Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leave it to Beavers

Two summers ago I spent several weeks bogged in a nature and science writing jag.  I completed essays about birds and wildlife, various species of trees, stars, physics theorems, and even roadkill.  I wrote a personal essay about a Pileated woodpecker, which was published last year, and back in December an outdoor sports magazine purchased my essay about beavers.  The February issue containing my work just arrived at my door.

When I was writing all of this material some months back, my wife kept asking me, "Why are you wasting your time writing about woodpeckers and dead squirrels?"

"I'm not just writing about woodpeckers and roadkill," I told her, "I'm also writing about beavers."

"Beavers?  What do you know about beavers?"

"Nothing," I said.  "I don't have to know anything about beavers to write about them.  I just have to find the people who do know.  Kind of like understanding women.  I don't have to claim expertise in order to appreciate YOU.  I don't have to be Dr. Ruth in order to be the kind of Casanova you've come to expect."

"In other words, you don't know what you are talking about?"

"Precisely," I said.

Still, after calling the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, interviewing a couple of swell groupies over the phone, and talking to a local trapper, it was easy to whip out this 1000-word piece.  Only thing was, no editor would buy it.  Not until a Midwest outdoor magazine picked it up a few weeks ago. The pay was two years in the making, but eventually, with time and persistence and pressure, all good writing finds its way home.

Now that I've written the article, I know a lot about beavers.  I'm a beaver expert.  People are now calling me to ask about beavers.  But I don't take money for my knowledge.  Just knowing that my wife recognizes my beaver intelligence is pay enough.

I brandished the article and waved it in front of my wife last night.  "So, who's the beaver expert now, baby?"

"I can't believe anyone paid you for that," she said.  "It's so lame."

Yes.  True.  But writing about these critters has kept me busy.  Busy as a beaver.

No comments: