The Writer & The Bedbugs

I don’t think 2008 would have been a good year for writing without the bedbugs. I wrote approximately 80,000 words for nine short stories, one novella, and one-half of a novel (output for the last two years was approximately 16,000 words), put together a short story collection of all my work from the last three years, and earned a magnificent sum of $3.02 USD for my first—and only—published short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” in The Storyteller (July/August/September 2008).

The bedbugs were a personal nightmare from hell during the summer. When a rash broke out on my arms, I assumed that it was a milk allergy as I was eating more yogurt than usual due to the extensive dental work I was having. That went on for a month until I woke at 3:00AM to discover what I was really dealing with. Being eaten alive took on a whole new meaning when I saw baby bedbugs scrambling on the bed sheets beside my head.

I suspected that the bedbugs came through a gap next to the electrical outlet in the wall behind my bed. The apartment complex management denied that there was a bedbug infestation and suspected that I brought the bedbugs home from traveling. They seemed clueless when I pointed out that I don’t travel anywhere to pick up hitchhiking bedbugs. When they scheduled my apartment for fumigation, I noticed that the work log lists “beetles infestation” as a common compliant. An adult bedbug does looks like a beetle. My apartment got packed up for a month-long fumigation. The bug bombings were nastier than the bedbugs. The empty apartment next door was bug bombed at the same time, which management insisted was routine and that there were still no bedbug infestation in the building.

I put my life back together the following month. I tossed out my bedbug-infested, pesticide-covered mattresses, replacing my bed with a wood frame sofa and canvas-covered cushions from IKEA that made it difficult for the bedbugs to reestablish themselves (if they were still around). Sleeping on a sofa again doesn’t bother me since I slept on worse in my younger days. I’ve wanted to get a sofa bed to make better use of the space in my apartment for slouching while playing video games and watching movies. I started finding dead bedbugs around the apartment a month after that. On the bright side, my rent didn’t go up and the old heater baseboard unit got replaced with a new air conditioner unit.

I took advantage of the opportunity to reduce the clutter and redecorate my studio apartment. Stephen King wrote in “On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft” that a writer needs a special room that has few distractions to focus on writing. I created a dedicated work area by painting two walls a light green for a relaxing atmosphere, and added a third wall with a couple of bookcases and a filing cabinet. After setting up my desks, computers, and bookshelves, I’m surprised by how quiet and relaxing my new work area became. My productivity shot straight through the roof as I developed good work habits for managing my writing projects.

What I want to accomplish this year is to build up my writing portfolio for when I go agent hunting in mid-2010: first novel and short story collection ready for submission, second novel finished in rough draft, and third novel started in rough draft. When I’m not working on the big stuff, I’ll be writing and publishing the smaller stuff. I’m hoping to increase my approximate word count to 160,000 words. My long term goal is to write full time for a living within the next five years.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.