Yesterday I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for my favorite pen. It’s special for several reasons, the first and foremost, because it was a gift from my eldest daughter, Chelsea. The pen is inscribed with the nom de plume I planned to use before I became a published author.
I don’t remember how many years I’ve had the pen, but it’s been a while. It has a lovely metallic finish that is showing signs of wear and tear–much like its owner. The pen fits magically in my hand, and I feel empowered when I hold it. It is my talisman against writer’s block, insecurity and anxiety, the second reason it holds such importance.
The third reason the missing pen disturbed me, was largely an ego problem: I seldom lose things. “Put things back where you found them” is a mantra in my over-organized, OCD mindset. Over the years, this theme found its way into numerous lectures to my children and my husband. When things go missing, I am most often the person who leads the search like a private detective on the case, taking smug satisfaction when the lost article is discovered.
Todd, my husband, has been working from home now since last March. On more than one occasion, my pen has mysteriously made its way to his home office desk. I was not pleased. He has his own “special” pens, several of which I have gifted him over the years. And now we have our youngest daughter, Monica living at home with us again, with her dog, Stella. This creates other possibilities for my pen to disappear–although I doubt Stella prefers pens over her chew toys.
As a creature of habit, I have noticed how unsettled I can be when my space is invaded. I have had the house to myself during the day for years, and often write at my kitchen table. COVID-19 has completely changed my artistic dynamic. Now other people work at home too.
I love my family, and I adore spending time with them, knowing they are safe in our home. Truth be told, this change in my environment has little to do with my productivity, or lack thereof. As I’ve mentioned in my writing previously, the pandemic has affected me deeply. Not in a good way. I miss my friends. I miss our extended family. I long for a time when I won’t scrutinize every human I encounter as a potential contagion. And, my God, I miss traveling.
To me, the pen represents much more than a writing utensil, and its engraving is particularly poignant. When I decided to start writing my first novel, I anticipated using a pseudonym. My family cheered me on, and the gift of the pen represented my future as an author. My identity as an author. As I’ve stated before, the subject matter for Money Man hit close to home. I didn’t want to risk anyone suspecting my husband was the hero of my novel. In fact, my protagonist is the polar opposite of my husband.
The whole point of the book, was to pay homage to a man (my husband) who remained unflappable even when his clients treated him badly. His stamina made me think about all of the brave souls serving the public and swallowing the spew humanity hurled at them. Because, hey, the customer is always right. Right? Wrong. Wouldn’t it be great to have a story where the good guy prevails by giving himself a chance at a better, albeit less toxic occupation?
But I digress. Again. Back to the pen. When I finished my book and told my editor I planned to use a pen name, she balked. She pointed out I would want my friends and relatives to know I wrote a book and support my efforts. How could I market a book without my name? Maintaining multiple social media accounts is tedious enough, without adding a second set of accounts. Although I remained unconvinced, I took her advice and published under my legal name.
My children were horrified. “What if someone thinks it’s about Daddy?” Indeed, we all had concerns, but my editor remained unflappable, “don’t be silly,” she said. “It’s fiction. That’s what ‘disclaimers’ are for.” Sure. But it didn’t stop people from asking me if any of the stories in the book were real, no matter how outlandish they were. “Hahaha! It’s fiction!” became my retort.
I have friends who use pseudonyms and manage it without any trouble. And I often wonder if having a punchy nom de plume would increase my sales. So I’ve promised myself, someday, I’ll foray into another genre (maybe) and take a shot at publishing under the name I adore, but never revealed. Yet.
After a couple of hours of searching, I found my pen. I remembered “hiding” it there during a particularly annoying search for something else of mine I’d had to hunt down. The good news was, not only was my pen recovered, but in the process, I cleaned out three desk drawers.
All this reminded me that cleaning and organizing helps me reboot my creativity. Organizing calms something in me. Maybe it’s a need for order –to keep everything in place for when I need it. Sometimes we need to lose something, even temporarily, before we remember how important it is. My lost pen reminded me to keep writing, even when I don’t want to, and to keep looking for something positive. Even during this damn pandemic.