A monthly column of wit, insight, irreverance and inspiration by a published author and veteran of the publishing trenches.

The Ink-Stained Wretch: "The Big Easy"

Don Whittington

December, 1998


This is how easy it is:

You get up at six because you have to get ready for work and the kids need help to get ready for school, so you bustle and rage about until all the humans are out of the house and as you're leaving you look at your computer or typewriter or notebook and promise that soon you'll be back to writing your book.

At work you have lots of time to organize your thoughts about your writing because work is so easy, and you aren't ever called on to do anything, really, so the whole day is spent imagining all these wonderful scenes for your hero and heroine and their little brown dog. Well, the whole day except for the part where the boss is haranguing you and you're getting out the Snooberson report and your co-worker is complaining about how he/she never gets laid or how he/she is getting laid all the time (just not very well) and the school calls to tell you the middle child threw up something especially interesting during science class and could you please come fetch her, and on the way out inhuman resources reminds you how this is the third time in two months you've taken this personal time.

And the child is really sick so it's doctor time but as you have no appointment and nothing on the child is actually sticking out that shouldn't be, it will be a while but hey, all that time in the waiting room could be used to imagine a thrilling confrontation between your hero and villain were it not for the magazine article about the twenty-three year old who just sold his first novel (it's about prep school angst) for six-figures (it's a hundred twenty five pages long) because it's so daring and brilliant and all (there's no dialogue, characters or description other than a long passage of free verse describing how the author's toe cheese reminds him of Bhudda) and suddenly you're in a bad mood.

Later you get the medicated child home only to greet a spouse who reminds you the Stoobleberry's are coming by for an evening of Parcheesi and you spend the whole night trying to think about your story with the un-stoobleberry'd portion of your attention but you can't because all you can think instead is that your story is in the next room for crying out loud and you can't even go in there for a minute or someone (could it be a spouse?) will think you're a selfish spoilsport and you keep trying to smile even when Stoobleberry Prime gives you a patronizing smile and says "Are you still working on that book?" and you think, "Yes, asshole, I am" but say, "Ha-ha! Yes I am" instead and everybody thinks your attitude is just so cute you would happily throttle the lot of them if only you could be sure there'd be a typewriter in your jail cell.

Finally the Stoobleberry's leave and now the spouse says "We need to talk" and you groan knowing that if you're a man the wife wants to know why you aren't "x-ing" like you used to and if you're a woman the hubby wants to know when you're going to take some responsibility for things and give up this stupid "hobby."

And you're so damned angry by this point you don't dare try to write a scene because you'd kill all the characters and suddenly you think how interesting that would be if all the characters were killed and now you're too busy thinking about that to write anything else and you go to bed still thinking about it and if you make love you just pretend to pay attention because your mind is actually too busy struggling with the problem of finishing a story in which everyone has died.

"Ooooh, oh, yes! I need a Fortinbras," you moan and your spouse leaps from bed all offended that you require some sex toy he/she never heard of (your mileage may vary) and so everybody goes to sleep angry.

Somehow, out of an endless stream of days just exactly like this one, you manage to actually produce a book.

And after countless rejections, it gets accepted. And after tedious rewrites and anxious months of waiting, it gets published. And you wait for the applause, the admiration, the atta-boys.

But in a blaze of insight you realize the real truth: for the most part your friends and loved ones are no more proud of what you've done than if you had organized the third grade bake sale.

You approve of this attitude and hate it all at once.

This is how murder mysteries are born.