Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Stuff Of Life

Have you ever watched Marathon Man? This great 1976 movie stars Dustin Hoffman as Babe, a unwitting graduate student caught up in a mysterious conspiracy involving a fortune in hidden diamonds. Laurence Olivier or Szell, an evil Nazi war criminal, stops at nothing to acquire the gems. One of the most memorable scenes involves Szell torturing Babe by strapping him in a dentist's chair and drilling on his teeth without benefit of anesthesia. It is an intense, painful scene to watch. Especially if you've had deep cavities, root canal, wisdom teeth extraction, etc. . .

Yesterday, I felt like Babe. My dental appointment lasted three hours. That's 180 minutes! Or 10, 800 seconds! I won't go into the grim details of the ordeal, but suffice it to say, I was really glad when my DDS allowed me to go home. Except that my temporary crown fell off as I was driving away, and I had to go back and have it stuck on again. I parked in the lot outside the dental office and muttered to myself, "One of my characters better fear and dread dentistry in a future story. . ."

As I sat in the waiting room, a nice guy who had brought his daughter in for orthodontic work made a comment to me about a teenagers ability to send lightening-fast texts. He said a few more funny things, and I marveled silently because I'm not the sort of girl guys usually chat with. I'm the sort they might associate with a maiden aunt or a favorite cousin. My imagination immediately clicked into gear and I thought, "Alter the circumstances a bit, and this would be a cute introduction for two main characters."

Inside the operatory, the dental assistant dropped the adhesive-filled crown in my mouth. She tried to grab hold of it, only to knock it back toward my throat. Lucky for me, she caught the crown before it became a choking hazard, and then I began the "what if?" game. What if the crown had become lodged in my airway? What if I died and my grief-stricken family sued my dentist and the assistant? What if the dentist was ruined and left destitute and suicidal? How would that dramatic situation play out in a novel? My brain began plotting. Or rather, forming a plot.

Writers are weavers and fishermen. Our lives are filled with stuff, with oceans of experience to draw upon. Casting our nets over those metaphorical waters, we see what truths we can ensnare. The catch is then woven into our writing, bringing authenticity to our voice. We tell what we've learned of loyalty or betrayal, illness or health, friendship or isolation. We disguise and document the boy who got away or the man who didn't. Memories are reference books sitting near our fingertips as they rest on the keyboard.

We do not write what we know, we write what we've lived. Live well, friends, and then write about it.

Happy Thursday!

P.S. I received an email from my muse Daniel Craig this morning. He heard on Twitter that I had cleaned my office/study. His one-word response to this news? "Brava."


  1. We do not write what we know, we write what we've lived.

    Great post and that line is so very true. Hope your crown is still where it belongs. :)

  2. Oh how I hate going to the dentist. I'm very impressed that your brain was soaking all that information in even under distress. I would have just been panicking.

    I'm glad you wrote this, it's so true. Sometimes I think I have nothing interesting to write about, but reading this has got me thinking otherwise. :)

  3. We do not write what we know, we write what we live!

    You're so smaht!!! Write on woman, write on!!

  4. What a great way to make an uncomfortable situation worth it. It's all material for our manuscripts. Hope that crown is holding steady!

  5. That is so good, turning a drilling disaster into a story. Bravo, indeed. I feel your pain about the dentist's chair! I had a big scare as my dentist was drilling this past Jan. I'm like, up the drugs, please!

    I used to think that I didn't live an interesting enough life to be a good writer. I compared myself to Stephen Crane, Jack London, and other greats. I mean, they really lived, out in the wild, battling nature and the forces of evil. I changed diapers and taught piano lessons. But, hmmmm, those piano bench confessions, they're kinda interesting... Also, the coffee shop confessions...stay tuned for a performance near you!

  6. I am clinching my jaws for your experience. But, but you do get writing experience. :)

  7. Is it safe?



    Yowza! And ow!! Oh hope you are ok now after that mad dentist visit. Good grief! Most definitely "what if..." situation there. So I'm very happy to know that you've been inspired by this crazy experience!

    Art doth imitate life!

    Take care

  8. Glad to hear Daniel's keeping up with your activities :)

    Sorry you had such a rough day - but at least your writer brain let you find a silver lining!

  9. Sorry about your torturous dentist visit. I shudder just imagining it. You came up with some great ideas though, and I love the "memories are reference books" line.

    (btw my word verification for this post was fangs! How appropriate for a story about the dentist's)

  10. so sorry about your torturous day at the
    dentist's, but it sounds like we may be
    reading "crowned" soon.

    you are so right, i am mentally recording
    every funny conversation. my kids say
    "bet that will be in her blog." i do ask
    their permission, though.

    love your way of thinking and writing.

  11. Ouch. I'm sorry that the visit to the dentist was so long, but I'm glad that you were able to see so much positive in it. Those are some great story ideas you have there!

    On a similar note, I once had a dream about a girl who fell in love with her dentist's (male) assistant. Strange. But it could happen!

  12. Memories are a valuable resource.

    I can't believe how incompetent those people were at the dentist's, though! The crown fell off and you had to go back and then she dropped the crown down your mouth and had to go fishing? Unbelievable. I'd change my dentist if I were you.


  13. Sounds like you are always thinking like a writer! I hate going to the dentist soooo much. Seriously, it is worst than the OB. Ugh

  14. What an ordeal. I was wincing and laughing along with you!

    "One of my characters better fear and dread dentistry in a future story. . ."
    Ha - isn't this what writers do. We go through our days getting inspired to add bits and pieces of the good, bad, and surreal into our manuscripts.

    I never saw the movie, but I've seen a clip of the scene. It shows that you don't need blood, gore, and scary creatures to strike fear into us!

  15. ugh, no thanks on the lengthy dentist appt. i just get lectures at my dentist office since he's know me since i was 7

  16. Three hours?? Glad you kept your brain busy!

  17. Great post!

    I am so sorry about your dental experience, though. Not looking forward to my next appointment now, thank you very much. ;o)