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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Why I Didn’t Write the Great American Novel Last Week

I would have. Really. I have a great idea and I even started on it about a month ago after I got canned from my job. (Please don’t tell the Unemployment Office, because they might dock me for self-employment.) I wrote a few pages on the computer, but then the sound of the fan — that relentless mechanical shriek — made me stop. Then I wrote some pages longhand, but I ended up with so many cross-outs and arrows that I couldn’t read it.

Then there was the man in my bathroom. Just try doing your morning ablutions with a tile guy three inches away renovating the apartment on the other side of your wall. Bathroom rituals and writing go hand in hand, so no way could I write the great American novel last week.

I would have written after the workmen left for the day, but I had to spend time being angry at Bernie Madoff and all those guys on Wall Street who took million dollar bonuses. Then I had to worry about finding a job because I don’t have a million dollars because that’s what the Unemployment Office says I’m supposed to be doing. (Damn that Unemployment Office!)

Then I had to worry about what might happen if I don’t find a job, and that’s when I thought, wow, what if I got a surprise phone call from the MacArthur Foundation naming me a genius? After all, if I concentrate on it like they say in The Secret, that’s a real possibility. And concentrating took up so much time, how could I be expected to write?

After I got done concentrating on my MacArthur grant, I had to lie down on my couch and think about eating to restore my energy: to cook soup or make a salad; or perhaps to buy fixings for soup and salad. And by the time I was finished thinking about those things, my goodness, it was time to walk my dog. So I just didn’t have time to write.

Then I discovered that the reason my new state-of-the-recession cost-saving magicJack phone connection made everybody sound as if they were speaking with a vibrato from the bottom of a well is not that the gadget is inherently bad; it’s that it was drooping. It’s a heavy little thing, and its girth caused it to slant coming out of the USB port in my computer. I propped its fat chrome housing up with my little Swingline stapler that I’ve had since I was 12, and suddenly the connection was so clear that I had to make amends by telephoning all the people I’d complained to.

And that’s why I didn’t write the great American novel last week.

Maybe this week.

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