Archive for July, 2013

Convincing yourself you’re too busy to read is almost worse than convincing yourself you’re too busy to write. The truth is, you are never too busy to do either. Yes, there are things that may shrivel if they aren’t tended to. Creditors might start calling, friends might stop calling, a few pounds may be gained and your menu de jour may suffer, but I’ll tell you what won’t bloom if you fail to stop and sniff the dust jackets – your dreams.

A writer must do many (oh so dauntingly many) things to hone and cultivate their craft, one of which is, you guessed it, writing. But the other is reading. It’s crucial to a writer. What to do, and often times more to the point, what not to do, can be learned from losing yourself in someone else’s work.

For what seems like forever, I’ve been depriving myself of this easily accessible and potentially enjoyable education. Except, it hasn’t been forever. As a child, teen and young adult, I was a gluttonous reader. And, when my own kids were young and I was only slightly less than housebound, I devoured whatever I could get my hands on; Anita Shreve and Frank McCourt kept me company even while furious fingers and miniature mouths savagely suckled syrup-sweet sustenance.

Yes, while flying in planes, riding in cars, enduring long waits and relaxing under stars, I would read; an insatiable, undeterrable, indisputable addict of the written word.

So, what changed? Put simply, me.

When did I change? Just so happens it was during the most crucial time possible; the time when I began to think about writing in a more serious fashion.

Why did I change? I’m not sure even I understand it completely, but here’s the gist. I developed a mindset – if I wasn’t writing my own stuff, I didn’t deserve the privilege of reading others’.

Big, no…enormous mistake. Reading is inspiring, enlightening, developmental and motivational. Why would I deprive myself of that?

Well, it’s also shaming.

A writer’s writer hat rarely, if ever, gets tossed onto the banister or into the back seat. We read with writing on our minds. We taste each word with a different condiment. A boatload of gravy; “Awesome, that’s the way I would’ve written it.” A pinch of salt; “Ooh, I wish I’d thought of that.” A dollop of sour cream; “If I’d actually sit down and write, I could come up with something just as good.” Too much salt; “I am so jealous, my mouth is puckering.” So much rich chocolate sauce it gives you a bellyache; “I will never write as well as that.”

In all honesty, dreaming, talking and writing about writing will get us nowhere. It takes focus and intent. It begs experience and exploration. It demands we eat, sleep and breathe our craft and that of likeminded others. Never forget this. As writers, we not only deserve to read the work of others, we owe it to our own readers even more. Without it, we are just babbling buffoons.

If you need a pivotal place to partake, I hear that Khaled Hosseini guy is pretty proficient.

Oh, the shame.

Me, inhaling "And The Mountains Echoed" at the lake this week

Me, inhaling “And The Mountains Echoed” at the lake this week

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This is a rewrite. The original is here. Just wondering what you think. As usual, all feedback welcome…

What Matters

His hand, light as paper, slides off his chest onto the sheet beside him. Blue veins press at the waxy skin and pulse pointless blood through his withering form. I touch his arm. Although heavy with burden, he resembles feathery tissue tufting from a Kleenex box.

Stiff in every joint, I shift my chair to face his side table, its bottom drawer becoming a makeshift footrest. I allow my head to idle a mere moment on the back of the vinyl chair, perplexed that the once unwelcome din of the fluorescents has become a comforting presence during these last silent days.

A sigh rattles the stale air and I startle until I realize it’s mine. It’s the end. Our laughs and labours all coming to an abrupt finish, our last scene falling to the cutting room floor as the director decides he doesn’t like the ending we’ve scripted for ourselves. Waiting for death is proving ruthless in every sense of the word.

I turn on the soft lamp brought from home and get up to quiet the bright overheads. He stirs slightly as I walk to the switch near the door.


His voice shakes me. It’s dry and haggard, breathy. It’s been so many days since I’ve heard him speak.

“I’m here, honey. Right here.”

“Abi.” His fluttering eyes animate an otherwise dormant body, moths frantically searching for light.

“It’s okay,” I tell him. “Rest now, love.”

His feet begin to glide back and forth under the sheet like fins, sharks just below the water’s surface, circling their prey.

I look away.

“I haven’t,” he stops, unable to catch his breath.

I cup his hand in both of mine and squeeze each finger soothingly.

“No, not now, Paul. Please, you need sleep.”


“Hush. No talking. We’ll do plenty of that later,” I fable, willing him childlike naiveté.

“There was a time,” he chokes, “when I failed you. God, I failed myself.” Air catches, unearthing another enormous wheeze. “Not a day’s gone by that I…if only I could change it, Abi.” 

Reaching to stroke his face, I remember the many moments he had done the same for me in much less severe times of need. His skin is cool and clammy, expiring. Remorse courses over his temples and darkens parts of the worn, blue fabric covering his pillow.

“Paul, you’re upsetting yourself. There’s no need, sweetheart. Close your eyes now.” 

I climb up onto the bed and with the tip of my finger; his lids are gently drawn one at a time. I pull him in and he folds like a stack of cards. I lay whispering sweet nothings, his sharp hip poking at my belly all the while.

I begin recounting our first years as what’s left of his hair waltzes with my every word. The silly card we’d fought over, the day we’d gone for a quick shop and ended up stuck in the snow, slowly grazing through the groceries we’d thankfully packed into the back seat. Breaking off bits of cheese and chunks of baguette, we’d sung all the songs we knew and some we didn’t, almost regretful when the tow truck finally showed up. I chuckled at the memory of Paula’s quick and comical birth, straining my neck to see if he was smiling. He looked wistful at best.

I talk about how he had patiently taught me to swim despite me being terrified of the water and convinced me I was good enough to attempt art school when I’d felt less than worthy. I tell him that he’s been an incredible father and that I’m so very thankful to have been his partner. I whisper the hours away, revisiting each page of the life we’ve written together, skipping only one.

It’s not until the short beeps become a solid strike piercing my heart that I turn back to it; “I knew about her, Paul. I always did. She just didn’t matter to me as much as you.”

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