My sons quotes a statistic: “Laughing adds 8 years to your life. Singing adds 11.” Being the immediate skeptic (pessimist in rehab), I ask how often do I have to laugh? Daily? And for how many days? Do I get 8 years for one belly gripper? He hates when I analyze. So, I tell him that it is indeed true that people who are optimistic and who can laugh and sing live longer and have less chronic illnesses. He got a good laugh out of my scientific mind.
People who sing in showers probably do not expect to get a recording contract or an offer to sing the national anthem at the ball park. They also do not sing for the sole purpose that others would hear them and offer praise. They sing because it feels good. That is why I write. I have written in my head for years. Once I chose medicine as my path, the notion that I would write with any seriousness fell away. So, I doodled on my core stories inside my head. I never strayed and I never abandoned them. About three years ago, I decided to try to write in earnest. I took a community education course at the local community college. Along with the retired and a few empty-nester housewives, I started to write and then read my story aloud each week. And I gave life to my cerebral companions.
When the divorce process started and I did not have the boys a few nights a week and every other weekend, I escaped into the story. And I wrote with focus. It is like whistling past a graveyard or singing in spite of adversity….I wrote to combat the sadness and anger. The outcome was….is….a full length novel. And there it sat. What do you do with a novel? Why write a novel? Why write at all? At least if you paint or take photographs, they can be hung on the wall. Other art forms can be displayed and shared. A book is a brick. It is hard to appreciate and unless people have the interest, they are not likely to sit down and read it. And then everyone wanted to know if I was going to try to get it published. I dunno. Like I said, does the shower serenader only sing to get a record deal? I didn’t start out with anything other than the process of writing in mind. But I asked myself the same question….now what?
I started on the next story.
And I entered a literary contest. The Florida Writers’ Association has an annual literary contest called the Royal Palms Literary Award. I sent the first 50 pages and my check for $50. I learned last Saturday that my novel has been selected as a finalist. Selected. Finalist. Send the rest of the book. I have rarely known elation as intense as that moment when I receive that email. It is also rare in that this recognition is outside the parameters of all of my “training” and “expertise”. I am a doctor. I am not defined as a writer. Yet….I write. And according to Janos, my mentor, “We are writers because we have to write.”
I am equally thrilled when I surprise myself. Life is wonderful. Saturday I am sure I added 18 years to my life, laughing and singing and dancing around in joy.