More than Finesse

I like to write and that’s kind of a problem at the moment because the project I have now is nothing but a random collection of vignettes. I don’t see the whole project. I haven’t even figured out (or seen?) who the protagonist is. Of course, it’s set in the dim past about which we don’t have a lot of knowledge. It’s set in the early 13th century, before the beginning of a historical moment that some Kool-aid drinkers call the “Renaissance.” But the more I delve into this historical moment the more convinced I am that there is no such thing as a “Renaissance” and it was just a “Make the Papacy Great Again” thing. In real life, Europe was in a building, painting frenzy long before MPGA, halted, for the moment, by the plague in the 14th century.

The story is set in Verona, Italy, during the time when the REAL Montagues and Capulets were feuding. They aren’t part of my story. Buildings that are now old were new, some unfinished. Imagining the city then is very difficult partly because I haven’t been there in 15 years and, if I were to return now, I would have a hard time finding it under the concretion of time.

But, I know what to do. Keep writing. Something will come clear or it won’t and, as I prepare to “launch” the China book (sort of like a three year old bottle rocket in drizzle) I remember why I write.

I thought of this last night as I was watching — am still watching because I didn’t finish it — a movie called “Morning Glory.” It’s entertaining. Besides two stars from “my” era (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton), it features a young woman with “dreams.” Early on in the movie she loses her job, and her mom sits her down and does what she can to dispel those dreams. “When you were 8, it was cute. When you were 18, it was inspiring. At 28, it’s just embarrassing. Stop now before it becomes heartrending.” Somewhat of a paraphrase but generally OK. I wanted to slap the mom. Everyone has a right to pursue their dream. Trying to protect someone from failure is cruel.

Plenty of people back in the day tried to talk me out of writing. Why? What in the world did my writing have to do with them? Success or failure, either of them, both of them, belonged to me. People who do this? I figured they’d been talked out of their own dreams and their arguments were nothing more than expressions of bitterness and envy. LIFE is the outcome of following a dream. Success is something else altogether, the confluence between vision, effort and the zeitgeist.
I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. I have always been a writer. I don’t know why. During the Great Purge of 2015, I found early stories I’d “written” (scribbled) and had asked my dad to read to me. He saved some. His last Christmas gift to me was a pen and pencil set. I lost the tag that went with them, but it said, “Keep writing.” The tag in the photo came from the other gift he gave me that year; his copy of the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam. He died in February, 1972 of complications from Multiple Sclerosis.

Over the years the question of “being a writer” redefined itself. At one point I thought being a writer meant fame, not writing particularly. You write something and you get famous and you’re a writer. Then I read an essay by William S. Burroughs about Kerouac. Burroughs was asked if Kerouac was a writer, meaning real writer like Faulkner or Hemingway or someone in the context of the time.

Well, Kerouac, Kerouac was a writer. That is, he wrote. And many people who call themselves writers and have their names down on book jackets are not writers and they can’t write.

When “being a writer” meant simply writing, my idea changed. Then there was the “so what?” of it, the how. I got my answer to that question from a character in my first novel, Martin of Gfenn when he has to choose between painting over a bad painting (fresco) or scraping it off the wall and starting over. The work itself deserves the best I have to give it even if “nothing” ever happens with it.

13 thoughts on “More than Finesse

  1. All I can say is keep writing and I will enjoy reading them. I dream about writing something good and my new idea is to paint something sometime. Mum always said that it is the thought that counts (although I think she meant gifts). You have the talent, just keep writing.

  2. Such a sweet gift from your dad. And, yes, defining what a “writer” really is can be elusive. I have come to the same conclusion in a way. I have been “writing” things down since I learned to put pencil to paper. My name isn’t on a book jacket, but I guess I’m a writer just the same. Thanks for this post. 🙂

  3. I liked what you said about people who want to discourage your dreams, and maybe that was because someone did that to them. I think you are right. And you were fortunate to have your father’s support. I’m currently reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I’m not through the book, yet, but I think she makes the point about writing for success versus writing for its own sake. I admire writers who write fiction. It’s work! I’ve never tackled fiction beyond the short story, and that was daunting. Writers write, so keep writing. Hopefully, those vignettes will find connection.

    • Thank you! I’ve learned that, for me, writing well for its own sake is success. I don’t know if the other kind of success would equal that. The $$ would be nice though! I hope the vignettes make a story when I learn who the protagonist is and his story. Maybe it’s someone I haven’t “met” yet.

      • That is often how writing goes. Unexpected characters can show up at any time and they bring their story with them. The $$ for all of the time and effort would be nice, plus it shows an appreciation for what you have written. So far I’ve only paid to buy the few poetry anthology books I’ve been published in. 😄

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