Another morning, another urge to write. You’ll never know (unless you’re a writer) how good the feeling is; because so many mornings I just don’t feel like writing. If it lasts any more than a couple or three days, we call it “writer’s block”, every writer’s worst enemy.This is Sunday morning – 9:00. I’m propped up on my bed, scribbler on my knees and have a story to tell you. I’ve been able to walk to the chow hall for about four months now (before that , I had my good trays delivered to my room, unable to get out of bed and no appetite to eat from them. Chow halls are dangerous for people just arriving in prisons. The best scenario is that you know people there and you are invited to the table to eat. But if you don’t know anyone, you are best to ask where a newcomer should sit.People will watch for new guys to see how they carry themselves, who he associates with, etc., etc., before they’ll make a move to speak to him or invite him to join their table. It’s sometimes a long, drawn-out process, often taking weeks or months.
Here, it’s not like that, because it is a Medical facility and people tend to move on, cured of their illness, or others in a body-bag, dead from their illness. So when you make an acquaintance here, it doesn’t last long and you don’t get to know much about that individual. I have been sitting, most days, with a certain group of gentlemen and don’t even know their names – I just say “Sir” or “Gentlemen” – we don’t do much talking; just in general. What’s for lunch? Dinner? What’s the weather going to be today? The lasagna wasn’t bad last night at dinner….
Turns out that the guy that sits across from me most days is a ‘writer’, and he’s authored a novel and sells it on the internet. He’s out of Chicago. Of course, I’ve written a novel and some of the characters and some of the action takes place in Chicago. Now this might not seem like an earth-shattering coincidence to you, but to me it is. I’d love to read his book and have him read mine and then we can compare notes. The unfortunate thing is, he doesn’t have a copy of his book here. I do. It’s in manuscript form, but typed nicely, double-spaced, and edited perfectly. It’s difficult, if people don’t know you, in a prison setting. Everyone has a book he is either writing, wants to write, or has written. And he wants someone to read it and tell him “truthfully” what that someone thinks of it. And once you accept it, you’ve got to read it – no matter how bad. And then you’ve got to tell him what you thought of it “truthfully” – all 6’ 5”, 250 lbs. of him.
So, you have to make up a story about how busy you are right now to avoid having to read it. I have been sitting with this nice, pleasant, well educated and well spoken guy (author of a book) since crawling out of bed without a memory, unable to put a sentence together, having to search for proper words to explain myself…. He knows what’s coming from me… ‘Would you like to read my book’? and tell me ‘truthfully’ what you think of it… He’s already started to avoid me!
In Leavenworth, I gave the manuscript to a friend to read. I kept checking to see if he’d started it and what he thought of it. I knew it would be straight-forward with this guy. He’s a good Christian and I’m sure he wouldn’t tell a blatant lie just to please me. Then the whole institution got locked down because someone got stabbed and this guy had nothing to read. We were locked down for weeks, so he decided to read my novel. When the lockdown was over, both he and his celly congratulated me on such a great book. And he started recommending it to others. I never had anymore trouble finding readers.
I’d like to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
[Note: Paddy doesn’t have access to the internet in prison. He writes his blog posts by hand and snail-mails them to Ottawa where they get posted on his blog by friends. Readers’ comments get printed and sent back to him by snail mail. He loves feedback and will do his best to respond to all comments, but asks for your understanding and patience with the necessary delays.]