Warning: Writing can be Hazardous to your Health

It started out as a splendid morning: June 30, the last day of the month, hot and sunny, a Saturday. I got up early enough to see my youngest daughter off to work, make some coffee, and run a couple of errands. All the while, I was writing in my mind. You know, where you’re learning about your characters and listening for clues in their stories while you get to know them. I’ve been pretty deep into a new fiction writing project, so I guess using the word “distracted” to describe my mental state would be an understatement. In fact, I probably should not even attempt to drive during these creative warm-up exercises.

Anyway, I came home and started cooking. My plan was Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sauteed onion, garlic, red pepper, spinach, and herbs, mixed with brown rice and goat cheese. Yum. What I forgot as I merrily chopped and stirred was that my daughters and I had put a large plastic bowl full of popcorn in the cold oven last night to keep it away from Pete-the-ravenous-Springer-Spaniel-and-counter-surfer-extraordinaire. I turned on the oven to pre-heat it for the shrooms and continued my mental visit with my main character and her best friend. Bad decision!

Within minutes smoke was billowing out of the oven vent, filling the kitchen with the smell of burning plastic. About that time I remembered the popcorn. Dumbly, I opened the oven door to see the plastic dripping into a molten, burning mess in the bottom of the oven. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to turn off the oven and burner and place the skillet over the vent. Next, I called 911 with a most inarticulate explanation and got the dogs outside on the leash while I looked for the fire extinguisher. Note to self–Why was it NOT under the kitchen sink?

To bring this tawdry tale to a hasty close, within 10 minutes the volunteer fire crew had arrived in force and within 20 minutes they had the smoke cleaned out of the house with the help of their fancy fan. The fire was history. The only casualty is the stove/oven.

Yes, I know better than to use the oven as a storage space for just this reason. Yes, I know to check the oven before turning it on, and yes, I realize that accidents do happen. Nevertheless, I am mortified, embarrassed, and exhausted. So much for happy character development today!

The moral of this story, dear fellow writers, is to be aware of the reverie into which you may sink while your characters come to life and lead you into their world and life stories. Make sure to take the proper precautions so that you don’t find yourself cleaning up toxic chemicals from a kitchen fire, or calling your insurance company after a fender bender. Multitasking and writing can indeed be hazardous to your health. Consider yourselves warned!

Have you ever had anything like this happen while you were immersed in the writing process? If so, do tell. It’ll make me feel better, and confession is good for the soul.

Photo by Chris Corwin used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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