Confessions of a self-styled writer’s coffee cup – Hamilton County Reporter
By SCOTT SAALMAN
“If I could just put it on paper, maybe I could make sense of it all. “- Jimmy Buffett
I AM A WRITER.
I say it in all caps on a cup of coffee offered by my boss.
He serves as a sentry by my laptop, staring at me as I struggle to live up to his bold proclamation or, more importantly, my own visions of greatness.
It should still contain a single drop of coffee. It’s THAT cup of coffee, the cool cup of coffee, the one that’s too precious to drink. It serves a more important purpose than to lend itself to a ceramic vessel held in the air and tilted slightly between the coffeemaker and the mouth inhaled by the coffee. I have dozens of other coffee mugs written to give me a java kick, but none try to make me feel the action like this I AM A WRITER dry mug.
I am worthy of the words of the mug on a good day, when the connectivity between mind and fingertips is intact and true, and the keyboard clicks like a train undeterred from its destination; when there is no distraction, only traction; when a clear thought arises as a vapor in the brain boiler, seeps in and spits out determined shards of black font through the fireplace of imagination, effortlessly populating the white field in front of me with a journey traced by letters , words, sentences and paragraphs that hopefully make you laugh, nod or stifle a yawn in the comforting presence of your own dear and revealing cup of coffee: the world’s greatest golfer; # 1 grandmother; Work harder than a lousy stripper; or There’s a good chance it’s whiskey.
When the writing is good, I feel the biggest, the little engine that could. I can almost tolerate myself. I am a writer. I don’t need a cup to support me.
But then come those dreaded and overwhelming days: when the train jumps onto the track and the click of the keyboard is muffled by the ticking of the clock; when the computer screen shows only a blank glow and my self-doubt makes me derail; when I glance sheepishly at the coffee mug, fully expecting to find I AM A FRAUD laser engraved on its side; when a painfully familiar and brilliant line from Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise” comes to mind, “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he is sure of.” I’ve been haunted by these Springsteen syllables since they came out in 1987, the same year I embarked on a career in the press that guaranteed I would get paid to write – by paid, I mean paid minimum. Near graduation from college, the “love of my life” at the time informed me that she had learned that “journalists don’t make a lot of money.” I had no plan B. My muse, without fun, has disappeared into oblivion. My first of many lessons on the economics of love.
My life as a journalist was short – three years in three newspapers, the last one fired me for not having “given the best value” expected of me based on sample articles that prompted them to hire me, making me feel like a limp writing hack carried on the back of a heroic copywriter. Specific lyrics from Harry Chapin’s epic dream-crusher song, “Mr. Tanner, ”said loudly,“ Full-time thinking for another project might be in order. With a bruised ego and a withered signature, I quit the papers, but the desire to write a column, a dream from my early double-digit years, stuck. I had to get fired from the newspapers to find my place. Perry County News first paid for my humorous freelance columns, then The herald. Evansville Mail and Press directs them. And sometimes the Hamilton County Journalist.
You would think that by virtue of a signature, I would not question the cup of coffee. I AM A WRITER. Four words I never dare say out loud, for fear of both failure and the feelings of fraud that await me beyond every turn.
I am not a successful writer. Each of my five self-published column collections represents a slice of the humble pie. Their Amazon bestseller rating last night was: “Nose Hairs Gone Wild” (5,216,777); “I will write for food” (6,774,204); “Sir. Serious” (7,392,322); “Writing in columns is not pretty” (7,950,125); “What are you going to write when I’m gone?” (3,542,351) My life’s work mingles with millions.
Last night I bought a copy of “Will Write For Food” to test the grading system. Overnight, he climbed more than six million notches to reach the 393,883rd position. A book with a bullet – a simple purchase of $ 8.07 causing a butterfly effect in the book sales rankings.
Unfortunately, I also bought my own titles at other times, sucked in by the dreaded “boomerang book,” a copy I once sold to someone to see the same copy resold on Amazon. I’m buying it just to see who I originally sold it to, hoping to unmask the unimpressed.
I recently paid $ 31.22 for a “Nose Hairs Gone Wild” boomerang book that I initially sold for $ 14.99 to someone who gave it to someone for Christmas in 2012. With the orphan book back in my loving hands, I read the nine-year-old inscription: “To Joan… I hope you enjoy my nose hairs.” Apparently Joan didn’t.
Maybe I can sell it for $ 16.27 and break even.
I AM A WRITER.
I say it in all caps on a cup of coffee my boss gave me.
Maybe I should enlighten myself. Believe the cut. If you can’t trust your cup of coffee, what can you trust?
Scott Saalman also writes for the Dubois County Herald and the Evansville Courier & Press. He is now a proud resident of Fishers. You can reach him at [email protected].