For the past three weeks, I have really been absentee when it came to my own writing. I finished another chapter of the book but I was only taking light stabs and the subsequent chapter. No short stories either. Zero writing’s not me, it’s not my thing. I knew it wasn’t Writer’s Block… I done told you, that stuff don’t exist. Besides, I’m at the near end of the book, and I’m really excited about putting the final stamp on it. Second books only come once in a lifetime.
So what was keeping my pen dry? I thought it had to do with my upcoming vacation, as in February I’ll find a reprieve from Afghanistan to a beautiful Carribbean island with a sexy kitty cat wife and cool son to hang out with. Refreshing and tropical! I’m beyond excited about it… I’ve done chomped through the bit. But still… writing’s my thing. It keeps me sane in the ‘Ghan. I like new content. I wasn’t satisfied with anticipation as the reason to my lack of product.
I looked at my latest move in theater. I talk about my trips here and there in the theater of operations sporadically and it’s never been that much of a big deal. I’ve been all over the place in Iraq and Afghanistan, writing the whole while. I initially didn’t think this was the culprit… it’s easy to overlook when you’ve got my kind of flight miles. But this is different. This is Bagram.
My first week here we got mortared. Later on Christmas Day, we got mortared again. Twice. We had to walk around with our body armor and helmets on for the duration of Christmas… first time I ever saw Santa in body armor! Anyway, all of these mortars were within a mile of where I work, which is about 400 meters from where I sleep. One of the guys I work with said that mortar fragmentation shrapnel hit his bedroom window and cracked it.
Yesterday, when I was wondering what was going on with my pen, these memories eventually surfaced. And I realized that while I’ve been to a bunch of different forward operating bases, this is the first time in a long time I’ve been rattled. Well, deeply rattled anway. I’m used to living with a certain sense of impending, inescapable doom, where you’re just sitting blissfully unaware in your office and in a flash your office becomes a smoldering chunk of burnt rubble, taking you with it. I’ve been able to dilute that sense over the years: I’m not on convoy or patrols, the base is huge and the likelihood of getting directly blasted is extremely low, I live a semi-charmed kinda life, the Fates want me to finish this novel for the world to see, etc.
Only now it feels like my huge base has been reduced to a mile radius. I mean, when one of the mortars come from beyond the opposite end of base, flies past all that stuff to land in my respective backyard, then it’s hard to not feel like your number’s coming up. The terrorists are aiming for the flightline. They overshoot. I am what’s there when your aim is bad.
I’m finally starting to grow a thicker, crustier skin for the new lifestyle… the one mile radius base, the idea that whether I’m at work or in my room asleep I’m still in that one mile radius. I woke up today pretty pumped about the new chapter, and exactly what direction I want to take it. Time to get writing.
Hey, I said it’s time to get writing! Fellow writers following my misadventures, if you guys were finding reasons to not get some words on page lately, think about your house or office suddenly becoming charred rubble as a very real possibility. Hopefully, what was distracting you isn’t this distracting. See you in the trenches.