“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a professional, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
― Agatha Christie, An Autobiography
Those of you who follow me on Facebook, or Twitter know that this has been a rough summer. I broke my wrist in June, had surgery on it in July, lost my beloved muse Hutch in August. Gee, world, shoot me, why don’t cha.
Good news, I broke the left wrist, bad news, keyboards are left handed. Good news, once it was determined I needed surgery I had to take medical leave from my day job. Bad news, pain, pain, pain. All that wonderful writing time I thought I was going to have was reduced to sound bites. Good news, voice recognition software has come a long way. Couple it with really good headphones and you can dictate a first draft. Bad news, it’s still not perfect. Good news, editing the daily work in progress does make for a cleaner first draft and if you do it in the morning, you have a leg up on where the story is heading. News so bad it took my breath away and I still have not recovered. Hutch, my beloved Hutch, my favorite cat and muse is gone.
Indulge me for a moment. Hutch and his two siblings were found in a sewer drain just before a tropical storm was due to hit Miami. Their eyes were not yet open. Public works called my vet’s housemate who ran an animal rescue and he fetched the kittens. It is likely they were feral and the mother cat moved them to the drain. The mother was never found. My vet raised them until they were an adoptable age. I’ve had Hutch ever since. He was 14. He talked. He said “feed me,” “love you,” “hello,” and his favorite, “no.” He also sat beside me when I wrote and tapped my arm if a story was going in the wrong direction. When I had cancer, he knew when I was feeling particularly awful and would sit beside me with his paw on my forehead. If I had an ache or pain he would curl up and let his body heat ease the ache. He was magical. He had a routine dental. All went well, his heart stopped in recovery, my vet started CPR and brought him back. Three days later it was determined that he had no higher brain function and all he could do was breathe on his own. We let him go to the Rainbow Bridge.
This was the summer of serious decisions. It was easier to read than write. Writing caused pain, physical at first, emotional later. The question became, did I want to write, or did I want to enjoy the writing of others? No shame in either course of action. It’s not easy to write with a full-time job, and now that I had the time, pain was robbing me of creativity and the joy that writing had always brought. Maybe the writing gods were speaking. Maybe it was time to listen. Even with voice recognition software, pain was a constant companion. Creativity and pain are not happy bedfellows.
It was not a private pity party – you too were invited – didn’t you get your invitation? Just as I was about to hang up my laptop I remembered that series I wanted to write based in the Keys, the one I’d started. The one that wouldn’t let me rest. Those characters started talking again and wouldn’t shut up. Why were they interfering with my morose mood? Who invited them? unable to shut them up, I pulled on my very high-end Corsair gaming headset, the one that can hear a pin drop at fifty paces and started talking.
I nearly gave up again when Hutch left me. He had been by my side through every book and short story I’d ever written. When I came home from saying good-bye to him I went through my old photo albums to remember the good times we had together. In the pages of one of the albums was the Christie quote at the top of this blog. I’d had it on my office wall when I lived in Maine. “Write even when you don’t want to.” The words struck a chord deep in my heart. Everyone has trouble. I don’t have a corner on the heartache market.
When the Florida Keys mysteries come out, I’m planning twelve, each will be dedicated to Hutch, and to Dame Agatha for being there in a most mysterious way.
Have you ever had an occasion where you received exactly what you needed when you needed it? How did it work out?