This guest post is by Judy Millar. It originally appeared in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest, which you can purchase here.
Millar is a Canadian humor writer and author of the short-story collection Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories. You can find her online at (judymillar.ca).
Non-writers might assume we slaves to our keyboards spend our days slogging away at constructing and destructing sentences. Ha!
Admittedly, that’s how my workdays generally begin. I’ll depict my writing process using Snoopy’s signature opener: It was a dark and stormy night. I study the sentence, then strike with my wordsmith wand:
It was a dark and stormy gloomy sort of night.
I flirt with alliteration:
It was a dark and stormy tempestuous type of night.
Eventually, I succumb to frustration:
It was one of those stormy freakishly difficult-to-describe-right nights.
The ping of an incoming email brings welcome distraction. It’s my buddy, the deposed king of Burundi, popping in for a chat. The lives of kings are clearly more complicated than those of writers. Frank (his Burundian name is difficult for foreigners to pronounce, so he goes by Frank) has a problem. He’s been trying to move $150 million out of Burundi and into a North American bank.
I’m honored he’s selected me, a little-known author of modest means, to assist in this endeavor. Surely there are others better qualified to help you? I’d replied to his earlier email. Au contraire, his new message assures me. Apparently I am the very one he most trusts to help solve his dilemma.
He also has an explanation for various factual errors concerning his homeland that I’d pointed out in his earlier email. He’s been living in exile—staying with his brother-in-law in Burkina Faso. His situation there is quite intolerable, which makes it hard for him to keep up with things back home. (Living with my brother-in-law would drive me batty too. I’m prepared to cut him some slack there.)
Back to it. I reject blustery night as being too … blustery. Then, another email—as if I don’t have enough to do, juggling adjectives and global bank accounts!
Dear Judy, it says. Do you suffer the shame of erectile dysfunction?
I do not, in fact, suffer from ED. But the question prompts me to ponder how many males are saddled with the name Judy. I pose this question to my search engine. It picks up Judys galore—Judy Garland, Judy Blume, Judy Collins, even Judge Judy—none of whom appear to have a Y chromosome, much less an underperforming asset.
I begin to draft a response about
better targeted marketing when a new message arrives. Frank has had second thoughts. Rather than bothering
me with opening a new account, he suggests simply sending him my bank account number, SSN and birth date so he can deposit the money directly into my account. These African kings really know
how to get things done.
Still, I’m reluctant to share such personal information with the king of Burundi when I haven’t even told him about my possible penile inadequacy. (On the other hand, he may be sympathetic if he’s underendowed himself. Why else would he be living with his brother-in-law?)
There’s just so much to consider. But deadlines loom while I dillydally with kings and their cojones. In the end, I decide simply to level with him:
Dear Frank, It’s a dark and stormy night here. I’d like to help—but I’m not up to it.
Have your own story to share? Submit your own 600-word essay reflection on the writing life by emailing it to email@example.com with “5-Minute Memoir” in the subject line.
For other great writing advice, check out this issue of Writer’s Digest, which you can purchase at the WD Shop here.
Baihley Grandison is the assistant editor of Writer’s Digest and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @baihleyg, where she mostly tweets about writing (Team Oxford Comma!), food (HUMMUS FOR PRESIDENT, PEOPLE), and Random Conversations With Her Mother.