With An Axe

Hello again from Sarah Graves, who is thinking today about a science fiction writer named Barry Longyear. Barry was all the rage back when I was just a little twerp of a new writer. He was a fairly new writer then, too, but already a star: Among many other accomplishments, he won the Campbell, Nebula, and Hugo awards all in a single year, the only writer ever to do so, and is the author of the  novella Enemy Mine, which was made into the film of the same name. Nowadays he lives and writes in New Sharon, Maine, but what brings him to mind isn’t his Maine connection; it’s what he said back then about time for writing: that it is time carved out of your life with an axe.

And he was right. Just today, for instance, I woke up bright and early, filled with the firm, unswerving intention to write this column. But then the guy who was supposed to show up with an augur to dig post holes for a fence we’re putting in — the summer people are coming to Eastport soon, and I’m tired of being Exhibit A on all four sides of the yard — did show up, only he didn’t bring an augur. So that had to be sorted — shovels, anyone? — and then I opened the front door to keep half an eye on the job.

Which was a mistake, since that lit up the front stairs so well I could see all the dog hair on them. And everyone knows you can’t write a column while you’re thinking about dog hair, so I vacuumed it up, and for all the help that vacuum cleaner was I might as well have been pulling the hairs off individually with tweezers.

Speaking of tweezers, just as I finished the stairs my husband came in from helping out on the post-hole digging job holding a sharp dagger of wood in his hand, and the wood had blood on it and so did the bottom of his foot. Also, part of the dagger was still in his foot, so I pulled it out and cleaned it up and mentioned tetanus shots once or twice, and by that time it was noon, so we ate lunch.

And! Remember that dog? The one with all the hair? She started limping just as I was finishing my sandwich. So I laid her down and looked her all over and couldn’t find any obvious problems anywhere, so then I walked her around the block in case it might shake itself out, and it didn’t. And then I was ready to write the column…

Except. My neighbor came by and her dog had fallen down the stairs in the middle of the night and then wouldn’t eat his breakfast, and I couldn’t very well turn a cold shoulder to a story like that. By the time she was gone, my husband and our dog were back in again, him for his work boots (of course I did not ask why he hadn’t just put them on when he started the job) and the dog to limp some more and look woebegone about it, which necessitated another check-over (still no obvious cause).

After that the phone rang, I had to get to the store for more band-aids (that dagger-pierced foot) before it closed, and I got a much-awaited e-mail from my agent that had to be read and thought about before I could respond. So I did those things, which left an hour or so before someone would have to start cooking dinner. And…and…

And then I went outside and worked in the garden for an hour, because if there’s one thing I’m not going to swing an axe at, it’s the last hour of a lovely spring Sunday afternoon in Maine. On the plus side, my husband cooked the dinner, so after we ate it and washed the dishes and walked the dog (not limping quite as badly; still woebegone), I sat down here full of the firm and unwavering intention to write this column, and…

Well. That’s just the way it goes, sometimes. I guess I could have swung that axe, but I’m not sure at what. The world really does seem to be conspiring deliberately, some days, to keep stuff from getting written.

Maybe I should take a hint from Barry Longyear’s science fiction, and find myself a nice little writing studio — on the moon.

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7 Responses to With An Axe

  1. Morning, Sarah,
    Posting comments will keep you from writing, too, but I’ll chime in to say thanks for the laugh. Sadly, in this house, the cat hair gets ignored, even though the vacuum cleaner works just fine. It sits there in the corner, making me feel guilty about being such a lousy housekeeper, but I still pick sitting down at the keyboard (or on the screen porch with a pad of paper) over cleaning house!

  2. Barb Ross says:

    humm. Going to my desk now. Thanks for the reminder, Sarah. With an axe.

  3. John Clark says:

    Perfect scenario description. Beware of pruning saws on Sunday afternoons and random flits of ‘boy, I really shoulds’. But yesterday afternoon was a killer in terms of beautiful outside weather.

  4. Lea Wait says:

    My biggest temptation (and/or excuse)? My “to-do” lists. I sit down and list all the things that should be done. Clean out that desk drawer. Check all the bottles in the kitchen (or bathroom) for expiration dates. Now that it’s spring, prune that bush by the back door, so we can leave the house without ducking. We all have lists, right? Now ….there are also writing tasks on that list, ranging from “Spend one hour a day updating mailing list” to, yes “Writing the blog for tomorrow” (see you here!) to “”finish synopsis for next book”. But, gee, it’s so much easier to clean out that desk drawer ….. Thanks for a great post, Sarah!

  5. sandra gardner says:

    boy, your day reminds me of one of mine a number of years ago– nothing to do with writing at that point but: I was six weeks late for period, started out to ob/gyn appt with pre-school son home mildly sick, car stalled, had to walk and drag sick son to my ob/gyn for pregnancy test (which turned out to be what I didn’t want it to be), cops threatened to tow car, couldn’t get first or second repair guy, finally got home, got call from cops that teenage daughter and friend arrested for shoplifting, had to get somebody to pick them up from police station, friend’s mother blamed me for incident, later that evening, bleeding and cramping, had to go to emergency room . . . . . the only good thing (!) about that day was that I got an interesting poem out of it .. .

  6. Sarah Graves says:

    Ahem. Auger. Augury is a different thing entirely. We now return you to your regularly scheduled axe-wielding.

  7. Patricia Bradley says:

    Thanks for this subject! I have been wrestling with “finding time for writing”. It seems that every time I plan to write, something else pops up, like playing that game Whack-a-Mole. I can never keep all the “moles” down, breathe a sigh of relief, and just sit down calmly at my computer, knowing that everything else is finally done. Because it won’t be. (Okay, got it!)

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