top of page

Whose Writer's Life is It?

Every author knows for authentic writing, one must live the writer's life. Before my fingertips touch the keyboard, I don my white turtle-neck sweater and tweed smoking jacket with leather elbow patches, an ensemble featured on a thousand book back covers. Snapping the brim on my Mickey Spillane fedora, I sit down in front of the computer. I don't smoke, so I omit the briar pipe, instead clenching a long, empty Hunter S. Thompson cigarette holder in my teeth, tilted up at a jaunty angle.

My screen remains blank, no ideas flow.

I take a sip of single-malt Scotch whiskey. Whoa! That's disgusting at nine o'clock in the morning. How did Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald do it? Fitzgerald had a crazy wife who could have driven him to drink. But, I love my sane wife. On second thought, she is somewhat wacked-out, as she puts up with me and my writing. Papa had four wives. I don't even want to go there.

I rise, pacing my barren Parisian writer's garret and throw open the wooden window shutters. Instead of a perfectly-framed view of the Eiffel Tower, all I see is my back yard where the grass wants mowing.

Still stumped, I recall both Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Hemingway endured multiple airplane crashes, usually in Africa. Could that be the secret to inspiration? No, it sounds expensive and painful. I'll pass on the plane wrecks. Although, if I squint just right, my overgrown lawn resembles the Serengeti's green plains, only much smaller.

Back at the computer, nothing doing.

Maybe hanging out in a coffee shop would do the trick, I could take my laptop to Starbucks. Didn't Henrik Ibsen write in coffee shops? J K Rowling as well, but not at the same shop. Hemingway nursed cups of coffee for hours at Les Deux Magots bistro in Paris. No, after a few skinny, half-soy, mocha frappuccinos I get pretty wired and type gibberish.

At Key West, Papa always had six-toed cats underfoot. Is there something about a cat which induces a writer to think? It would never happen for me, my old catahoula/border collies wouldn't stand for having cats around, regardless of their number of toes.

I pull open the desk drawer under the word processor, or word non-processor at this point, and check for my Elmore Leonard nickel-plated, snub-nosed .38 revolver. The piece is not loaded, never fired. I stash it back beneath the keyboard hoping its karma will rub off.

It doesn't.

Tattoos! That's the ticket, I'll get tattoos. Ray Bradbury had tattoos, the kind which move at night illustrating stories. Naw, that would never work, they'd keep my wife awake and she'd be really cranky after being up all night watching sci-fi tales.

Suddenly, deep insight hits me like a blinding flash of the obvious. My own writer's life is perfect. I ditch the duds, dump the Scotch, devolve to my usual attire of tee-shirt, jeans, and NY Yankees ball cap. I scritch a dog behind her ears with a tattoo-free hand.

The words, bright words, the right words, come easily now. The sentences stream effortlessly across my screen, the narrative tracks dividing, merging, flowing like fluent rivulets from the melting snows of Kilimanjaro. It's the writer's life for me.

bottom of page