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Beating Hearts and Electric Bills

September 3rd, 2008

My wife won’t mind. I’m sure she’ll let me tell you . . .

A few minutes ago, I was sitting at the keyboard mulling my next blog on this site. With a pressing deadline for my ninth novel, my mind is a blur, but I was committed to coming up with something. In walks my wife. She’s truly one of the sweetest people I know. Oh, she can be a scrapper–don’t get me wrong. But she has a heart of gold and a short memory. (A handy add-on for someone married to a writer . . . or to another human, for that matter.)

“How’d it go?” I ask.

“It was . . . awesome,” she says. Then breaks down into tears.

After eighteen years of marriage, I’ve learned that this is a good time to turn away from the keyboard. I pulled her into my arms and waited for her to share the results of her volunteer work at a nearby hospice for the dying. She goes there to sing, to bring some temporary comfort to ones who are often forgotten. She’s much better at this sort of thing than I. Heart of gold, remember?

What really choked her up was the chance to touch others with her gift. She’s written songs and performed around town in meager hopes of being noticed, but her real drive is to connect and comfort. She refuses to bury her talent, and keeps finding ways to use it that will last much longer than if she signed a record deal.

Yes, this has to do with writing. The majority of writers will never be published, and that raises the question: What should they do with their skill and/or desire?

As a novelist, I’m often asked how to go about getting published. Everyone wants a shortcut. A secret password. A magic formula. I’m sure there’s one out there, but Indiana Jones is still looking for it and at his age it may never be found. What I see in my fellow writers is passion. Drive. Desire. It can’t be just about making money (though it sure helps when it comes to that ninth deadline . . . bills to pay, bills to pay).

My wife’s recent tears highlighted for me again the beating heart behind our talents. Should every ounce of creative energy be centered on ourselves? Or is it possible to direct that energy toward others, to pass it on, to challenge and encourage? Sure, the Pulitzer or Bram Stoker might etch my name in the annals of literary history. Who wouldn’t want that? But my wife has reminded me that it’s possible to etch our names in the memory of a detached teen who feels like no one else understands. Or a shut-in who needs a few good stories to make it through the drudgery of another rainy day.

Doesn’t the greatest reward come from that connection with others? This isn’t just about a paycheck. (How long do those last?!) It’s about something more permanent.

And maybe, one day, I’ll even turn out as kindhearted as my wife. Until then, it’s back to stories of the undead and mysteries buried in Jerusalem and Romania.

Hey, don’t look at me like that . . . Somebody’s gotta cover the next electric bill.

  1. September 3rd, 2008 at 10:00 | #1

    That is very cool…very special. Thanks for sharing the moment. She’s now connected with us, as well.

    I remember on one of the last ships I was on in the US Navy, one of the other guys read my novel “This is My Blood.” It has a powerful ending, particularly if you “connect” with the story. I had never – until then – met someone who connected to it as strongly as he did…he actually had tears in his eyes.

    Yes…those are the moments that validate it all…

  2. September 3rd, 2008 at 10:48 | #2

    I agree, it can’t be about the money…

    (I tried to post this once and it said “You have failed the challenge!” 2+3=5 Right? How’d I fail??)

  3. September 3rd, 2008 at 11:12 | #3

    Beautiful, Eric. Thank you so much. –Janet

  4. September 3rd, 2008 at 16:33 | #4

    Thanks, Janet and Michelle.

    And yes, Dave, my wife is connected–always has been–by her undying support of creativity. Not many women would’ve stuck with me long enough, through the thin years, to allow me to write full-time.

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