by Ellen Byron

I’ve spent the last twenty years losing and regaining the same ten pounds in Weight Watchers. I’ve also spent the last twenty years blaming Weight Watchers for this lack of progress. “The program doesn’t work,” I’d grumble, “at least not for me.”

Still, when I got the chance to re-join the program at a fifty percent rate reduction through my medical plan, I signed up yet again. I lost a pound … gained a pound. Lost two pounds … gained two pounds.

I was back on the same old hamster wheel.

Grumpy and frustrated, I dragged myself to what I’d decided would be my last meeting. I was half-listening, focused on plotting my escape, when the meeting leader said, “If you really want to lose weight, you need to ask yourself, are you interested or committed?”

I sat up in my chair and repeated that sentence in my head. “Are you interested or committed?”

Talk about a game changer

Not just for my weight, but for my life. And my writing.

For years, I’ve talked about writing a novel inspired by my paternal grandfather’s 1933 disappearance. Harold Seideman was a low-level mobster who spent time in jail after being convicted of embezzling from Chase Manhattan Bank. He was also a philanderer who supposedly impregnated his sick father-in-law’s nurse.

Sometime in 1933, he, my grandmother, and father relocated from Brooklyn to Roxbury, Massachusetts. I’m guessing they made the move because Harold was either assisting or glomming on to legendary gangster Meyer Lansky, who was setting up an outpost of Murder, Incorporated in the area at the time.

The family legend is that my grandfather left my seven-year-old father on the stoop of their building, saying he’d be back to take him swimming. Grandma returned home from work hours later to find my dad still sitting on the stoop. No one ever saw Harold again. When my grandmother went to look for him, his gangster pals told her she’d be lucky if he wasn’t at the bottom of the river. I’ve come to assume that’s where he ended up.

Back to “are you interested or committed?”

After that fateful Weight Watchers meeting, I had an epiphany.

I was interested in writing a novel inspired by my grandfather’s disappearance, but I wasn’t committed.

So I committed. I batted around ideas, refusing to give up when none of them landed. After some weeks, I hit on a take that excited me, broke the story, created a rough outline, and began to write.

“Are you interested or committed?” has become my mantra for life. It’s a wake-up call for others as well. I’ve run the question by authors dealing with writer’s block and seen a metaphorical light bulb go on for them. They realize they’re more interested than committed to the project frustrating them, and either commit or move on.

I now have a 62K first draft of a mystery novel inspired by my grandfather’s disappearance. Does it need work? Boatloads. Am I committed to doing that work? Absolutely. Oh, and about those Weight Watcher meetings. I won’t lie. There are weeks when I’m more interested than committed. But I’ve lost eight pounds. And now I know what to do when that number on the scale begins creeping up.


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Ellen Byron for Career AuthorsMardi Gras Murder by Ellen ByronEllen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. A native New Yorker, she now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.

Find Ellen on Facebook and twitter.