Some Funny Ideas About Writing

When it’s not raining, or cold, I like to write outdoors. All I need is my pen and my legal pad, a chair, some shade, and my pipe–and I’m off to Obann.

This is when my neighbors like to play the game, “Talk to the Writer.” If I were just sitting there doing nothing, I could have beanstalks growing out of my head and no one would notice. But as soon as they see I’m working, everybody wants to come over for a chat. On occasion, I have been visited by three or four neighbors simultaneously, while trying to write.

They’ll talk about anything under the sun, but fairly often someone will want to talk about writing.

The question most often–indeed, always–asked is, “How long did it take you to write that book?” For the life of me, I never can see what that has to do with anything. But everyone wants to know. I have no idea why.

And the most common comment is, “I think I’ll write a book someday, if I can ever find the time.” Like it’s something everyone can do! Rocky Bridges once said, “There are three things which everybody in the world thinks he can do–run a hotel, manage a baseball team, and write a book.” He was right.

Many people seem to believe that books and articles write themselves, and I don’t even really have to be there. So the writer is bombarded with invitations to stop writing and come over and see if he can find out why the air conditioner is making strange noises, or what-not. Well, of course, if it’s so easy that literally anyone can do it, I really shouldn’t have to spend that much time on it, should I?

I am convinced they know not what they do.

13 comments on “Some Funny Ideas About Writing

  1. Kudos Lee Duigon:

    Tis true! Sitting down with my laptop, *$’s coffee and pack of Winston’s are a magnet for every neighbor within five miles.

    “All I need to write is a pen, paper and a quart of blood”……Wrote somebody.

    Right on Mr. Duigon – WRITE ON!

    Cordially, / Founding content editor

    1. Give me a lever, a fulcrum, and a place to stand, and I’ll still have fewer interruptions than some poor sod trying to write something.

  2. I remember this well, from the days when I was still doing scholarly research and writing. I’d be trying to fit six months of research into a 20- to 30-page article, with everything laid out in logical sequence and with a good opening page that would lay out my argument without tipping my hand too much …. and just as I had the whole structure put together in my head, someone would ask for help with something or just start a conversation. And when I tried to explain that I was working on an article, I’d get, “But you weren’t DOING anything.” (No, just thinking. Just trying to write most of my article in my head so I’d know how to start it. Or just trying to figure out how to segue gracefully from one of my points to the next one.)

    Sometimes I used to think that if I kept writing or typing nonsense words over and over while I was trying to write my article mentally, people would leave me alone — on the grounds that when the hands are moving, actual work is being done. But with my luck, they’d look over my shoulder and see what I was doing. Besides, even writing nonsense words would require enough mental distraction to break my train of thought.

    1. Oh, I love that! “You aren’t doing anything.” Chesterton wrote a whole essay on that observation. Hey, it all just writes itself.

    2. Years ago, when I was a paralegal, there was a 3-column list of words – meaningless to the material being put forward. The theory was that if you selected a word from anywhere in each column and inserted it into the body of the letter, document, etc., it would sound so important while still remaining meaningless and non-committal. The though was that because it sounded so important, people would never dare ask what on earth it meant. I’ll bet politicians use the same list.

  3. Unless you are literally digging ditches with a pick and shovel, there are a lot of people that can’t conceive of the fact that you could be working.

    On occasion, I have to make programming changes to firewalls, and this requires a lot of concentration and planning, or you could easily create a security weakness. I remember, one fine day, when I was about three hours into cleaning up and streamlining the programming on my firewall and a co-worker noisily burst into my department, and subsequently my office, loudly announcing his presence and totally destroying all of my efforts. I didn’t say a word at the time, it was too late to redeem my efforts because my concentration was shot. When I mentioned it to him later, he seemed completely unfazed that he had done this. To him, it was of less consequence than swatting a mosquito.

    I guess that many people just can’t conceive of much beyond their own experience.

  4. BTW, Lee, I was planning on dropping by and giving you a few pointers on your next book. After that I thought we could talk about how the Rockies could best use their lineup to defeat the Twins in the three games they have scheduled over the next couple of days. After that, maybe you could tell me all about the hotels in your area.

    That last one is a pet peeve, people want me to tell them which hotels/motels in my area are best. Give me a break! Why would I stay in hotels in MY area, I have a home nearby and that’s a lot cheaper. 🙂

    1. What I find astounding is the indignation you receive when you explain that you don’t know anything about hotels in the area.

      A while back, an acquaintance from another part of the country called and was quite upset that I couldn’t connect him with great deals on horse property nearby. I tried explaining that I don’t have any connections to the horse world and that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about property. My house would be OK for someone that wanted one horse, but he had visions of a vast herd. (I wonder if he had thought through the fact that there isn’t much for horses to graze on in these parts and he’d be buying a lot of hay.) Anyhow, within a minute or two, any friendship he ever felt for me was gone, because I couldn’t pull some property listings out of my hat.

      “nobody goes there, it’s too crowded”

      You can see this in action anytime of the night or day in Las Vegas. I have a friend that lives in Las Vegas, and The Strip is now rush hour levels of traffic 24×7. I avoid it like the plague. It used to be a novel place, but now it’s just a place to be seen, at least IMHO.

      I’ve heard that about the Marriott in your area. It’s said to be so crowded that no one has gone there in years. 🙂

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