Since we’ve been sheltering in place I’ve gotten an opportunity to observe the world outside of my office window. There is a Crepe Myrtle that serves as a staging area for the birds and the squirrels as they prepare to make a lightening raid on the bird feeders that we’ve placed in the front yard under it. I’ve learned that the birds actually like the rain. I guess it’s their opportunity to shower.
I also get to watch as the neighbors go on walks or mow their lawns. I suppose they watch me as I fill the bird feeders or drag the trash bin to the curb the night before trash day.
Occasionally, something out of the ordinary will happen. Like the other day when a man in a truck and a woman in a car pulled up across the street, got out of their vehicles, and messed with some boxes that were sitting on the curb. I later discovered that they were salvaging the broken water heater that the neighbor had set out at the curb for the monthly garbage pickup.
Another day, a young man was standing in the street looking at his phone. I didn’t recognize him as anyone from the neighborhood. I looked away for a minute and he was gone. That had me baffled until about fifteen minutes later he came down the driveway of the neighbor across the street.
I’ve recently realized that there are a couple of things that I need to do to become a better writer. The first is to read a wide range of books, both fiction and non-fiction. The other is to pay attention to the details of life as it unfolds around me. It’s those details that make a story sing with sincerity.
I am slightly chagrined to admit that before we were stuck in isolation, I often was oblivious to the small details of things that were happening around me. It’s only now, when I have a very limited palate of details to observe, that I realize the value of doing so.
I’m also using it as an opportunity to practice how I plan to live when I retire. That is a trick statement. Although I plan to retire from the job that I currently hold, eventually, I don’t intend to quit working. Instead, I’m going to use it as an excuse to step out on faith and start a second career as an author.
That was the plan anyway. Until I realized that my 401K had taken a dive in value due to the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. Now it is totally up in the air when I’ll be able to execute my career change maneuver. I feel like the proverbial prisoner with golden handcuffs.
So now I have resolved to keep working on my writing skills. Keep participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November. Keep attending my weekly Write In every Wednesday night. Keep on meeting with The Downtown Writers Group, my critique group. We’ll keep publishing our annual short story collection and I’ll keep contributing at least one story to it. And each year I’ll look at what I’ve written and realize that I am slowly but surely getting better.
Fairly early in the process of learning to write someone gave me some good advice. They said, and I paraphrase here, “The only difference between a writer and an author is that an author has published his work commercially. A writer writes. If you write, you are a writer. If you want to be an author, write every day, read widely, and finish things. “
I thought this period of isolation would give me more of an opportunity to practice writing. It has helped me keep the goals that I already had in place but I haven’t been able to significantly increase the amount of writing that I get done. It turns out that after spending eight hours or so sitting in my office working, I find there are other things that need my attention around the house. Not the least of which is my darling wife, two dogs, and cat.
I am lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home. I am lucky to still have a job. I count my blessings. But I still strive for more. You have to have a dream to get up in the morning.
Stay safe, maintain social distance, wear protective masks for the sake of others, and appreciate every day you have.