Move Your Tired Old Ass Like a Writer -- Reb MacRath


No. no, Austin Powers! I don't mean shake your booty, I mean move your butt--as in relocate from coast to coast, state to state, possibly country to country. Lord knows, I've done them all for a grand total of some 30 moves. So you can imagine my consternation, as an expert on the subject, when I found myself hamstrung and befuddled in the middle of  a move: from Seattle to Tucson, Arizona. 

With just three months to go before D-Day in August, and with a strong foundation already in place, my head had started spinning from thoughts of the puzzles I couldn't complete:


--How, on a limited budget, could I afford a professional mover and a junk remover?
--How could I adapt to the changes since 2014, when I moved to Seattle with only a steamer trunk and four boxes? Amtrak will no longer handle a trunk--or allow checked luggage for relocation. Plus, in the past eight years, I've acquired a slew of possessions I value--not the least of them being new books.
--What will I do for furniture until my stuff arrives, since there's no on-site manager in my new Tucson apartment? Furthermore, there's no guarantee of a delivery date.
--How can I get rid of all my furniture, reducing my junk removal bill to a few hundred dollars?

But one blessed day I wondered: what if I moved like a writer? In fact, I'd already started with months of research and prep work that resembled plotting: deciding on Tucson vs Phoenix, checking out apartments, completing an application and putting down money on one for an August move-in. I'd even ordered advance Tucson business cards to send to prospective employers before my arrival.

So, like the good plotter writer I am, my confidence level should be high. And yet...

Time to go now, butterflies. From here on, I'll put my pro experience to work.


--Treat the slog that I now face as something like a second draft. This is where a daily brutal fight is waged to emerge with something that's really alive with potential. A second draft is like digging a ditch. Keep at it, I remind myself, and treat exhaustion and doubt as just par for the course. Set a goal of taking out one 30-gallon garbage bag filled with junk every day.

--Kill your darlings. Ridding the obvious junk is a breeze. But what of the designer dress shirts I collected but haven't worn in years--and won't need in Tucson's desert climate? They're adjectives. Get rid of them. Take only the nouns and the verbs.

--Think of the move as a sleek tale--a book, let's say, of 60K words. There's no room for narrative or any kind of fat. When I think of it this way, deciding what to take and what to scrap becomes a simpler and less stressful process. 

--Plottering is good for me. But I go pantsing when I must. In the upcoming 4th Seattle BOP mystery, when it became unfeasible to transport a dozen people to LA to board a Southwest train, I searched for an alternative. Needed: less transit time from Seattle...and a route that would still pass through a desert terrain. The California Zephyr, which leaves from San Francisco, filled the bill. And, likewise now, when an acquaintance who'd offered to help move my junk bailed out, I took a deep breath...kept the faith...and began to Google.

--Let every aspect of the move, like every paragraph and page, add to the impression of positive personal presence and vim.

That's it for now. It would take a Sandra Horn, Debbie Bennett, Bill Kirton, Peter Leyland --possibly an Eden Baylee--

to address the flipside of this coin: 

Can you write like a mover?

This is my report.

Welcome to MacRathWorld, if you like premium blends of mystery, action, and suspense. From Caesar's Rome to Seattle today, the twists fly at the speed of night. If you're unfamiliar with my work, I recommend starting with the new Seattle BOP mysteries. Here's the link to my AuthorPage on Amazon for a detailed look at the variety of 'rides' in my amusement park.


Susan Price said…
Great blog, Reb! I'm familiar with all you say about second drafts, killing darlings, cutting the padding -- but it had never occurred to me to use the same way of thinking to approach other problems.

I shall be doing it, in future.

Hope the relocation is going well!
Bill Kirton said…
Best wishes for a fast, trouble-free trip, Reb. If I had a fraction of the comprehensive organisational skills evident in your books and these blogs, I’d be confident as I sat in that exotic-sounding Tucson, Arizona (which Jo Jo so unaccountably left) that the whole process would soon be a happy memory.
I suppose there’s no chance of a short clip of you doing an Austin Powers when you get there…
Peter Leyland said…
Addressing the flip side of your coin Reb. Sextus Propertius is now on its merry way here
Ruth Leigh said…
What a clever way of looking at it, Reb. My head's spinning with the thought of that move! Good Lord. I hope it goes well for you.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Sue, for the kind words. So glad you found the piece useful. I grow more shocked daily by the number of 'adjectives' I'm able to prune from my possessions.
Reb MacRath said…
Bill, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. The Jo Jo reference took me by surprise till I turned to Google. Leave it to the Beatles to put Tucson on the map. I'll see what I do about an Austin Powers-style selfie when I finally arrive.
Reb MacRath said…
Glad to hear that, Peter. SP is the life of the party and I hope he brightens your day.
Reb MacRath said…
Well, Ruth, my head's about to start spinning today as I tackle a move project I've put off for too. I'll open the steamer trunk I haven't opened in years and see if anything therein really deserved to be saved. I suspect not!

Popular posts

Be True to Your Inner Imposter --- Reb MacRath

Twelve hours and several lifetimes: a day sail on the Deben with books


Misogyny and Bengali Children’s Poetry by Dipika Mukherjee