1 comment


“The aliens hijack the game and Michaelson gets trapped!” I clapped my hands in glee and jumped up from the couch in my excitement, startling my husband and knocking over his freshly-brewed cup of cinnamon apple spice tea.

Before I could apologize, he grabbed a towel from a basket of unfolded laundry and began cleaning up the mess. I grabbed an old t-shirt from the same basket and joined him.

“Aliens, huh?” he asked, dabbing the last bits of liquid from the couch cushion.

“Yes. I just realized that it has to be aliens!” I explained. “Otherwise Michaelson wouldn’t feel the need to fight the Moles and stay in the game. Aliens would provide the key to his character motivation!”

“I see,” said my husband.

We both rose to deposit the wet items into the laundry room hamper before returning to the scene of the accident, where we positioned ourselves strategically to avoid the wet cushion.  

“So…?” I said, and waited for his response. He looked perplexed. Had he already forgotten what we were talking about? “The aliens, Sweetie?”

“Um, so…Michaelson is an alien?” he said with a bit of uncertainty.

I heard myself sigh. It was involuntary. Adding the aliens represented a breakthrough in my story development. I realized all the words that were in my head, were obviously not coming out of my mouth. No wonder he didn’t understand. A bound tongue and spilled tea were robbing me of the joy of my lightbulb moment. So I sighed.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time my husband had watched me wrestle with an inability to express my creative ideas. He also seemed to sense that the tea situation was causing me frustration. “Okay Babe,” he said. “Tea crisis handled. Start over and explain the aliens to me.” He looked at me and gave me his full attention.

I took a deep breath. I needed a moment to collect my thoughts. I’d been working on the story for several weeks, and I couldn’t remember how many bits and pieces of it I had already conveyed to him. When I start a new story, I go into something of a fog. I’ve heard tale that there are writers in the world who are very disciplined and clear in their thinking. They sit down at their laptops every day at the same time of day. They work for a specific, pre-determined number of hours. They work from well-developed outlines. I am not that writer. I’m the kind of writer who gets ideas at the most inconvenient times – like when I asleep in bed, or when I’m in the shower. I just grab my laptop and start writing whenever the ideas come. I work from notes on scraps of paper, and ideas I’ve recorded on my cell phone. I don’t have a set time that I write. I just start writing and work furiously until I run out of steam – or until I run into a roadblock. That’s where I was when I had my breakthrough and realized that I needed to add the aliens to the story.

This is all simply to say that over the last few weeks, by virtue of the fact that he is married to me, my husband has had to endure some of the fallout from my creative fog. Eating dinners alone because I was writing. Being accidentally awakened in the middle of the night because I was either getting up to write or coming to bed late after a long night of writing.  In any case, for some reason, here he was still willing to listen to my breakthrough moment. So I continued.    

“Okay,” I said trying to pull my scattered thoughts together, “Do you remember two weeks ago when we were out shopping for new sheets and I told you that I had an idea for a story where I was going to have my character solve a real-world murder based on a futuristic escape room game?”

He nodded.

“Well, I realized,” I continued, “that Michaelson…”

“Michaelson, is your main character?” he said, actively engaging in the conversation.

“Right! Michaelson is my main character. I felt like I already understood the fact that he was unfulfilled. So I knew that would be a big driver in him wanting to solve the crime. But he also has a bit of a rebel in him which comes from a place of anger. I’m still working on that part of the backstory.”

My husband continued to listen. So I continued explaining the various details of the characters and the plot as I had conceived them thus far. I could see a myriad of expressions traversing his face as I delved into the diverse dimensions of the story.

“So I needed the reader to feel that Michaelson couldn’t just simply leave the game. I mean, even in the future people have free will, right?” I paused to breathe, realizing just how animated my speech and manner had become. I continue, but a bit more calmly. “So I had to ensure that if Michaelson stayed in the game to catch the killer, it was because he had no choice but to stay. I think that’s the only thing that’s going to realistically satisfy the reader.”

My husband seemed to ponder this. Then, he slowly nodded his head and smiled. It was a simple gesture, but it made me feel like he understood me.

“So,” I asked, “do you think I should have the Moles join forces with Michaelson against the aliens based on the fact that the game is now compromised?”

My husband suddenly looked confused again. In that moment, as I watched his face change, I heard myself sigh again. Though this time, it was not out of frustration with my inability to communicate. It was because I was having another lightbulb moment.  A moment that made me want to kick myself.

This lightbulb moment was reality penetrating my thick skull. It was me realizing a simple thing – that I hadn’t even apologized for spilling my husband’s tea. I don’t know if this happens to other people, but creativity for me is like a double-edged sword. There are so many wonderful thoughts in my head. Yet they all demand my constant attention. My characters demand that I understand their deepest motivations and backstories, much of which the reader will never see. My plots demand that I send my characters down a pre-determined path, and then my characters come alive and decide they want to go another direction. My story ideas demand that I decide whether they are to be born as novels or short stories or screenplays, and once born sometimes they change their minds and want to become something else. All the ideas constantly demand my thoughtful attention. They don’t care that I’m trying to watch TV or spend time with friends or enjoy a quiet moment with my husband. They take over my brain. They want to be thought about. They want to be written about. Often, like today, they want to be talked about too.  

I had done a lot of talking. And my husband had listened to all of the little details about my story that had been running around in my head for weeks. Being a writer and not a talker, most of the words were all over the place. Yet, he’d listened intently. He’d tried to make sense out of non-sense. He always did. He really deserved a permanent suit of shining armor.

I apologized for the tea. He waved the apology away. “No need, Babe,” he said. I then apologized for sighing feeling a need to explain what was behind it, but stopped short when he shook his head and moved close to sit next to me on the couch. I noticed that he was now sitting on part of the cushion that was still slightly damp from the tea. I got ready to point this out, but he took one of my hands in both of his and I paused.

“Babe, your idea about the aliens makes sense. I mean, it doesn’t…but it does.” He paused. I began to try to speak again, but before my words came out, he asked, “Do you remember when we first met?”

I stared at him, a bit confused. “Uh…yes. At the writer’s conference.”

He took up the story, “I was working sound. You saw me and asked me what all those knobs and sliders were for. I explained them to the best of my ability…”

I jumped in then, “but you said there was only so much I might understand in a short time without a background in the audio engineering field.”

He began again. “So when you tell me about your story ideas,” he paused and smiled, rubbing my hand between his, “I do understand…at least to a degree. More than that, I understand the writer. I understand her passion. I understand that her creativity knows no boundaries. It might show up when she’s hard at work on her laptop, or it might show up when she’s sitting next to her husband on the couch while he’s having a cup of tea. It doesn’t really matter. I understand the writer. She’s my favorite writer on Earth!”

Yep. Shining armor for sure.

He rose from the couch, then looked at me and said. “I’m going to fix another cup of tea. Do you want one? I can leave it next to your laptop. Michaelson needs to stop those Moles from killing those aliens, right?!” He smiled. A smile that still melted my heart after all these years.

I smiled back at him. “Yes Sweetie, he does,” I replied. “But you know what? Michaelson and the aliens can wait. How about I make the tea and we go out on the patio. Looks like it might be a nice day out.”

June 19, 2020 17:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Crystal Lewis
02:46 Jun 25, 2020

Love it ! This reminds me of what my last partner and I were like. I’d be talking all about my story ideas and he’d be trying to follow along completely confused but willing to listen. I think you captured the sweetness of the relationship and the thought process of a writer well!


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.