I’ll have to thank you later, Pat, for generously allowing me to guest post on your blog. Right now, I’m in way too much of a hurry. I’ve got words to write that readers (“Hello, You!”) will read...
In a flash, the inspiration hit me. I now had the answer to the question: “What the heck am I going to write about?” I sit down at my computer, dismiss with prejudice the email, websites, messages and notifications and all the other distractions, and proceed to write. It’s four in the morning and I’m about to come alive.
Rapture is mine; I am one with the word processor. The rest of the world falls away in the dim light of my dining room. My fingers fly across the keys as typos are ignored, grammar is fractured, names—even my own—are misspelled or simply forgotten. But none of that matters. The writing is all that matters. The writing is the only thing that matters.
Hours later with my spine locked, eyes reddened, shoulders hunched and arms knotted, I look back with growing dread at what had transpired in my fugue state. Sipping a cup of coffee, the bitterness is nothing compared to the awful feeling of despair that is my sole reaction to what I wrote. Words, seeming sprawled about the page at random, spew from the computer screen in a glow of electrons that is at once accusatory and disdainful. It is not enough to say I hate everything at this moment.
I wish I could trash it all and start over. A sentiment I share concerning my entire life at present. But that’s impossible; there is way too much to do and so many deadlines looming, so no effort can go to waste. I read the first sentence I wrote. Uggh. I thought I was inspired. I thought I had a handle on what I was trying to say.
Say—I must read it out loud; that’s the trick. Right at the start, I quickly realize there’s something wrong, and I cut the first sentence in half. Okay, let’s get to the heart of what inspired me there at the beginning. Can I even tell what my original thought was? It’s in there, buried somewhere. I just need to get all the cruft out of the way.
I read aloud what I wrote all the way through, making minor changes as I go. I stand up and read the lines I had written as if delivering a soliloquy at the Globe Theater. For a moment I hope my neighbors don’t mind. But only for a moment. Surely they’re used to this by now. Or plotting my imminent demise—either way, it doesn’t matter to me.
Okay, I can just barely tolerate what I’ve written as being at least passable. I’ve removed the awkward phrases, the halting attributions and maybe—just maybe—made some improvements. However, this is damage control, not polishing. My voice is getting ragged and the sun isn’t even up yet. I pace back and forth, barely registering my bodily functions as hunger gnaws at me, my bladder protests and the dawning realization that I must have passed long ago from sanity only makes the whole enterprise reasonable.
I must be insane to do this, my damaged brain relentlessly trying to achieve something I can neither describe nor even comprehend. Or, I must be at least so driven that not doing it seems insane. But for now, I have to stop to eat and poop (I don’t dismiss the pleasures of either, as I’m lucky to be alive), and wash and make my lunch and head out to work. I’ll return to the writing later, and much later if I’m still lucky, share what I wrote with some awesome critique partners and that which survives will someday shrink under the editor’s sharp gaze.
At night, I’ll go to sleep thinking about what I’ll write tomorrow. When I will summon all my skill and answer the muse, hopefully answering the question, “What the heck am I going to write about?”
Thank you, Patricia Stoltey, for the privilege of writing for your readers (“Hey, all of you!”), and thank you for reading.
And thank you, Chris, for being here today. Your writing experience mirrors my own and probably that of many other writers who "live the dream." Except that part about writing at 4:30 a.m.--that will not happen here.
Chris Pitchford lives in a Denver neighborhood known for a cemetery and a mental institution, and he wonders where he will end up first.
Writing under the pseudonym of C.J. Pitchford, Chris has sleepily written and published his first historical fantasy, The Agility of Clouds, available in illustrated editions in paperback at Amazon and for iBooks on iTunes.
The second volume in the series described as Jane Austen meets James Bond, The Fury of Storms, will be released in March 2015. The third volume, The Baroness Le Strange, is brewing even now.
Artist/Photographer Suzette McIntyre owns a studio and gallery in Windsor, Colorado. Boardwalk Gallery features showings for other artists as well as Suzette's works. I might never have found this talented lady if she hadn't become a member of Northern Colorado Writers, so thanks to NCW and Director Kerrie Flanagan for putting me in touch with so many wonderful creative people throughout the area.
Now back to the original story. I visited Suzette's gallery one day for a meeting, and while there, fell in love with a painting called "White Out." It reminded me of cold white winters back on the farm in Illinois. I couldn't get it out of my mind after I went home, so I took another little ride over to Windsor and bought that painting for my office.
While I was there, I saw one of the pet paintings Suzette does from photographs. Inspiration struck. My husband had a birthday coming up, and he's even more attached to Katie Cat than I am. I talked to Suzette about doing some magic for us, if I could only get a good photo of Katie. I went to work with the camera and finally got this one.
When it was almost time for my husband's birthday, I made arrangements to go down and pick up the painting. It took my breath away. Happily, Suzette gave me permission to display a photo of the painting. I have a couple of angles to show you.
The painting is 11 x 14 and finished so it can be hung with or without framing.
If a client wants the picture to be warm and fuzzy, he can provide a little bagful of fur from brushing or trimming and have the real thing incorporated into the artwork.
There's a contact form on Suzette's website if you want to get in touch with her or find out her prices. She's on Facebook too. We're tickled pink with our Katie painting....and I'm still in love with my "White Out" painting, too. Suzette does beautiful work.
“You won’t make any money writing,” a friend recently informed me, “That’s just a pure ego trip.” While I didn’t agree with him (Hate to think of myself as that narcissistic), it made me wonder: “Why do writers write?”
Maybe my friend is right in that only a small percentage of writers make a living putting words together. But what about the rest of us? I can think of a number of reasons for sitting down every day and hammering out a few more lines, and I don’t think all of them are extrinsic rewards (although I am a sucker for stickers, ever since Mrs. Butler put gold stars on our fifth grade essays). But here are some other possibilities:
A love of words. Our tenth grade English teacher was fond of quoting Jonathan Swift: “Proper words in proper places make the true definition of style.” For me it’s like playing the harp. I can hear when I hit the right chord and I’m able to get the sound I want. It’s the same with writing. When I’ve finally crafted a sentence that gives me pleasure, even though it may have taken hours, there’s a sense of satisfaction – makes me want to get a glass of wine to celebrate.
A love of communication. Crafting the felicitous phrase or the engaging character or exciting plot isn’t enough if we can’t share it with somebody else, a reader. We write letters, office memos, and all sorts of notes to one another to share ideas and information. I think it’s the same with creative writing. We want to share that glass of wine with somebody else.
A love of relationships. Along with communicating, we enjoy the relationships involved in writing. For example, the relationships we create among our characters. We want characters who love or hate one another, who argue and fight or who make up, who understand one another or who never listen to each other but in any case, characters who are fiercely connected to one another. We like to create dialogue that will not only allow the characters to communicate with each other, but also will reveal the sort of relationship they have.
Another set of relationships we nurture are those between our characters and our readers. We want readers to love one character and despise another, or to be puzzled by one and very sure of another. We’d like readers to be involved in the relationships within our fiction, to want two characters to stop fighting, or to meet one another, or to fall in love, or for several of them to work together.
Finally, of course, the relationship between ourselves, the authors, and our readers is vital, even though it should be handled more in the paratext (preface, cover jacket, reviews, etc.) than in the fiction, itself, where we need to step out of the way and let the characters tell their own story. “Show, don’t tell,” I think is the maxim. Readers frequently return to the work of an author whose earlier writing they have enjoyed, proof of the author’s relationship with his or her readers.
All of this is not to say that external rewards are not important. It’s a sort of confirmation that we’ve hit the right note for readers as well as for ourselves when we get a sticker that acknowledges the value of our work. I recently got a big sticker, an EVVY award for literary fiction, for my novel, Charlie’s Angle. I had apparently connected with readers in a way they found satisfying.
Why do you write? Do you like connecting and relating? If so, connect with me by commenting below… oh, and stickers are always welcome. And by the way, if you want to connect at a fictional level, check out Charlie’s Angle. It’s a story about a high school principal engaged in a feud that may cost him his job. It’s available on Amazon, or you can use my website to order a signed copy.
And thank you, Pat, for inviting me to your blog today. It’s been a pleasure.
Many thanks to you, JP, for being my guest today. Every time I sit down to add a few words to whatever manuscript I'm working on at the time, I wonder why I write when there are so many wonderful books I could be reading instead (lots of them on my coffee table and in my bookcases). The only answer I ever come up with is, "I just can't help it."
John Paul McKinney holds a PhD degree in developmental and clinical psychology from Ohio State University. He was a full professor in Psychology at Michigan State University until his retirement. Author of numerous articles, chapters, encyclopedia entries and widely used text books, and former North American book reviews editor for the international Journal of Adolescence, McKinney has also written short stories, one of which won an award (Writers-Editors Network International Competition) and another of which was published in The Mountain Scribe Anthology.
Yes, I thought I was so smart. I bought that really long S hook and hung it far from the trunk of the aspen tree. The squirrel was flummoxed.
Or so I thought.
It took a few days, but I looked out the window yesterday afternoon, and the squirrel was upside-down, its legs wrapped around the feeder, enjoying a little snack. I took my first photo through the screen because I knew the critter would run as soon as I opened the door.
That fuzzy brown thing that seems suspended in the air just to the right of the garage door is the squirrel.
I opened the door and went outside to take more pictures. This obnoxious animal is getting used to me hanging around, creating all the wonderful challenges and puzzles for her to solve. Yes, I've decided she's a girl. It's the persistence that convinced me.
She swung back and forth awhile before climbing back up the S hook, paw over paw, as though she were climbing a rope at the gym.
I suppose you think I'm going to give up and buy one of those $50 plastic squirrel hoods, don't you?
Nope. At least not yet. I have another idea. I just need to find my husband's drill...
I've decided to give away five advance review copies of Dead Wrong instead of the two I advertised. Why? Just because!!
I used random.org to select the winners.
And here they are:
Hilary lives on the other side of the great pond. She blogs at Positive Letters... Inspirational Stories... I first e-met this lovely lady through the A to Z April Blog Challenge and have been a fan of her blog ever since. I learn lots of stuff there.
Karen is an ex-Colorado Oregon author and graphic designer who also is a regular contributor to the RMFW blog which I co-edit. You can visit her website to learn about her books. It's worth a visit to see her beautiful cover art.
I first e-met Sharon when I read her Five Star mystery, The Ribbon Murders. Now we're connected through the Five Star author group. Visit her website to learn more about her mystery and romance novels.
Janet is another one of my Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer friends. She writes fiction and nonfiction, and she blogs at Chiseled in Rock. You can learn more about Janet at her website.
Back when I first took on the RMFW Blog editor task, Julie Luek was my co-editor. I lost her as co-editor when she decided to abandon fiction and focus on a different kind of writing. We haven't given up on the e-friendship, however, and we follow each other through social media, especially Facebook.
Congratulations to all my winners (and my condolences to the guys who were ignored by the random.org number selector). I'll be in touch one way or another to get your mailing addresses. I hope you enjoy the read.