When the kids were little, I used to be good at things. I was organized, talented, nurturing, patient, creative, hard-working, energetic, and my bust stuck out farther than my gut. I was a good Navy wife, homeroom mom, team mom, committee chair, and block captain. I gardened, made healthy meals, kept my checkbook balanced, exercised regularly, scrapbooked, sewed, and was generally a damned good housewife.
But after 10 or so years of that, I started getting kinda tired. Not only was my energy level diminishing with each passing year, but my enthusiasm for the mundane everyday details of homemaking was taking a major dive. Making the kids’ Halloween costumes just didn’t thrill me anymore. The lemony smell of a disinfected bathroom had lost it’s luster. I bought a box of Hamburger Helper for the first time in my life, and felt not a twinge of guilt.
To make matters worse, my once lovey-dovey cuddle bug kids were no longer running out of school with their arms open wide yelling, “Hi Mom!” No, they were getting older and had effectively demoted me from “Center of The Universe” to “That Lady Who Feeds Us.”
I found myself seeking out activities that gave me a feeling of self-worth. I leafed through an old High School Physics text book I found in my in laws’ basement, and became hell bent on reading Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. But I soon realized that no one at Bunco or Book Club was interested in chatting about String Theory and Quantum Physics.
I tried to fulfill a life-long dream by signing up for sailing lessons at the base marina. However, I almost drowned when I took a Lazer out during a small craft advisory, capsized, and nearly ran the boat onto the rocks.
Finally, while my husband was on a year-long deployment, I tried my hand at writing funny essays. I entered a “Guest Columnist Competition” through the Virginian Pilot newspaper, and although my entries made the semi-finals, I didn’t make the final cut. Despite an editor’s critique which will be burned into my brain for all time (“too sociological and a bit preachy”), I found the process of writing columns strangely rewarding.
My husband returned from deployment, and while we should’ve been getting to know each other again, we were packing up and moving overseas. After settling in to our new life in Germany, I sent one of my columns out to a few newspapers just to see what might happen, and don’tcha know it, The Washington Post published it. Yup, outta the blue. Pretty cool…. but now what?
I started this blog and began submitting my columns to newspapers and magazines, in hopes that I might actually become a legitimate columnist. It seemed that, the more driven I became, the more bad news I learned about the industry. “Newspapers are dying, magazines aren’t taking humor submissions, no one will pay you, the industry is saturated with bloggers, you need to know HTML, social media, and SEO or you will never amount to anything.” All signs were indicating, “Turn around, go back, save yourself.” I soon had enough rejection letters to wallpaper the bathroom, but I kept at it.
No, it’s not the “love of writing.” I once heard a true story about a syndicated humor columnist who was in a bar having drinks with his agent. He was approached by a prostitute who said she would do anything for $100. The columnist took a $100 bill out of his wallet, held it up and shouted, “Thank you, Sweet Jesus!” He then turned to the prostitute and said, “Now, go write my Sunday column.” That pretty much sums it up for me.
What keeps me going is not the writing itself, but the effect my writing has on others. I just write sappy little humor columns, so it’s not like I’m changing the world here, but if I make someone laugh, it absolutely makes my day.
Some of my best reader comments have been things like, “I TOTALLY relate!”, “LOL!”, “Snorted coffee out of my nose!” and “Just peed a little!” So I guess you could say that I write to make other bored housewives laugh at themselves, wax nostalgic, and lose control of all bodily functions. Perhaps the readers’ reactions serve as a replacement for the genuine appreciation I used to get from my kids …. or perhaps I just think it’s funny that you sprayed Diet Coke all over your keyboard. Either way, I’ll keep writing as long as you keep laughing.