The Devil, You Say!

It may not be Guinness-worthy, but I managed to break my own breaking record!

Less than five minutes into the New Year and my Resolution was shot to -- whoops, almost got caught using a cliché.

Anyway, there I was, having just watched Carson Daly drop in Times Square when . . . . Wait! The same person who warned me against one more glass of champagne has just informed me that it wasn’t Carson Daly, but rather an illuminated ball that dropped in Times Square. Let me try this again.

There I was, apparently having just watched an illuminated ball drop on Carson Daly in Times Square when I felt this uncontrollable urge to fumble for a pen and grab a napkin. I fought Paul’s good fight for a minute or two, then threw in the towel. Pressing pen point to napkin, I wrote a line. Not just a line, but THE LINE—the one that had been eluding me for days, nay, weeks, nay nay—my entire life! The line that would ultimately be singled out from my works and enshrined along with “Call me Ishmael,” “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins,”
“After all, tomorrow is another day” and
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

As for my line, best I can figure out after three days of trying, the scrawl on the napkin reads “For the firstdcv time he ghtjy kloe and thyruplm while she couldvbg nmdl roepfnmf at day’s bfltly.” Nor can I remember it, although at the time I was convinced that this was the most unforgettable of lines..

But it doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is I broke my New Year’s Resolution to never write another line, ever. As in I RESOLVE TO GIVE UP WRITING! Finished. Done. The End. Not just in 2010, but forever.

I made that resolution knowing full well what it meant. It meant that, like every other New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made, sooner or later I would break it. Exercise more, eat healthier, stop threatening the cats with tortures from the Spanish Inquisition when they trip me—each one of them broken. So this year I wanted to make a resolution that would spill good not guilt feelings when it was broken. Understand, a New Year’s resolution is, at its core, a publicly declared intention to overcome a publicly confessed addiction. And being public, you’re fair game for shame and ridicule should you fall short. There’s something very American about the whole process that started way back with the Puritans, who delighted in moral failings. Probably a great premise for a book.

So, in that same spirit, here goes, or, at least, here went my public admission, which I have since learned evoked much encouragement, in the form of laughter, from my fellow TV-watching congregants:

I confess my weakness before God and before you my brethren and sistern. That Old Devil, Writing, took possession of me in childhood and has dwelled within me from then ‘til now, controlling my heart, my head and my hand. Because of this, I have done many strange things. However, I hereby declare that, by all that is holy, I am now determined to break free. Writing, you Old Devil, leave me forever ! Release me from your malefic spell!

Not bad. A tad melodramatic, perhaps, but all-in-all, not bad. And it worked. For almost five minutes, it worked. But Writing is a cleaver old devil, who resorted to whispering a line—that line—that damn brilliant line—into my ear, then searing it into my brain. Being only flesh, the delicious agony was too much for me to endure, leaving me no choice but to yield. I’m told after I finished jotting down the line, I collapsed into a deep sleep as if intoxicated—a state that often is confused with bedevilment.

So do I care that once again I’m under the sway of a greater power? Hell no! I cared that I didn’t exercise more. I cared that I didn’t eat healthier. I cared that I plotted disproportionate revenge on the cats when they brought me to my knees—but writing? Absolutely not! For me, giving in to this particular obsession is the perfect imperfection.

It’s also the perfect excuse. The next time an editor asks “How could you submit crap like this?” I can honestly say, “the devil made me do it.”

Oh, and BTW—I think I’m almost there, if I could just pin down the meaning of “thyruplm.”
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