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How Not to Write a Masterpiece

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Don’t save your words for special occasions

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I am a writer and for better or for worse, with all it’s ups and downs, have been one for most of my life.

I have written for money. I have written for free. I have written for my own pleasure and I have written for others’ business pursuits. I like to think that sometimes I have also written for other peoples pleasure. I have written things I saw, things I did, things I experienced, things I made up. Things other people did, things other people made up. I have written fiction as fact and even fact as fiction. I have played and I have worked.

But like most writers, I would write no matter what. I suspect that’s true of most of us here.

But I have not always used my tools enough.

I have one particular tool, a MontBlanc Meisterstück fountain pen that was gifted to me by a favorite aunt some years ago when I was young and immature but fortunate enough to get my first travel book published. It was not a great book but it was a great gift. But because it was a special pen, a heavy and ponderous instrument — even the name Meisterstück was daunting — I tucked the cherished gift away and foolhardily decided only to take it out for special occasions.

Because I am not a young man, there have been a number of special occasions that I deemed worthy when I ceremonially retrieved the heavy black fountain pen and put it into use.

I used it twenty years ago at my first book signing. Then tucked it away.

I made it a point to tuck it into my tuxedo and use it to sign my marriage license on my wedding day.

When my wife and I bought our first house, the Montblanc Meisterstück was used to sign the escrow papers.

When I signed my long-awaited first representation contract with a highly-touted NYC literary agent, out it came again.

When we sold the house and decided to move to Europe, the Montblanc Meisterstück was there to send us off to scale new summits.

I have cherished this pen and its ponderous significance and for most of the travels of two decades, it has accompanied me, even though little used and too often neglected.

Finally, some weeks ago, I was doing my first book-signing in years for my second book, Losing Venice, a novel. In between the almost two decades between books, there had been screenplays, stageplays, articles and speeches, and even school lessons penned. But all without the Montblanc Meisterstück.

And so the trusty but much-neglected Montblanc Masterpiece Meisterstück came out again and did its job faithfully as it had done on several special occasions over the years. But the book signing went well enough that the pen, for the first time in these decades, ran out of ink. The well was finally dry and I had to borrow a cheap plastic pen to sign some more books. And it was a relief. The ponderous pen was done, as was its masterpiece demanding machinations.

I thought, for a time, about buying an ink refill for it. And then thought of how few times I had deemed special enough to pull it out in lo these many years of possessing it. And decided to retire it. It did its job. It was a touching gift for a young writer who looked forward to a life that might be filled with opportunities and special occasions. But I am not so young and naive to believe in being selective to wait for special occasions.

All of life is a special event and there’s not enough ink in the world to mark its everyday majesty. Not enough time to wait for the special moment and the special master piece.

Everything, of course, is not a masterpiece. But everything you do with dedication and passion is a part of a masterpiece, no matter what pen you use or don’t use.

What I wish for all writers is a favorite aunt that gifts a special pen. And many special occasions — along with a liberal and open-armed attitude over deeming what constitutes a special occasion. And that the ink in all writers special pens might run out much faster and more fleeting than mine own Montblanc Meisterstück was allowed to.

Don’t wait to write a masterpiece, people.

Don’t wait to write. Use all your ink for all the special occasions life presents.

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