Thursday, July 31, 2014

In Love with Writing

The flutter in my peripheral vision didn't last long enough to register an alarm. It was there, and then it wasn't, probably one of those floaters that occasionally sailed across my eyeball . . . but then I heard a whomp and came to a quick stop on the side of the road. 

I was cycling through Appalachian hill country, returning home after house sitting for a friend in northern Virginia, and I'd been in better moods. Traffic had been sparse, a good thing, and I couldn't complain about the weather (anything under 80 degrees and rain-free made for a good day). No, my issue was my thighs. They'd cramped last night—despite my banana a day diet—and I was more than a little sore.

Gingerly, I eased out of the saddle and straddled my Specialized Rockhopper. Thinking a piece of gear had fallen off my bike, I surveyed the shoulder and saw nothing but asphalt and a few pebbles. That's when I spotted the hitchhiker perched on my chain.

The bird drew its head toward its shoulders, as though it was trying to hide in plain sight, and my first thought was how close this creature came to living the rest of its life with amputated feet. If I hadn't stopped pedaling. . . .

My second thought was what are the chances of a bird flying into a moving bicycle and winding up on the chain?

"You are one lucky duck," I said.

It hunched down even farther at the sound of my voice. I rocked the bike and the bird clutched the chain and bucked up and down. I rocked the bike harder and got the same result. The bird looked up at me as if to say, "I'm not getting off of here until I'm good and ready."

I considered pedaling forward, inching the chain toward the rear gears to see if my uninvited guest would sense the danger and fly away to save himself. In the end, I unstraddled the bike and laid it gently on its side. I crossed my arms and watched a pickup swerve off the road and stop a few feet away. A boy exited the driver's side and slouched toward me in a muscle shirt and ripped jeans. He studied me with watery blue eyes and spat a stream of tobacco juice in the grass, wiped the back of his hand across his lips.

"Flat tire?" he said.

"Pigheaded bird."

He jerked a dirty thumb toward his pickup. "Got me a compressor if you need it. It's one of those kind you plug into the cigarette lighter."

"I don't need to air up my tires." I pointed toward the chain.

"Hey, that's a bird." The boy took a step backward. "He's looking at me strange."

"He's probably worried about you spitting on him."

"If I spit on him, he'd know it. I'd hit him between the eyes," the boy said.

"You do that and you'd better start running."

"Sheeeut, I ain't fighting no old man. I beat your ass and they'd put me in jail and throw away the key."

"It's not me you need to worry about. Mr. Ty Murray has already pecked the eyes out of two cats and a nine foot python. He's wanted in seven states for various offenses, some of which I was witness to, and some of which I read online after the fact. Killing the deputy was pure accident. Bird had no idea the revolver was loaded."

"Mr. Ty Murray?" The boy's lips parted, brown teeth in a half-moon smile. "That bird ain't no famous bull rider."  

"See if you can get him off that chain."

The boy spat in the grass again. "I got better things to do than fool with that ole bird."

A few moments later, the boy got back in his truck and drove down the road. I thought about my predicament for a while, pulled a weed growing along the fence line and tickled the bird on his tail feathers. Mr. Ty Murray looked at me disgustedly and I shrugged my shoulders. Dropped the weed to my feet. Along about the time I was wondering how bird breast tasted in Ramen Noodles, Ty launched himself out of my world, across the road and above the adjacent field, where I lost sight of him behind a farmhouse.

I pried my bike into an upright position and swung aboard. My thighs still hurt, although not as much, or maybe they did and I wasn't dwelling on them—nothing like a surprise visit by a stubborn bird to take my mind off things.

Tips for Beginning Writers

Ever walk up to that beautiful girl you've been watching for the last hour and ask if she wants to dance? You've polished your words, downing a six pack to work up the courage, only to have her say no in her wonderfully melodic voice. . . .

Hurts, doesn't it?

Rejection feels the same way for a writer and don't let anyone tell you different. It'll make you question yourself, kick unsuspecting doors, curse the dumb-ass editor who had the gall to turn down your work. Yep, rejection hurts. In fact, it hurts so much some writers stop writing altogether.    

  • A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. (Richard Bach)

Once I decided to become a writer, it never entered my mind to quit, not even when the rejections began piling up. I cursed each one of them, sometimes more than once. Hell, if I'm honest, I cursed a handwritten Esquire rejection every day for a month. I kept on writing because, well, I'm as stubborn as the bird that latched onto my chain. Nothing was going to run me away from the writing universe before I wanted to go and that included buckets of rejections dumped on my head.

However, as time went on rejections affected me less and less. They still hurt, only not as much and for not as long. At first I thought a creeping cynicism caused this change, then I realized that wasn't it at all. I had fallen in love with writing, so much so publication had become a secondary goal.

  • It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. (Ernest Hemingway) 

So, if you're a beginning writer I encourage you to keep at it despite the rejections. Keep writing and keep subbing and hopefully sooner or later you'll realize writing is about the journey and not so much about seeing your name in print.

What about You?

Have you fallen in love with writing? Tell us about your most painful rejection? Oh, and does anyone know the species of the bird that landed on my chain?

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