In spite of the peril, Dear Reader, we pursue our craft because we must . . .
and because we love you.
Over the years, I've maintained a private catalogue of a few of the potential hazards of this deceptively sheltered job. I hope, by mentioning them here, that I can in some small way make the world a safer place.
You've heard the expression, "blood, sweat and tears." Well the blood comes from folding, grabbing or pulling a piece of paper too quickly. The sweat and tears are self-explanatory if you're dripping all over a full manuscript or galley.
Prevention: Wear gloves. Latex works better than wool.
Who knew that licking envelopes could be fraught with danger? Lingus Slitus is always painful. The fact that so many agents still insist on snail mail queries is a crime. It puts would-be scribes at peril every day.
Prevention: Wear a condom on your tongue. Even this isn't 100 per cent effective; abstinence is the only sure way to prevent this injury.
Scrivitori Spasmaticus Minorus
A spasm of the wrist or fingers wherein excruciating paralysis inhibits motion for brief moments of time. A secondary feature of this injury is numbness.
Prevention: Rotate wrists and wiggle fingers for a few minutes during each hour of writing.
Scrivitori Spasmaticus Majorus
A more serious condition than its cousin above. This is a spasm of the writer's creativity: A.K.A. deep brain freeze, writers' block, creativity interruptus. Often accompanied with groans, moans, posturing and dwelling past successes, this injury can also result in extreme head banging against hard surfaces.
Prevention: Show up. Write through the spasm, but take the pressure off. Remember, not everything you create must be brilliant during the first, or even eleventh, go round. Poe and Doyle had their bad days too.
From lithe to pear shaped, writers' glutteuses become maximus from sitting long hours each day.
Prevention: Get up, damnit! Take a walk. Dance. Jog. Pace in your living room. Just do it for at least 30 minutes daily.
(Caution: Worry is NOT a form of exercise.)
An excessive attachment to blogs, social networks, computer games, virtual worlds, email, iPhones (and other telephonic devices), text messaging, websites, internet research, listservs — resulting in diminished creativity, literary lack of resolve, paltry productivity.
Prevention: Turn off the f*cking electronics! ALL of THEM! Go ahead. Be inaccessible. It's all right.
Relish the quiet. Give your mind the peace to hear its own music.
The pernicious condition of being self-impressed.
Prevention #1: Read other writers.
Prevention #2: Read all of your reviews.
A potential side-effect of the above-mentioned preventions for Ego Bombasticus. This condition results in a total lack of confidence in one's own abilities.
Prevention: Get over it and WRITE. If you're right and your work is crap, the only way to get better is to keep at it. If you're wrong and your work is good, you'll find out soon enough.
Today, I implore you. Please do your part.
Help identify other hazards so that all writers may benefit from your experience.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Happy New Year to all of you who've made my experience here at Murderati such a tremendous joy. May 2009 surpass your highest hopes and never descend to your deepest fears.