Writer’s Diarrhea

      “You have the opposite of Writer’s Block,” Chris said. “Your chapter on the bird feeder goes on and on but hardly mentions birds at all.”

      “I don’t know anything about birds.”

      “That’s obvious.”

      “The point is that I really am new to bird watching and am not just pretending to be bird-information challenged.”

      “Well you did a good job on that.”

      “Thank you.”

      “Why don’t you just write about something that you know about, like coaching or parenting?”

      “Or being a pioneer in the computer revolution?”

      “I didn’t say that.”

      “If I wrote about something that I’ve actually done already, then I would be describing stuff from the past, when I was a different person.  I could describe what happened, but I would already have forgotten how the experience felt.  This way I can write about something going on as it grows and changes.”

      “Why would anyone who likes birds want to read about you describing how much you don’t know?”

      “Because, as we have seen from talking to some of them in the field, they are very nice people.  And they can remember how much fun it was for them to discover lots of birds that were new to them.  All of them at one time were as ignorant about birds as I am now.  For most of them that was a long time ago.  Probably for David Sibley that would be about when he was a five-year-old. “

      “Try four-year-old.”

      “Yeah, probably four.  But for some people it is older than that.  Also, I intend to write good descriptions of everywhere we go.  We live near some great birding spots that even expert birders would like to know about.  Like Prime Hook and Stroud Preserve and Hawk Mountain and Conowingo Dam.”

      “No one will read a book called ‘First Year Birder’”.

      “I’ll read your book, Mr. Gadbow”, my daughter’s boyfriend interjected.  “And you don’t even have to pay me!” He’s a good kid!

      “See”, I responded to Chris.  “Even with a crummy title, I already have three readers, you, Matias, and Rachel.”

      “Rachel is only reading it because she wants you to pitch her batting practice.”

      “I want to read it,” said Rachel.

      “Did you see that?” It was Matias again.  “That’s her lying face!”

      “It doesn’t matter why Rachel is reading it as long as she reads it.”

      “You could call it ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.”

      “That’s actually pretty good.”

      “It’s a real book already.”

      “How about I call it ‘Forty Shades of Brown’?  That’s a joke about how hard it is to identify sparrows.”

      “That’s like a joke, just not as funny as a joke.”

      In my head, I said quietly, being careful not to move my lips, “She’s correct.  Only birders would think that was funny.  And even lots of them wouldn’t think that was funny.  Humor is kind of hit or miss.  Like when you are driving out in the country and pass by a particularly odiferous farm and someone from the front goes “Euwwweee!” and you say ‘Excuse me!’ and your buddy next to you laughs, but the women in the front stare at you and wrinkle their noses and frown and use other types of non-verbal communication that indicate that they think you are lower than very old roadkill.  That’s why writing is so liberating.  Say one hundred people are reading your story and you make a little joke and 90% of them think that was just stupid and not funny.  You still got ten good laughs.  Sort of like my mother’s advice; if you make enough predictions, eventually some of them will come true.  Then I realized that I was drifting off, so out loud I said, “What kind of birds is the grey book about?”

      “It’s about sex.”

      “Human sex?  Who would read about that?”  She raised an eyebrow.

      “I saw that.  That’s non-verbal communication.  I’ve heard that humans use non-verbal communication a lot.”  She made a snort noise.  “That’s also non-verbal communication. What does it mean?”

      “That you’re an idiot.”

      “The eyebrows lift or the snort?”


      “So what’s your point?”

      “That you need a better title.”

      “How about you think up a new title, while I continue to write whatever pops into my head?”


      Then she left for work.


      So now I’ve lost control of the title of my growing book. But at least I’ve nailed down three readers.  Just 97 more to go!