by Bethany Maines
So first things first… Ladies, take your calcium and do more weight bearing exercises! Osteoperosis is not a joke – a fact that I’m sure my mother-in-law will attest to considering that my husband and I spent most of last weekend in the hospital with her and her fractured pelvis. She slipped and fell while taking a walk on a beach with a friend – yes, the rocks were slick, but stronger bones would have helped. More preventative care for the rest of you please!
And now to the part about writing… a dirty little secret of writing, in fact. I also made great progress on my manuscript weekend. I whipped through chapter 4 and straight into chapter 7. We’re in Act 3 folks and that’s a good thing, as The Martha would say.
The hospital was about an hour away and there were several “breaks” where my husband and I were sitting in the waiting room twiddling our thumbs. Only, I didn’t twiddle my thumbs – I drug out my laptop and worked on my manuscript. And this isn’t the first hospitalization that helped increase my writing quota. Waiting on someone else’s baby is the best – they’re good news, they take forever, and peripheral family members usually bring food. But it occurred to me, as I hammered out a few paragraphs during a nurse visit, that there is something slightly… inappropriate about the way I’ve capitalized on other people’s hospital visits. Something slightly callous, carnivorous, and more than slightly selfish.
I’ve known for quite some time that writer’s are an exploitive lot. My brother put down my first book, looked at me in exasperation and said, “Damn it, now no one’s ever going to believe that I came up with that line.” Two days later he called me up... “You said you using my story about Bangkok, but I didn’t think you were, you know, using the whole thing.” But somehow in my head, putting to print the story about my friend having to climb underwearless up an elevator shaft (“It was a long skirt! Who knew I’d be stuck in an elevator with my boss and company’s VP?”) while possibly a friendship infraction is sort of… well, it’s what you get for telling a writer that story.
I also tune people out during boring conversations. I’m sure they’re saying something vastly important about TPS reports or whatever, but I’ll never know because I just came up with a great way to kill someone off. And once I named a really despicable little character after an English teacher who told me I wasn’t very creative. “I will eviscerate you in fiction,” are not just pretty words for a writer (thank you Paul Bettany/Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale).
And I can’t say I feel guilty about any of that. But as I sat in the waiting room I wondered if writing during tragedy might actually be bad. My mother-in-law will recover (after 3-4 months bed rest, loads of pain medication, and physical therapy), and at the time I was writing I knew she was in capable hands, but shouldn’t I have been worrying more? Shouldn’t I be pacing the halls like they show in the movies? Is it bad that I hear “hospital visit” and I reach for my laptop bag?