It wasn’t the first time I’d tried the program. I’d done it online once before, with extremely temporary results. All that tracking was more than I could be bothered with, especially for the long haul.
On the other hand, at least on Weight Watchers I got to eat. In the late 1980s, Slim-Fast had a commercial that sang, “Give us a week, we’ll take off the weight.” One night, I thought, “Okay, fine. I have a week.” Sure enough, I lost weight. Mind you, the Slim-Fast plan at that time meant having one of their shakes three times a day (two meals and a snack), with one “sensible” meal. Who couldn’t lose weight on that? Especially in combination with a lot of walking and Jane Fonda’s low-impact aerobics (which were so low-impact that I didn’t bother my downstairs neighbor). Alas, keeping the weight off once I returned to a more traditional lifestyle, i.e., eating more than one meal a day, proved . . . impossible. Sigh.
It’s been a crazy few weeks, to put it mildly. Work pressures (including an unusually complicated appellate brief and a client preparing for trial), holidays, out-of-town relatives in town, and rehearsal for this weekend’s performance of Haydn’s The Creation. When I was finally able to take a day off last week—my first in nearly three weeks—I spent it cleaning the house and finally putting down most of the rugs I’d picked up from the cleaners a month earlier.
Unsurprisingly, writing has been sidelined during this period. Although my mind has never stopped trying to resolve various plot problems in my novel-in-progress, it’s been a struggle to find time, inclination, and energy all that the same time so that I can commit any of it to the page and see whether these notions actually work.
I never used to have any interest in audiobooks. They weren’t real books. Real books were in print, on paper. Maybe on tablets, but that was as much as I was willing to cede. Audiobooks—originally on tapes and CDs—seemed like a great idea for when I was out walking or driving, but they required too much concentration, because as soon as my mind wandered—traffic light, somebody crossing the street, hawk swooping across my path—I lost the thread and had to back up. I tried to embrace the audiobook of Frances Mayes’ Bella Tuscany, telling myself I’d only listen to the tapes when out walking. The incentive plan, I thought. Instead, after countless backups to capture moments I’d missed because of things I’d seen or heard around me, I gave up entirely. The walks ceased, and the tapes ended up in a box in the garage. Clearly, audiobooks weren’t for me.
The person who said this to me is an aspiring fashion designer I’ll call “Jon.” We have never met in person. I have never seen his work. Our sole contact to date has been one telephone conversation that started out in the context of both of our day jobs. And yet. . . .
“You’ve inspired me today.”
It all began when I called the appellate clerks’ office to find out whether an appeal has been filed. In the course of the conversation, Jon asked me to spell the name of the potential appellant. I did so, and he reported that no appeal had been filed.
The problem is that I used most of them in my first book.
When I wrote State v. Claus, I sort of took the easy way out. After all, writing a novel was daunting business—no reason to make it harder. So the main character was a lawyer because I know how to be a lawyer. After decades of appearing in court and reading reams of trial transcripts, the courtroom scenes were a snap to write. Deciding what crimes Ralph would be charged with and what the elements were required nothing more than the legal database I use on a daily basis. The dynamics of law firm life were second nature. Even researching details of criminal procedure was easy: I talked to a lawyer I knew whose practice consisted primarily of representing individuals accused of crimes.
I wish the research for the sequel to State v. Claus was a fraction as easy.
My house needs to be cleaned. The laundry needs to be done. The tax documents need to be sorted, totaled, and entered into the spreadsheet for my accountant. The kitchen needs reorganizing. And don’t even get me started on the state of the basement and the garage.
All that said, you know what I’ve done over the past 72 hours?
When we last met, I recounted the tale of how my air handler turned itself on late one frigid night.
(To digress: I have since learned that some people are not familiar with air handlers. An air handler is the big metal box in the attic that contains the wiring for the fan which is part of the central air conditioning system. Without the air handler to—well, handle the air—none of the cool air created by the compressor (which sits outside) would actually get distributed through the house. I don’t blame you if you didn’t know. Until my first air handler caught fire, I didn’t know either, and the thing had been in my attic for seventeen years.)
(I should point out that it’s hard to take a storm seriously that sounds as if it’s named for a little boy or, for those of us who recall the 1970s, a teen heartthrob.)
Forecasters tend to get excited about such dramatic weather events. I imagine it has something to do with how seldom they occur. Also, if they fail to hype the event enough and it turns out to be a big deal, the same people who complain about they overhype every snowflake will shriek and moan about how somebody should have told them this was going to be a big deal.
“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” ~ Flannery O’Connor
From the time I was twenty until I was forty-six, I barely wrote a word of fiction.
God, what a waste.
A devastating college workshop experience left me convinced I had nothing to say and didn’t know how to say it anyway. On that dark February evening, I sat in stunned silence at a conference table as a handful of seniors mocked my story mercilessly. No one else spoke up (although one student told me later, “I didn’t think it was that bad.”). The professor did nothing to stop the train of ridicule, nor did he ever say anything to suggest that my writing wasn’t hopeless. He gave me an A in the class, but I’ve never believed it.