why do I have to do this?” my ex-husband asked. I explained that this was a man’s job if ever there was one. (Hat tip to my grandma for handling what needed handled back in the day.)
I went inside and waited for news that the grisly task had been completed.
That news did not arrive.
Instead, the husband walked in looking puzzled and traumatized. He reported that the aerosols didn’t work. The mouse was still kickin’. And furthermore, the whole thing had made him feel terrible.
I was deflated. Now, thanks to us, the mouse was not only half mutilated, but it had a head full of poison.
Still, the only humane thing to do would be to finish the job that we had already started.
“Why don’t you drown it in a bucket?” I suggested. I was starting to feel like the pathetic mastermind behind a duo of failed medieval torturers. I could just imagine the mouse looking up at us and declaring, “I’m not dead yet,” in a charming English accent. Monty Python meets the modern suburbanites.
I retrieved the green bucket I used to mop. I handed it to my ex-husband and he trudged out to the garage. I felt horrible that he had to do this ugly task … and terribly guilty that I was the one turning him into a murderer.
He came back a few minutes later and reported that it was done. Hallelujah.
However, he also reported that the mouse didn’t go quietly. Of course it didn’t. The trap and the mouse apparently floated. And then the mouse started swimming, dragging the trap behind it.
I half expected him to tell me that the mouse then unzipped his mousey costume and a tiny John Cleese wriggled his way out.
But no. He then had to go hunting for something to hold the trap down under the water. A stick, a hammer … I don’t know what. My brain was too over-run with guilt to take in any more details.
The point was, the mouse was finally dead. Not mostly dead. But dead dead.
What were we talking about here?
So why do I bring up this story?
Because every few years I try to kill my writing aspirations. Not the stuff that pays the bills — the client work, the ghost writing, blah, blah, blah — but the other stuff.
However, no matter what I do, that part of my brain puts up a fight on the order of John Mousey Cleese and refuses to die.
I’ve had times in my life where I’ve written a lot. Where I can’t stop writing, even when I’m not physically at a keyboard. The words are just coming — and not in a beautiful dream-like way, but in an incredibly irritating, pecking-the-living-fuck-out-of-my-brain way. They wake me up in the middle of the night and won’t let me go back to sleep.
It can be really annoying.
And also great.
But I’ve never turned that part of my writing life into anything that ever made money. I’ve made a few bucks here and there, but nothing that would ever add any serious heft to my finances. So sometimes I convince myself that because I haven’t made real money yet, I shouldn’t write. Because I’ve never gathered up all of this wordly mess in my brain and turned it into a book, it’s not something I should spend my time on.
You know … instead of writing here on my blog, I could be prospecting for new clients. I could be getting ahead with existing clients. I could be formulating pitches for publications that might pay me something — the marriage of my creative and professional work. Win-win, right? Or maybe not. (I just read a great piece by Neil Kramer on this. He really nailed how I feel about this.)
In any case, I’ve got a little writing mouse inside of me that will not stop fighting. It wants to live. It doesn’t care if it’s half mangled and brain damaged from all of the abuse I’ve tried to put it through. It will swim all night if it means that it gets to take another breath of air. If I’m going to kill it, I’m going to have to resort to some gruesome means that will hurt my heart and damage my soul.
So this time, I will let it live. I will take that little mouse out of the bucket. I will free it from the trap. I ‘m going stick it outside in the grass and see what it does. Who I am to judge what quality of life it’s going to have? Who am I to assume that a hawk or a cat is going to grab it for dinner? After what this mouse has been through, it’s likely to spit in that predator’s eye.
So if you’ve read this far, let me ask you … what have you been trying to suffocate in your life? What would happen if you let it breathe?
P.S. to Tom: Sorry about the mouse. I still feel about bad about it.
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