Word Doodling by M. Scott Douglass

Every so often, a speaker cancels or a list of options thins and I am invited to speak to a writers’ group or college class. Among the FAQs are ones like, How do you find time to write? and How do you decide what to write about? My standard answer is to tell them they need to get out and live a little so they have something to write about. Otherwise, writing can be little more than word doodling.

But what happens when your interests are so widely scattered (like mine), your time is short and your interests and activities are many? Maybe that’s how BLOGS were invented.

In my “New Tools” post, I mentioned one of my many hobbies:  woodworking. At various times I’ve also mentioned motorcycling, cars, football & hockey, drinking Guinness. To that list we could add pool shooting, bicycling, traveling, photography and more. Many of mine require space. The outdoor activities and are usually easy to find room for. Of the others, I have a pool table in my living room, a TV room for Steeler and Penguin games (these rooms are conveniently adjacent to each other), and a restaurant nearby that pours my favorite draught when I get tired of bottles, but having tools means needing a place to use and store them; having more vehicles than one person can drive at a time means needing to park one or more of them somewhere when using the other.

When we bought our house in 2001, one of the first things we did was build a NEW 2-car garage in the back specifically to house my business. This is a 500 square foot work space with 10-foot ceilings, finished walls and heating/air conditioning that has been mostly vacant since we were forced to move to a bigger space. I park my motorcycle there. I have three bicycles hanging from the ceiling, 2-foot deep shelves on three walls all the way to the ceiling that warehouse back issues of The Main Street Rag, file boxes and tools.


As I was working on my motorcycle a month ago, I realized what a mess it was. Two weeks ago, I started cleaning it and throwing things out. Since then I’ve filled my work dumpster and realized that something was taking shape out there: a Man Cave. It became clear that, done right, I had a place to both play with hobbies and hang out.


This weekend I cleared shelves, inventoried a mound of wood scraps, built a bin for reusable scraps and a skid for larger sheets, built a working shelf for two of my new tools and one hinged door to hide unsightly tools and supplies I don’t use often. Along the way I killed four black widows, one brown recluse and swept out thousands of carcasses left behind by their handiwork. Things are looking good. A few more doors and some paint and it might make the cover of Better Shacks and Hideaways.


But here’s the good news:  my grandson is coming to visit in June. I usually see him for hourly stretches, but now we’re talking days. He’s thirteen-years-old, a gaming geek, and you know how teenagers are so easily bored.

Well, I have a plan. He and Grandpa are going to build some doors and slop some paint together. Hopefully he’ll come away with a few blisters, a better understanding about what it means to work with your hands, and a memory of a time spent with his grandfather doing something different, something that may inspire him to someday write about it. After all, he won’t be here for a month and it’s already worked for me.