Of all Dicken’s memorable characters, there’s one who’s been in my mind this week. She’s the lugubrious Mrs. Gummidge, the widow in “David Copperfield,” who constantly complains she’s a “lone lorn creetur’.” She reminds me of some people I know who wallow in misery. (She also reminds me I have to be careful not to do that wallowing myself! ) If “misery loves company,” it more often drives everyone away, for self-pity can be contagious.

I was reminded of the opposite when I visited a nursing home last week, to see a friend who’d recently been moved there. For an hour or so we talked about inconsequential things.  I was edgy about the time, because I needed to be home writing. There was to be a concert at 3:00 and I planned to leave before it. However, my friend asked me to keep him company . Regretting my “lost” writing time, I agreed to stay.

We walked into the large room where the concert was to be held. “Maybe it’s been cancelled,”I told my friend, for no chairs had been set up. Moments later I realized my ludicrous mistake: people started arriving via their own seats – wheelchairs! There were also a number of patients unable to even sit up, lying on what looked like stretchers on wheels. Looking around at these elderly frail people I thought, what a sad audience to play to.

The concert actually consisted of one man, a singer calling for requested songs. There were Sinatra favorites, a Caribbean dance tune, and of course “New York, New York.” Many in the audience sang along in an off-key chorus.

“One last request,” the MC announced, looking in my direction.There was a song I wanted but I thought, it’s too sentimental. Yet I made myself call out , “Do you know Que Sera, Sera?”   To my surprise the Mc said he “loves” that song.”C’mon follks,” he shouted. ”Do you all know the words?”

He began to sing – and as swiftly as a wave rolling onto the beach – an enthusiastic chorus swelled with him. Que sera….whatever will be will be…the future’s not ours to see…

Looking around I was stunned at the joy surrounding me – these frail men and women for whom “future” has a very limited horizon, singing so hopefully.

When I heard that song years ago I was pregnant with my first child and “future” was a golden promise. Decades later, I find much less to look forward to. Yet, the inmates of this nursing home, with even less to be hopeful about, were celebrating life.

It made me realize that we can each choose to be “lone” and “lorn” – or to find some measure of happiness that doesn’t depend on the script we’ve been handed.

Dickens must have known that. For in the second half of his novel, Mrs. Gummidge – though in no happier circumstances than before – discards her self-pity and becomes a cheerful woman who helps others. 

That contrast is a good writing lesson :  characters shouldn’t be one strand, but many And my  “lost” afternoon in the nursing home was a lesson that sometimes inspiration is no further away than the strangers around us.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com.
BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” xLibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play” – CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.


There’s a question I’m invariably asked: When is the best time to write – morning, afternoon, or evening? I shudder at the implied idea that creativity goes by the clock. Not even London’s Big Ben can promise a completed novel.The truth is, there’s no special creative hour.

I can only share my own journey around the clock. Having been an actor in my “other life,” I enjoyed being up half the night and sleeping until noon. When I switched to another career – as a freelance writer – I still believed I could best be creative when “burning the midnight  oil.” But reality soon showed me that evenings were far from productive. I was usually too weighed down by everything that had happened during the day to to think creatively.

What triggered a change was coming across a little 1930’s-era book entitled “Becoming A Writer” by Dorothea Brande, associate editor of The  American Review. Brande contended that the best writing is done if you go straight to the typewriter (sic) after breakfast and start working before imagination is diluted by the days distractions. Though dubious, I gave it a try while struggling with my first book, “Widow’s Walk.”

Carrying Brande’s advice even further, I announced to everyone that I wasn’t available for phone calls before 3:00 In the afternoon. Nor did I permit myself to listen to the radio, glance at the TV or read a newspaper. during that time, The world (as far as possible) had to be off limits. With no intrusive voices from the outside, my memoir was able to breathe and eventually come to life. I’ve lived- and written by – these rules ever since.

(Warning: You may find some people unable to understand your lack of availability. In my case, the only friend who had a problem with my new schedule was a therapist who said I needed to see a shrink if I couldn’t take time to answer phone calls!]

As with anything else, there’s no one-size-fits-all. If you have a full-time job, you may have to switch that off-limits time to a much later – or even earlier – hour. Meeting Michael Korda at a writing panel,  I asked him how he’d managed to write so many books while also working as editor-in-chief of a major publishing house. He said,”I get up two hours earlier.”

You might also be forced to write around the edges of time. I know an awesomely dedicated writer who has written two books and is working on a third while holding a demanding full-time job. Her secret is to steal moments whenever she can – even if it’s for a paragraph – and even on the subway.!

So my answer to that question about time is that it isn’t when you write as much as how,. And the question to ask yourself is: Am I willing to make writing an absolute priority?

Website: annehosansky.com
Books: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com;; Turning Toward Tomorrow – Xllbris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – through CreateSpace.com and Amazn.com. Also Amazon Kindle.