I’ve written hundreds of newspaper columns because I’ve carved out the time to make the writing happen. I’m just too busy to devote unlimited hours to the craft I love.
For me, it’s between 3 and 5 a.m. that works best, although I understand that many think I’m nuts to rise in the middle of the night to commit my thoughts to paper. But it’s quiet then, and my mind is clear, and writers are a superstitious bunch. We like habits, rituals — dare I say compulsions — that help get the work done. I open my Five Star spiral notebook, uncap my blue medium-point Paper Mate pen and write a word, a sentence — and if I’m really lucky — a paragraph at a time.
But sometimes I get a whole day that’s wide open and, I think, why not use it to write?
Last Thursday, life intervened. A perfect storm of this and that required me to be at home. The cooling and heating guy was scheduled for a routine maintenance check-up. The Salvation Army truck was coming over to pick up an old sleeper couch. I had to visit my dentist later in the afternoon, but that still left me several hours of uninterrupted time to write.
But first I had to finish making corrections on the proof of my upcoming book, a collection of columns written for this newspaper. I’m halfway through deleting misplaced commas and quotation marks when my computer crashes. Frozen screen. Nothing works.
Not 10 seconds later, the doorbell rings. It’s the cooling and heating guy with his partner. They’d been here before, so they went right to work, which included lots of banging, scraping, and thumping up and down the basement stairs to go get this or put back that.
Meanwhile, I’m on the phone with my wife, Betty, who tells me what to do to get the computer running again. That was easy, but I have to call the publisher to help walk me through the transmission of my edited manuscript.
As I click the “send” button, I hand the cooling and heating guy a credit card. Then the phone rings. The Salvation Army truck will be here in 10 minutes.
Two nice guys arrive right on time, give the couch the once-over, and one of them says, “Sorry, man. We can’t take this. It’s stained.”
“Nope, that’s the policy. Have a nice day.”
Next, I’m back on the phone with Betty, who’s less than thrilled that the monstrosity is still in the basement.
“Hey, that’s funny. Good to know you’ve kept you’re sense of humor in these trying times.”
“I’m serious. Call that number!”
Now it’s 1:30, 90 minutes before my dentist appointment. I call the number and a nice young woman insists she can get two guys to pick up the couch within the next half hour.
But it’s feeding time at the wild animal preserve. Three cats have been stalking me for hours, and one of them needs its medicine before any of them can eat. By the time I lock two of them in the bathroom so I can conceal a pill in a morsel of food, the junk guys arrive.
By the time that hideous couch is out of the basement, it’s time to go to the dentist. The air conditioner is good to go, the cat has been medicated, and my book is one step closer to being published.
And, as a writer, I’ll continue to keep vampire hours. It’s the only way this column will ever get written.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.