It’s been a wee bit since I last posted; between wedding plans, a new dog, and writing a very in-depth post that I can’t seem to find the proper way to finish, it gets far too easy to say “ah, I’ll just write that thing tomorrow.” Well, too often, this hypothetical tomorrow does not come. Or I can say “Ooh, I have the first watch tonight at work. I’ll just sit down when it’s nice and quiet and bang out a quick blog post. Hell, maybe I’ll even write a few, to save for later!” (Yes, this is going exactly where you think it is.)
Smash cut: about two hours, three pieces of cake, four episodes of South Park, and five glasses of sweet tea later: it’s almost 2am, and I want nothing more than to wake up the next watchman. My focus at that point lies solely with entering hibernation mode: stealthily entering the bunkroom and quietly crawling into bed, in the hopes that I won’t make enough noise to anger whatever temperamental deity controls the bells. Staring in the flickering candlelight at that round metal bastard mounted oh-so-innocently on the wall, I drift off with one eye firmly planted on it as if to bully it into staying silent all night.
“Where the hell did the time go?!” I always ask. Well, I think it disappears because I’m far too torn on what to write about, and procrastination is always the easier option. On days off, it’s far too easy to go out and rack up miles on my bike than stay shut inside. There’s always a better option, it seems.
But not today, dammit! I shall turn my procrastination from the ugly obstacle that it is into the subject, nay, the very inspiration of this writing. I shall tackle it head on, killing it with explanations of creativity and process. My hope is that by delineating these (more for my benefit than yours), I can find my way back onto the track that led me to where RaisingLadders is today.
The first thought is always: who or what can I write about? (Actually, the first real, visceral reaction is “Aw come on, what the f#@%. You lazy hump, you haven’t written a damned thing in forever!” After that subsides, however, my inner monologue becomes less crass and more rational.)
I could certainly report on firefighter-related news, but I feel I’m vastly out-classed by several of the veteran news behemoths on fireemsblogs.com. I’m just not a newshound, and I find it hard enough to browse the steady stream of information from various sources without having to compile it and write it up—it’s a hell of a task, and I give a lot of credit to those who do it with ease.
I could write about firefighting tips, techniques, drills & skills… but alas, with barely two years on the job, I haven’t amassed anywhere near enough knowledge to presume to pass it along. At this point in time, I’m better served absorbing the teachings of those around me to improve my own abilities. I learn a new way to do something almost every shift, but I’m in no position to be educating others, as I still have much to learn myself.
Ooh, I could tell great stories! I’ve a bit of a knack for making that which is benign or routine somewhat interesting, but the difficulty inherent in telling stories from work (be they happy, sad, confusing, disturbing, or any combination thereof) brings me to my next point: when.
The ebb and flow of interesting (or at least post-worthy) occurrences at work never fails to give me at least a little chuckle. Ever since I began writing down some of my more interesting incidents from my days as an EMT in high school, I’ve always marveled at how the universe seems to know when you’re just about to give up.
Case in point: I was working in an Emergency Room in college as a Tech (read: gopher). It was a lot of stocking, cleaning, and dealing with nasty staff and patients; but it never failed that just when the job was getting on my last nerve and I was ready to storm into the boss’s office to throw my stupid purple scrubs at him and strut out defiantly in my underwear, something awesome would happen. An attending would let me hold a squirming, fibrillating heart, between the ribs splayed wide open from a last-ditch attempt to save a gunshot wound victim. STATMedEvac would bring in patients all day long, but the one flight medic who I always talked to brought me on a ride-along with him. A woman would stun me speechless by abandoning her baby in my (not-so-capable at eighteen) hands out of the blue, a story I related long ago on this very blog.
It’s a strange pattern, the irregular irregularity of things my brain deems worthy of writing about. Day in and day out, the BS calls and the minor car accidents with no injuries; the food on the stove; the 2am alarm bells that we reset and go home. Many shifts are like that: reset, go home. Repeat. It’s all too easy to find yourself two or three weeks later, realizing that you haven’t written a single word from the past hundred-and-forty-four hours of one of the most exciting and satisfying jobs in the world.Am I slacking? Perhaps. Is it bred from laziness? Sometimes, sure.
As a writer, are these moments upsetting? Definitely.
The where is pretty easy. I long ago gave up on seriously writing posts at work; while I’d love the “as-it-happens” feel, I prefer to sit at home in front of a nice spacious monitor and craft a post several times over. Besides, there’s just too many distractions, and entries completed in pieces end up sounding very schizophrenic. Photos are another issue; I love photo editing, and that takes another good chunk of time. I’ll keep it at home, thanks. (I also suck miserably at putting out Twitter updates while at work; I’m trying to fix that, but it’s a topic for another post.)
Why is simultaneously easy and complex. The simple answer is because I love it. A more in-depth approach uncovers the subtle, nuanced thing that writing is; it’s like black and white putty, just waiting to be turned into exactly what I want. It might take forever, but getting there is half the fun, like a jigsaw puzzle into which you keep swapping pieces until one fits just right. And writing about something I hold a dear passion for is beautiful; with the right combination of flowing prose, the experience becomes almost ethereal (when it all turns out right). It’s what kept this blog going when I was absolutely certain nobody was reading it (yes, Google confirmed this several times)—and that thought stays with me every time I click “Add New Post.”
The Five W’s were taught to me long ago by a wonderful teacher, writing partner, and friend. Much of my early inspiration comes from constantly asking these questions, day in and day out. It’s surprising I don’t have either more blog posts, or more black eyes from annoyed coworkers—luckily, most of ‘em are more than happy to talk endlessly about the job. Another bit of wisdom from the aforementioned source: do what you love, and the money will come later.
Well, I grew up to be a firefighter after many Halloweens spent playing in a plastic costume. I live in a vibrant, exciting city, and I work in one of the most interesting parts of it. I have complete creative control over a writing endeavor that I basically fell ass-backwards into after a bit of good fortune. I’m in a perfect spot, and I couldn’t love it more.
There’s plenty of exciting stuff coming up after a much-too-long hiatus, so I look forward to sharing it and photographing it and presenting it to you with a big RaisingLadders bow on it. No matter what, a writer writes. And write I shall, good readers.
So when’s all this damn money supposed to start showing up??