Every job has its hazards, we all know that. As far as dangerous occupations, writing seems like it should be way down on the list right? Granted carpal tunnel problems from pen or keyboard can be an issue, but beyond that, paper cuts seem like they’d be the next biggest danger.
Well, there are others perils writers face along the journey.
For example, I used to be able to run out of the house without a purse, just a phone and wallet and I was good to go. Now my purse is more like a backpack. I am never without a pen and paper handy, actually two pens, since one will invariably run out of ink at a critical moment, and a highlighter too. Yes, I know about the notepad app on the phone, but the battery can run out and it can hang at the most crucial moment, not to mention research says that we use more of our creative brain capacity when we use pen and paper.
So, my back is at risk if I have to lug that silly purse around too long.
I am certain my hearing has changed too. I swear I hear things that I never did before. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine told the story of how he escaped from Romania as a young man. I grabbed my handy pad and furiously scribble down notes. No, I wasn’t taking plot notes, I was trying to capture his absolutely amazing genuine Transylvanian accent. I took down his phrasing., His dialectic use of syntax was just too good to miss…I was go to work…I make only nine months in army… I try everything what I know… they did not to let me do—I couldn’t get enough!
Writing, it seems, is making me hear things, too.
Without a doubt, writing has brought back a ranging case of CDO (it’s like OCD, but in alphabetical order, like it should be!). I didn’t used to care whether the British drank tea from tea cups or tea bowls in 1801. The year ‘Confound it!’ was in common use never crossed my mind. Stiff boned, tightly laced corsets in Regencies never fazed me. Now I can spend hours chasing down seemingly trivial facts. Worse still, it is not enough to get the information. No, I may as well be back in graduate school. I must book mark all the sites, copy the references—with full citations of course—and file them with cross references. Then they get added to Pinterest. After all, one never knows when the colors used in the Regency fashion or the difference between a curricle and a phaeton might be important.
Back problems, hearing things and compulsive behavior, what else could happen?
If you ask my family, they would probably tell you there needs to be a new classification for grammar induced post-traumatic stress disorder. I am sure it must have been triggered when proofreading my first manuscript. I used to be able to dangle infinitives and split participles—scratch that, other way round—with aplomb. Now, I can’t get within arm’s length of a present participial phrase without lunging for a red pen and muttering invectives under my breath. Passive voice makes me twitch. I actually know the difference between a coordinating and a subordinating conjunction, which one gets a comma, and why. I keep a twelve page chest sheet on correct comma usage just in case I ever forget. The upside of it, I suppose is my kids have stopped asking me to proofread their papers. I grade harder than the English teachers do and I’ve been known to correct the teacher’s mistakes. In email. In all bright red text.
I only did that once, that doesn’t mean I’m really messed up does it? Well maybe.
Sometimes I miss the days when historical errors in books did not blip my radar. I would like to walk past a sign with a ‘grocer’s apostrophe’ and not shudder. What a pleasure it would be not to notice inaccurate set dressing in period movies. I think my family might enjoy that too, at least for a little while.
But, where would I be without all those worlds in my head? Who would talk to me at 3AM if not the beloved characters who dwell in my mind? What would sons and I talk about over pizza and root beer if not for the secret community of dragons that live under the British countryside only interacting with a select few on the Ton?
Oh, wait, you weren’t supposed to know about that. Just forget it.
All in all, it’s not so bad. As long as I have pen and paper in reach, all my researched is backed up on three separate hard drives, and ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ are used properly in all incoming email, I’m fine. Really.