Meandering Post about Writing

This is the first time I’ve been without a creative project in a VERY long time and it’s weird. Baby Duck consumed most of 2019 and the culmination was fantastic. The Price was finished at the end of 2018. Besides those projects, I had a personal project that I also finished, a little book for a tiny audience of me and two other people. Yesterday I cleaned up my “studio.” It was filled with Baby Duck stuff for the book launch. Now it’s ready for something, but I have no idea what. Painting is a sketchy (ha ha) thing for me. I have to really FEEL it to do it. No stories to tell at the moment, either, so my life feels like it’s in a holding pattern.

A huge curve in my life’s normal pattern is the injured foot. It hasn’t even been that long — five weeks, and I know a bad sprain can take much longer to heal.

So, in the meantime, the dogs have gotten used to not going on a walk every day — or at all. And I continue to ride the Bike To Nowhere because I can do that and it’s about the best training there is for Langlauf which is the purpose of life anyway. I discovered videos on Youtube with absolutely fantastic rides lasting an hour or more — sometimes I ride the whole time, sometimes just 10 miles of wind sprints, basically a chain of fifty yard dashes from the seat of my Airdyne. They are produced by “Ride the World.” Here’s my favorite so far. To get to this spot, you “ride” a narrow road of amazing hairpin turns…

Last week there was lots of exciting chatter after my front page spread and interview. The guy who runs the papers in the San Luis Valley asked if I would be interested in doing a column — weekly or monthly — and I said sure. He also asked if I had any ideas for such a thing and, honestly, I don’t, but I shared a couple of ideas. He wrote back saying we’d meet at the end of this week, but it’s Thursday afternoon and there has been no word. Once more it looks like my promising journalism career is nipped in the bud. It was nipped in the bud back in 1974 when I got my BA and went immediately to the Boulder Daily Camera and asked for a job. “Can you type 35 wpm?” as the guy at the desk.

“No,” I said.

“Sorry,” he said.

But I don’t really have anything to say in a column. People around me know this place better than I do. I’m not going to write about politics. I could write about writing or putting a self-published book together, but I’m not sure I’m even interested in that — or that anyone else is, either.

And what can you tell people about writing? After teaching it for more than thirty years, what I know about it comes down to only a handful of things. First, to write you have to write. Second, you have to keep writing, even if you have no reason to write and nothing to say. Third, you will, sooner or later, maybe, find yourself becoming interested in the words you use and the way you use them; but you might not. Fourth, you might start reading what you’ve written. This can go one of two ways — you can fall absolutely and uncritically in LOVE with it and, as we know, love is blind. OR you can think it’s such shit that you quit. Of the two, love is more dangerous BUT it will keep you going. And then…

Somewhere in there you’ll discover your voice. And you might discover your story, too, and after that? You have to stay true. Stories live apart from the writer. I think starting with a character is the easiest because, just like other people, characters carry a world with them and that gives you a lot of information you won’t have to figure out by yourself. A strong character will tell you a LOT about him/herself and where he/she is from and what he/she values in life, yet, in many ways, it’s like meeting a new person.

Since I write historical fiction, I have to do research to learn about the worlds in which my characters live because THEY take it for granted that I know already. Since it’s THEIR world, they think everything around them is normal and part of everyone else’s life. You can tell them, “Dude here’s the thing. I live in the future. I’ve never hitched a horse to a wagon,” but that guy is NOT going to believe you so you have to learn how he does it.

In a way, the same is true if you write about the future. That future guy is all, “Dude, you know about this, they’re all over the place,” and won’t believe you when you say, “No, I didn’t know you could use a Fardel Gambit to escape a Bastorian Jail!”

That part of writing a story is fun. It’s fun going back in time and discovering that in the 13th century there WAS no paper or that in the 12th century there was an enormous earthquake in Northern Italy and thinking of the effect that would have on the world in which your characters live.

I actually have a WIP (sounds nasty. Means “work in progress”) but I’m not convinced. Necessarily it echoes some of Martin of Gfenn because it’s the story of a young guy learning to paint, but I don’t want it to be a repetition of that story and sometimes it feels like it is. I haven’t figured out who the protagonist is, either. I have only a vague idea of the world in which the teacher lived/lives. Lots of stuff still kind like a fog. Sometimes things just start that way and you have to let them do their thing until you’re doing it with them.

My goal, though all writers are often required by the people in their stories to abandon the goal, is to show the OTHER medieval world, the one in which young men joined the church not to serve God, but to get an education the only way that was possible. I want to write about the wandering scholars, their art, their values, their world.

I read this quotation from Picasso yesterday. It pretty much sums up my feelings about the WIP. “You mustn’t expect me to repeat myself. My past doesn’t interest me. I would rather copy others than copy myself. In that way I should at least be giving them something new. I love discovering things.”

So maybe tomorrow morning I should just roll up my sleeves and see where Bro Benedetto and his illegitimate son, Michele, want me to go.

Dammit. I just got an idea for a newspaper column… I could interview a different artist in the San Luis Valley every month and write about that. Shit. See what happens when you “just write”? You get ideas.

26 thoughts on “Meandering Post about Writing

  1. I was thinking you could intervene local characters, or even just locals, and tell their stories. There must be a lot of personal history in that town. Also, do you think the good folk of Monte Vista would be interested in Lamont and Dude?

  2. I second the initial suggestion: offer to write profiles of local “characters” in the paper’s geographical area. Artists, craftspeople (one of the most interesting profiles I read locally was of a guy who made horse saddles by hand, a nearly lost art he was convinced to teach at a community college), people rescuing animals, those creating nonprofits to fill social service gaps, etc. Everyone has a story, many can use the exposure, but they’re usually too shy to toot their own horn. With your insights, perspective on life and humor to spice them up, I’m sure such profiles would offer readers lots of fun and you’d be doing something good for your community. And it’s a great excuse to meet such people.

  3. Follow up with the newspaper guy next week — maybe stuff came up because of Halloween. Also, how about letting readers nominate someone for you to interview? That way you won’t be limited to artists and you’ll also be responsive to the community.

Comments are closed.