The Perfect-World Writing Room


They’re a writer’s worst enemy — they’re this writer’s worst enemy, at any rate. In a perfect word, my writing room would be absolutely quiet with little internet connection.That way, I’m not checking e-mails every five minutes, and Facebook in between.

That’s just not the way it works most of the time, though, is it? I spent a good ten years of my career covering the traveling circus known as NASCAR. Believe me, you’ve never lived until you’ve tried to file on deadline, two hours after a race, in room full of tired and grumpy fellow reporters. Or better yet … during practice, with twenty or thirty high-powered race cars roaring around the track and another twenty more in a nearby garage tuning up their engines.

Headaches? There are headaches, and then there are filing-on-deadline-in-a-NASCAR-media-center headaches. Working in that kind of environment seems as far from the perfect-world writing room as it is possible to be.

Come to think of it, the room would be sound proof. My wife and I have twin sons, Adam and Jesse, who are 13 and in the eighth grade. When they’re out of school in the summer and home all day, it’s almost as if I’m back in some NASCAR media center somewhere and trying to write.

Stop that, Jesse!!!

Stop what?!? YOU stop!

A few minutes of relative peace and tranquility are again interrupted by a blaring video game, enhanced by our sound system. Is there anything more aggravating than trying to write with a Minecraft soundtrack playing full blast in the background?

Actually, there is.

A couple of years ago while working on my book Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, I had the opportunity to do a telephone interview with former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. The man has like seven different academic degrees, was the top guy in the uppermost echelons of the agency, and had been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most important people in the world at one point.

There I was, trying to ask questions that sounded a little more in-depth and intelligent than, “Boy, that Space Shuttle sure is neat, huh?”

I had the speakerphone turned up in order to get a good recording when Jesse chose to walk through the kitchen, just a few feet from the open door of my home office. It could have been his Asperger’s — or just being a teenaged boy — but he announced at the top of his lungs …

I just FARTED!

Dr. Griffin surely heard Jesse, because he paused in mid-sentence, evidently waiting for me to go strangle my son. Mercifully, after just an awkward moment or two, he continued on and never mentioned my son’s digestive issues. The interview turned out to be a productive one, and an important addition to the research for my project.

And I didn’t even have a perfect writing room. Go figure.

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About Rick Houston

I am a veteran journalist with more than twenty years of full-time experience. I have written six books and contributed significant chapters to two others. Three of those projects were a part of the Outward Odyssey series on human spaceflight published by the University of Nebraska Press. I have produced hundreds of devotionals since 2004 for Stand Firm, a devotional magazine for men published by LifeWay, and countless online, magazine and newspaper feature and news stories. A semi-regular speaker at churches, schools, and civic groups, I am a session leader for Life Lessons from Mayberry, a week-long series of Bible studies based on The Andy Griffith Show that is held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. More than 500 people from eighteen different states attended the event in 2013. Research for the book Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program changed my life. After not being able to fit in the safety harnesses of the Shuttle’s motion-base simulator due to my over-sized belly, I immediately began making better eating choices, exercising, and running. To date, I have run or walked more than 2,000 miles total and competed in fifteen 5k races, four 10ks, and three half marathons. I have lost 114 pounds … so far. I have been married since 1996 to Jeanie, a district court judge in four northwestern North Carolina counties. We have twin teenaged sons, Adam and Jesse. I also have an adult son, Richard, from a previous marriage.

2 thoughts on “The Perfect-World Writing Room

  1. Thank you! I needed a good laugh! Sounds like my house when all my grandkids visit. Now, the silence is my distraction–go figure? It’s always something! Great post!

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