Never Abandon Writers During Exposure Therapy

One minute you have a plan, the next minute a redhead is wishing you a “long and rewarding career of publishing a successful, snake-free magazine.” 

You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. The plan was to borrow the newsletter mic this week to announce that as of this Thursday, I’ll be at Pipe Wrench full-time. No side gigs. No hustle. No distractions. If I’m going to overdo it somewhere, I’ve decided to overdo it here. Surprise! Happy Q3, y’all.

So I was gonna do a whole thing about my hopes and dreams, emphasis on the dreams, but then Michelle and I got this email from one of Michelle’s former coworkers, Daryl (the aforementioned redhead). And if my week was a baking competition, his dream would take the cake.

Going full-time at Pipe Wrench means I have a much clearer head now. I can make necessary eleventh-hour calls like this, e.g., request permission to share Daryl’s now semi-private dream with as many lovely strangers as possible. I know a model email-from-a-reader when I see one. (…ripple effect, ripple effect…)

Hi, Michelle and company. I’m still working my way through (let’s say that I’m savoring) this month’s articles. I wanted to share a relevant thing and an irrelevant thing.

First, the relevant. There’s a neat little novel out in the last couple of years titled Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey that dramatizes the story of a real-life war hero homing (not rolling, alas) pigeon and one of his homo sapiens comrades. You may’ve had your fill of pigeons by now, but if not, or if you’re inclined to share further pigeon miscellany with the fanciers in your lives, this book may be worth a look.

Second, I had a harrowing dream last night in which Michelle invited me to write a feature for the magazine, all about snakes. One might call me a minor dog fancier. It would be a long stretch indeed to call me a cat fancier. My curiosity about pigeons is piqued these days. But snakes? I detest them. They fill me with terror. Even the tiniest green snake or the helpful rat snake sends me in search of a table to perch atop. The notice sudden of a snake I cannot abide.

In this dream, I came home to find that Michelle had personally visited to ask me to take on the feature assignment. And she had brought living (though oddly immobile) snakes, which were all laid out on my floor for display. There were about 15 varieties of them, in many shapes, sizes, and colors. There was a very long, fat, sort of corrugated fellow. There was a tiny coiled snake with markings like those of a python; it was sort of stuck to the wall above my chair, and Michelle let me know that it was very venomous indeed. Few of the snakes looked like the snakes alive in the world today beyond sharing the basic cylindrical form. The worst of all was a short, slender blue snake reported to be heinously venomous. That one we would need to keep a particular eye on, Michelle let me know.

Well, I was not especially enthusiastic about the assignment, but — no Bartleby — my sense of duty prevailed and I agreed to research and write the piece in spite of my terror. I kept a close watch on the snakes in the ensuing period (hours? days? weeks? It was fuzzy dream time and my house wasn’t my actual house and I had no business writing such a feature), and initially all was fine. I tiptoed around the place with my heart hammering, but I avoided incident. For a time.

Some sort of gathering of small children was to take place in my home soon (a birthday party perhaps?) and I had to make preparations, which naturally included rendering the house safe. This was when I noticed that the tiny blue venomous snake had gone missing. Upon a further search, I discovered that the snake was not missing at all. Indeed, it had gone into hiding and multiplied. Tiny blue snakes poured out of a crack in the floor and scattered throughout the house. The party was imminent. The snakes must be contained! I began ineffectual containment and extermination efforts (e.g. pouring baking soda on the snakes and into the crack they wriggled out of, and other Lucy-at-the-candy-factory-type initiatives), and at this point, I must’ve begun to surface from REM sleep, as the dream began, thankfully, to fade.

So vivid was the dream that in spite of a general tendency toward near-robotically rational thought, I’ve been stepping carefully when walking around the house today.

Please consider this a self-disqualification in advance should you ever be inclined to commission a companion piece (much less a feature) about snakes. 😉

I’ve reassured Daryl, and I’ll now reassure all of you: Michelle and I would never abandon you with venomous snakes. “Never abandon writers during exposure therapy,” is how it’ll appear in our style guide.

That being said, you’re all on notice. My calendar is cleared. I’m here to stay, and the bar is now set at me needing as many emails like this as I can get. Do it for your own protection! What if we had published an upcoming issue about snakes and I hadn’t known I should really warn Daryl beforehand? What if we were going to publish an issue about minor dog fancying and Daryl was OOO that day and all of his emails auto-deleted?!

If your excuse is that drafting emails can be intimidating, you’re in luck: we’ve made a form so you can flag the one thing you never want to be asked to write about.

Please, please tell me all about your dreams. You’ll be hearing about mine. 

“Where do you think that comes from?”

Miss the newsletter in email? You can find them here, too! Here’s the newsletter from Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

As Catherine and I were brainstorming what insights to shower you with this week, she suggested talking about fears and doubts. Which immediately supplanted any other ideas (long-term plans, why this project at this time), because hello, let me count the ways I fear and doubt.

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