Author Fairy Dust
I woke up this morning with the full intention of writing my blog for tomorrow on an entirely different topic. Something light, something fun, nothing deep, –in watching the news for five minutes we have enough ‘deep’ going on for a lifetime, right? And to be honest, I didn't feel like writing at all. Since the summer started, it has become challenging. I’m finding myself being pulled in by way too many distractions. Many targeting me and my attention, but others most undeniably self-inflicted, especially my seemingly endless and insatiable appetite for revisiting 70s old television shows. I think I might be making up for all the TV I wasn’t permitted to watch as a kid since my parents thought the content ‘too racy,' back when, however, by today’s standards, these evening shows are more akin to Barney for Adults. But I digress.
Besides the sun and blaring heat, my new responsibilities as a radio co-host for Sistah Chat Radio twice a week has taken some getting used to. Researching topics, becoming familiar with radio station rules and protocols, and so, so many buttons to learn… and for a person of my talent-less-ness [I know, it’s not a word] where machines are concerned, this could be nightmare material. Right up there with falling into a vat of honey in Bear Country or riding an elevator up the tallest building with my favorite movie star, only to realize I have spinach stuck in my teeth while I smile and yak it up. Yeah, I think about stuff like this.
Additionally, writing for me has been harder than usual because my mind feels scattered, pulled in every which direction. Part of it is because I have one book with my editor, so that piece is done and not done, and I have another in the works, –which is not done at all, so my brain, which is already relatively malleable, now feels like it’s fizzling. The constant push-pull of deciding what needs to be worked on, and then switching between manuscripts and then character-shape-shifting on a daily basis takes a toll.
Who am I writing about again?
Where do they live?
What the heck am I trying to make them do?
Wait, why is this character in the wrong book? Oh man! It’s all very confusing.
But if I am honest, I think the hardest part of writing recently is of a residual variety. I’ve been wondering lately if my books make a difference, –a big enough difference in anyone’s life. Will it be enough of a difference to continue justifying spending countless hours behind a computer screen talking to myself… plotting, planning, writing and rewriting...grumbling. Coming up with a slamming book cover idea and forever questioning my sanity for writing on difficult, dark topics that the majority of the reading public rather not read about.
I mean honestly, with how difficult life for everyone is these days, why would any sane person actively choose to entertain themselves with my kinds of books and subject matter when escapism is right around the bend, calling from a remote or Pokémon away?
Why would anyone who has already had a rough day or night, dealing with the outside elements, combating family, community and political unrest, and perhaps health issues to boot think to themselves, –Instead of watching television or picking up a book about travel, romance or other worlds, let me instead read this book on incest, domestic violence…or rape. Or better yet, a story about a murderer who decides to kill herself, but before she does this, she decides to come clean about what caused her to kill…or does she? And oh, I hear the next two books will be just as off the wall too. One is about narcissism and the other about racism. Gosh, I can’t wait!
Seriously? What am I doing? Why am I writing books I can’t even get people to review, – even when they like them? Why am I driving everyone around me nuts, forcing them to listen to my next book idea, or begging them to read some obscure paragraph to make sure the feeling or character comes off correctly instead of, well, the opposite of correctly? And a better question to pose to myself is, –do I need to continue? I have five books out. I can finish publishing the sixth, and put the seventh in the drawer. Book seven is going to make people hate me anyway, so why not be done with it? Who needs the stress, embarrassing twitter memes or hate mail, right?
And so, this is the conversation I am having with me, in-between watching copious hours of Colombo, Murder She Wrote, Start Trek, and The Rockford Files. This jello-state of affairs is where my head’s been of late. Deflection Junction. Do I –don’t I? Should I –shouldn’t I? Will I, –won’t I…
And then I woke up to this!
Yup! I woke up to this exact glorious post this very morning. It was if the sky above opened up and poured twinkling author fairy dust on my head by the pail load and roared, “Get up you sniveling vacuous nitwit! Read, write and honor your pen! Stop your tetchy babble and tether your words to the parchment.”
Huh? I don’t know…but I'm sure the Sky said something just as thunderous as that. I can’t imagine the Sky saying anything less theatrical if caught pouring author fairy dust by the pail full, can you?
And so I read the post. Repeatedly. Sat down at my desk and read it again. Made a cup of tea and sat down and read it again. Got up, searched for something to chew, sat, and read it again.
I so needed to read this, to hear this, to know that what I write makes a difference. To be anyone’s top 20 favorite [still breathing] author is an honor beyond compare! Gosh, I would have been honored if I was in the top [fill in with any number above 20], no less twenty, but I’ll take twenty and keep my mouth shut, happily grinning from ear to ear!
And so it is with writing, authoring. One piece of work completed and the next begins. All the same tedious trepidations reappear, while the process of creating unfolds. But recently, the Sky has been rather generous with me. If I may, I’d like to share the kind words of another fellow author the day before. After Beta reading a few chapters of book 7 [the book most people will hate me for, I can almost guarantee it] she compared my work to an author of prestigious standing, –E. L. Doctorow, “an American novelist, editor, and professor, best known internationally for his works of historical fiction. He has been described as one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century.” [Wikipedia] An author who she explained will be forever remembered for the way he “made people feel, and for making them think.”
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” –E. L. Doctorow
Okay! –To be compared to him, to his talent made me tear and choke up. I should also probably mention that when her kind message came pinging on my phone, I was food shopping at the time, and had to turn my head away to wipe my red nose in aisle three.
But forget me, let me share a few more quotes from the great author himself.
[Writing] “It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go”.
“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
“History is the present. That's why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.”
“Like art and politics, gangsterism is a very important avenue of assimilation into society.”
But it was THIS quote from Doctorow that grabbed me, forced me to reassess my motivation for writing the books I do with the difficult content they have.
“The writer isn't made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.”
That’s deep. –And quite the responsibility. To be held responsible for using words to lay witness and give structure and lift the shroud from that which is happening, perhaps crumbling all around us is not only mind-numbingly, but profound.
And so, while I acknowledge that writing can be somewhat a somber often lonely venture at times, I must also remind myself that with the support of others, –even with gentle reminders, one can thrive and take heart. And perhaps maybe all professions are like that as well…where recognition is a boost, a small but most necessary token of acknowledgment that makes the toil all seem worthwhile, important, and imperative.
And yes, while I agree that there is a certain satisfaction in ‘doing a job well done’, I also believe there is something profoundly special about writing these kinds of stories, which have the potential to resonate in the hearts of others. I realize now that I am blessed to write these kinds of novels, despite knowing I make people upset, cry, and sometimes extremely angry, but more importantly, I have been blessed to have special people in my life so generous and kind enough to nudge and kick me in my ...tush, reminding me that writing is a testimony of the heart.
“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.” –E. L. Doctorow