At last week’s Republican National Convention, actor Clint Eastwood allegedly stole the show from the allegedly gregarious, highly entertaining Mitt Romney while interviewing his invisible friend, President Barack Obama, who was allegedly sitting in an empty chair on stage. The unforgettable performance allegedly caused an uproar that instigated thousands of tweets, Facebook status updates, and caused writers who work from home offices to shake their heads in disbelief. Why? Because talking to empty chairs, the computer, and ourselves is nothing new in our world where human contact is rare.
My home office is a spectacular place filled with all sorts of quirky knick-knacks including a rubber smiley-faced stress ball, a pink red-lipped stuffed monster, and a Rolodex crammed with business cards from people I met once and will never talk to again. It is also a place where it is so quiet on a daily basis that I can hear the dog yawn from four rooms away. Working from a home office provides me not only with a level of concentration that few achieve in modern times, but also with the ability to work for three hours without a co-worker leaning over my shoulder and interrupting my train of thought by whispering, “There’s half a cinnamon crunch bagel left in the conference room. I’m going in. Cover me and I’ll split it with you.” There is no question that there are definite benefits to working alone at home. After all, this is the place that consistently lets me in the door, even when I don’t comb my hair, slurp my coffee, and wear the same outfit two days in a row.
But then the doorbell rings. I take the stairs two-at-a-time from my basement office and arrive at the door, panting, sweaty, and overly anxious to have a short conversation with the UPS man who has just realized he has made the grave mistake of not immediately running back to his truck before I fling open the door, “Hiiiiiiiiii!” I say a little too loudly and enthusiastically. He is immediately suspicious—and rightly so—as he hands me my calendar refills and looks for a quick exit off my front porch. “I am a writer,” I announce. He appears disinterested as he points to his clipboard and says “Sign here.” I oblige and all too quickly, he skedaddles off my porch. As my one chance for an intelligent conversation leaves in a cloud of diesel exhaust, I sigh, close the door, and turn around to find the dog staring at me with one of those looks that implies she thinks I am looney-tunes too. “What are you looking at?” I grumpily ask as I head back downstairs and sit down.
I hold my hands over the keys like I am Liberace waiting to inspire an audience of music aficionados. Two hours later, I have typed “It was a dark, stormy night,” and nothing else. I turn to look at the empty rocking chair across the room. I sigh. “I know, I know,” I say to the imaginary editor who is sitting there. “Just start writing. Don’t even think about it.” I close my eyes, hands poised over the keys, and wait again. Fifteen minutes later, I have typed, “*&#$*&((#*&$#&!” because my eyes are closed and I think the home keys are somewhere that they are not. I open my eyes and turn to the rocking chair again. This time, it is my imaginary creative writing teacher who is gently rocking back and forth. “I know, I know,” I say to her. “Write about what you know, even if you think you know nothing.” As usual, she is right. As my fingers suddenly take off and fly over the keys, I realize how lost I would be without the imaginary friends, editors, and critics who keep me company in my home office and inspire me to continue going, even when I think I have nothing to say.
So in the place where I pour my heart out, cross my fingers, legs, and eyes for luck, and then hope that someone likes what I have written, I fill the empty chairs and know that it really is okay to talk to an imaginary friend who has my best interests in mind—unlike that darn UPS man who is probably deep in the heart of Kansas by now, secretly hoping that I’m not lurking behind the next door.
By Vicky DeCoster, All Rights Reserved