The only things a writer is ever guaranteed: calluses on the fingertips and deadlines.
June 21, 2013
The following is a creative transcript.
Long overdue for a social visit, friends and writing partners, Marie Beswick-Arthur and Erin Staley, take the opportunity to lunch. Green tea ordered; sushi menus front and center; no calendars on the table, the visit begins.
E: Have you ever had calluses from typing too much?
M: No. I’ve only had them when I played guitar.
E: (displays hands in high-five position) I used to have them on my feet from dancing, and now I’m sure I have them on my fingertips.
M: I don’t think that can happen.
E: Feel them. (pushing hands forward for closer inspection)
M: (a tentative touch) Maybe they do feel a bit rough. Wait a minute! I thought this was a personal lunch date…
E: Look at this build up. The more deadlines I have, the worse it gets.
M: We should write it down, the callus bit. Writer’s block has been done, but I’m pretty sure writer’s calluses have never been touched before. (digs in purse, looks defeated, locates pen in hair, begins to tremble)
E: What’s the matter?
M: This is the first time I left my notebook at home.
E: That explains the nervous twitching. (server approaches) Oh, sorry. We need a few minutes.
M: (no longer in panic mode Marie has discovered her placemat is paper—turns it over to blank side)
E: What are you doing?
M: I’m writing the callus thing. We might use it sometime.
E: So, I have this piece I need to write. It’s supposed to be deep and observational, but I just don’t think that I write like that. I’m more about the non-fiction for kids, travel writing. Copy with punch!
M: Not observational? You were completely Lady B in that short story. Totally inside her head, I mean his head. A female impersonator who after the last performance of his career had to stop for milk for the grandchildren? Huge depth.
M: Ohmigosh, we haven’t even looked at the menu. (turns to Erin) Do you think other writing partners are capable of having a work-free lunch?
E: (shrugs off question, studies own fingertips) You know that non-fiction book I wrote for Rosen? Maggie Stiefvater actually ‘auditioned’ a handful of authors before settling on the two she works with now. Two co-authored books, a blog and many book signings later, the Merry Sisters of Fate still support each other.
M: I can’t imagine auditioning a writing buddy. But then again, maybe we did that subconsciously, when we met at Spanish lessons, and then spent the rest of the day talking shop.
E: We’re our own version of the Merry Fates, except they’ve always been spread across the US and meet up occasionally. The rest of the time, they are connecting virtually.
M: We’re going to be more like the Merry Sisters now that you’ll be traveling.
E: We’ll keep ping ponging those drafts and ‘atta girls’ just like always.
E: Yep, those too.
M: By the way, thanks for your latest comments on my chapter from the Henderson manuscript. Now that I’ve got your feedback, I’m adjusting it for the agent. I guess Michael Crichton was right when he said, “books aren’t written—they’re rewritten.” My rewrite is still Henderson, but the story is becoming more dimensional.
E: Have you hit the hundredth revision mark?
M: I’ve stopped counting. I live and breathe Henderson, but sometimes I feel I could snap. I can understand why some writers quit. Because it’s not just about romancing the free-fall—the bulk of the work is after the ‘affair with the idea.’
E: That and one more thing every writer must do.
M: Exactly! Nothing gets done unless my butt’s in the chair.
E: I bet your butt cheeks are callused.
(Marie signals with nod that server is behind Erin—server clears throat, walks away)
E: Oh, please. He’s not picturing your tush. You know, I’ve noticed that some writers only write when inspired. But when you’re on assignment, you have to be able to turn on the creativity faucet. I rely on my routine. A little mood lighting, some themed music…
M: That sounds like choreography!
E: Well, my bio says I’m a ‘literal choreographer.’ I set the stage. Don’t you?
M: No, my problem is turning off the taps—too many ideas. (holds up word-filled placemat) So does that routine include exercise? That’s something else I’ve heard stimulates creativity.
E: Yeh, I’ve got a new program. (wiggles fingers in the air) It’s called callus-thenics!