The Catalyst and Writing

Every story has a catalyst, some event that induces a permanent change in the protagonist, and every writer has their catalyst. I bet each of us can name that “one thing” that kick-started us into writing. Mine was a big, fat dose of jealousy.

A woman I knew was given a wonderful opportunity that any writer, especially a Mother Writer, would have given her third arm for: unadulterated time to write. When I heard the news, a hard ball of contempt formed in my gut. It loosened when I muttered “How come she gets to!” and festered as I pouted, “That’s not fair!” Then, a wise friend turned to me and said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” Just start writing.

I suppose.
And, so I did.

I wrote during those in between times and late at night and let that jealousy drive me until I forgot all about my obsession for uninterrupted time. I was writing, and that was all that mattered.

Today, Eric Kobb Miller reveals his catalyst in his story entitled “Flashing.” You can read it below.

Then, think about the “one thing” that urged you to take the leap and start writing (or that keeps you writing).


By Eric Kobb Miller

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to write “the great American novel” and to be inducted into the pantheon of American writers alongside Melville, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Salinger. An invitation to the literary pantheon not forthcoming, I battled with the demons of low self-esteem. My wife, Rinnce, my dental assistant Saliva Godiva, and my dental hygienist Bidday O’Shea all suggested that I try my hand at “flashing.” I recoiled in revulsion at the thought of running stark naked through life, in very public places, flashing very private parts. They assured me that the flashing to which they referred was writing very short, short stories which could be entered in writing contests. Doing this would get me focused, disciplined, tournament tough, and hopefully published someday.

Alas, the acceptance letters never came, although the rejection slips inundated my mailbox. It disappointed me, to be sure, but the comments about my punctuation just outright enraged me. Editors constantly criticized how I used my colon, as if that were any of their concern. Moreover, they claimed that my semicolons were acting like squatters in places they didn’t belong. As for my commas, they described them as looking like insects randomly stuck between the teeth of a motorcyclist without a face shield — even going so far as to label me a “comma splicer.”

One especially unhappy editor, who thought she was Portia in The Merchant of Venice, told me that my quotation marks “droppeth not as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath, but as sleet wrapped irritatingly around the wrong words.” My penchant for not italicizing the French words I liked to sprinkle about in my text really drove some editors crazy, especially because I italicized my poems which were in English. But more than anything, the endless discussions about hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes felt like acupuncture with dull needles. To this day, I still try to crawl into the spaces which are not supposed to be surrounding my em dashes.

However, I kept tap, tap, tapping away at my keyboard to get even in my own personal and special way. Each time my middle finger, that ubiquitous devil, was to hit a key, I did it with just a tad more emphasis: a flourish which never failed to give me the faintest hint of a smile, even though it inserted more colons: semicolons; commas, and “quotation marks” in all the wrong places, as well as the wrong sized dashes — with inappropriate spaces — between the wrong words.


Eric Kobb Miller

Eric Kobb Miller is a retired dentist who has laid down his drill for a quill. His stories and poems number more than several mouths full of teeth and have appeared in a score of publications.

You can read more of Eric Kobb Miller’s work on his website, Spit Toon’s Saloon, or in his book, Spit Toon’s Saloon: Rinnce and Spit Toon, Proprietors. Sad Songs and Funny Tales on Tap. You can also follow him on Twitter.



10 responses to “The Catalyst and Writing

  1. I would have to say that curiosity keeps me writing more than anything else, because my stories (and research) help me answer some of the “what if’s” in my head. Jealousy doesn’t hurt either. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Eric, keep “drilling” out those words. Best wishes~

    • Ah, curiosity is another great catalyst, and a bit more positive ๐Ÿ™‚

      I can say that being curious is what keeps my head in my current work in progress, wondering how I can make this all come together. So far, that motivation (and dedication) is helping.

  2. Thank you, Amanda,
    Never fear– dentists know the drill, and can’t stop.

    My biggest fear is that after my 15 minutes of fame, I’ll just be a flash in the pan.

    A Spit Toon’s Saloon toast to you: May all your days be holidays. Cheers (;>))

  3. Christi, I’m so glad that you shared your experience, because many of us can relate to it. There is one particular rejection comment I’ve kept because I know that some day I’ll be able to go back to it and say, if only to myself, “Oh, how wrong you were.”

    Eric, “Flashing” is a delight! My husband is an 18th century scholar. Your flexible punctuation would fit right in with the works he reads and teaches. Who is to say that Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen were wrong? ๐Ÿ˜‰ So glad to have found you and your work through Christi.

    • Lisa,

      I did think twice about sharing my “dark side,” but I think the key (for me) was being able to turn it into something positive. Which is exactly what you’ll do when you can look at that old rejection in a new way ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thank you, Lisa
    Flashingly good wishes and much appreciation for your kind words.

  5. There are too many things that keep me going, it feels impossible to name only one. I feel the need to prove myself, of course; to prove that nudging inclination I have in me really does mean I am to be successful one day. I keep going because, well, I have come this far with it, and it seems too heavy a defeat to turn away from now.

    I also think I’m pretty good at it.

  6. Oh, and as for Mister Miller; I am a vehement advocate of superfluous punctuation. Thomas Hardy knew exactly what he was doing, thank you very much.

  7. Thank you, Michael.
    Any vehement advocate of superfluous punctuation gets an exclamation point of approval from me. Pity those souls who do not Hardyly use it.
    Best wishes.

  8. And punnery to boot! Oh, internet, how you spoil me so!

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