H*O*T*--How I Write
An Introduction to H*O*T*
Niche writing is one of the most effective means by which an aspiring writer can create, establish, and maintain his signature work. If I were to name the specific niches I've addressed in my writing thus far, they would include eBay, walking, and family.
H*O*T* is simply a new niche endeavor for me. I love working with acronyms because: 1) the use of acronyms helps a reader to remember the gist of what one has read; 2) at my age, I need all the help I can get to remember what I wrote; and 3) I love the challenge and mental calisthenics of creating acronyms.
H*O*T* stands for Hawaiian Odysseus Tutorial.
Let's take a look at the word, tutorial.
A tutorial is a method of transferring knowledge and may be used as a part of a learning process. More interactive and specific than a book or a lecture, a tutorial seeks to teach by example and supply the information to complete a certain task. ~ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
What you're presently reading, then, will hopefully be the first in a random series of sharing with you my personal love affair with writing.
You don't know the half of it.
Writing is an insatiable mistress, simultaneously agonizing and ecstasizing this hapless Hawaiian, all the while vampirically sucking the life out of me.
Ever eaten a lilikoi? It's the passion fruit. There's only one way to ingest it--you suck the sweet mucousy, seed-saturated nectar out of it, leaving an empty, hollowed out hull.
A hull. That's what I feel like most of the time when I write. Exhausted. Spent. Out of gas on the Saddle Road, Highway 200, between Kona and Hilo, with nary a gas station in sight.
To maintain my sanity and to sustain the incredible amount of energy required to extend the season of this sweet yet illicit indulgence, I engage in the only thing I can do when I run out of gas.
Your Writing Schedule
When Do You Write?
As I walk, I take in so much more stimuli than I would from behind the wheel of a car. The collective consciousness of the ideas I receive from that stimuli is in one compartment of my brain. But my entire body--every single cell--has experienced that walk firsthand and thus has a memory of it in a tactile kind of way...the breeze kissing my face...the irritating pebble that got stuck in my right shoe somewhere along the third mile...the little bug that somehow got behind the right lens of my sunglasses, tickling my cheekbone and compelling me to immediately brush him away. All of these things create, at some level, another kind of memory that accumulates in a different compartment of my brain.
Hours later, when I'm fresh from my shower, caffeinated, and staring at a blank screen, my hands perched on the keys, wondering what the hell I'm going to write, I close my eyes for a few seconds (because the mind races faster than the speed of light), and just let the impressions come rushing back.
Generally, I have a foundation for the literary house I'm about to build from the ground up...but the construction team is made up of those tactile memories. The staging of that house--the interior decorating, choice of furniture, paint colors, landscaping--is the ridding of my inhibitions. In the past, I thought I had to use booze and drugs to let Dr. Jekyll become Mr. Hyde, but today, it's easier and better than that, and there's no hangover the next morning. I simply allow myself to connect. And how I do that is to imagine that you, dear reader, are right in front of me on a front porch in Hawai'i, and the 5-year-old girl (or boy) in you is having the time of her (or his) life with the 5-year-old boy in me as we talk and giggle and squirt water from our squeeze bottles at the white cabbage butterflies that get within 3 feet of us.
Somehow, the job gets done.
I consider walking to be such a close cousin to my writing because, truth be told, I do the same sort of thing in both. I meander. I try to find new routes. The best thing anyone can tell me is to "Get lost!" because, literally and literately, I will. The paradox is that when I am lost, I am finally able to find myself.
And Who Might That Be?
Some of you can relate with me when I say, "I never really had a childhood," or, "I had to grow up fast!"
When I really, really get lost, the me I find is a five-year-old boy. He has been hiding behind countless layers of onionskin, and each leaf after leaf after leaf has to be painstakingly removed. Not in the manner of a cane knife that brutally hacks away at the dense jungle foliage, but in the manner of forceps and scalpel with surgical precision.
As I walk, as I write, as I live and breathe my way through the myriad of daily impressions, I know I have to attend to that five-year-old boy so that he can connect with the other little children awaiting him on the front porch for their fix of talking story, the ancient Hawaiian way of sharing knowledge.
My parents called him Joe, but in his heart and soul, his real name is what his life is all about: Hawaiian Odysseus.
That little boy is my writer's muse. When I protect and nurture him, he is free to run with complete and utter abandon. He provides me with the catalyst I need when I am stuck; he motivates me with his carefree spirit; he encourages me to embrace spontaneity; and when I grieve over a phrase that's stuck in my craw, he comforts me with a soft small palm on my cheek.
Above all, he gifts me with lasting impressions.
And That Is How I Write
I am an impressionist writer.
Some people see the world literally. I do, too. But at a different level, and with greater intensity and clarity, I experience the world--and life in general--as a series of impressions. Spend an hour with me, and you might come away from our time with a singular thought of how good my eye contact was...and yet there's this inexplicable thing that I do...a miniscule pause before I respond to your comment or question. Within that time capsule of a nanosecond, I am mentally taking snapshots and running wild with empathetic daydreams and possibilities.
I can best provide an example of what I mean with the photograph to the right. No, I don't have a morbid fascination with roadkill. When I came upon this unfortunate sight...I had impressions.
What I could have written about the incident was a straightforward linear account:
At half past nine, about 8 miles into my walk, I came upon a dead squirrel. A car must've just hit it. I quickly took a photo of it.
The impressionist in me would sense and write something completely different:
There's a sense of collective guilt that washes over me. Here I am, in the autumn of my life, liberated in my defiance of traditional 9 to 5 occupations, occupied instead in the revelry of a liberated and flexible lifestyle that allows me to go on these long, recreational walks...only to stumble upon a scene like this. This poor creature came from a long line of squirrels that were here in the Walla Walla Valley long before man showed up and invaded their land, arrogantly labeling any animal that got in its way or imposed upon his comfort zone as a pest. Where are the babies for whom it sought to forage food? Do they wonder where their parent might be? Are predatory animals closing in on them? What of the driver who hit this squirrel? Does he or she feel terrible about what just happened? Or are they concerned about how late they are for church, thus rationalizing this event away? I look to the west. There is no comfort there. Two miles later, I still remember the dead squirrel. In a parallel world, a squirrel holding an amber bottle of Zoogami Beer is laughing and bragging to his front seat passenger opossum buddy about how cool it was to have blindsided the human trying to cross the street.
Both accounts have a unique style. Both accounts are presented with a writer's truth. Both accounts are delivered with a writer's voice.
But the dynamics of each are galaxies apart.
The former used to be my way of writing.
When I finally dared to travel as far as it took for me to get lost, I found the little five-year-old boy. And when I found him, I became an impressionist writer.
billybuc's Most Beautiful Homage to Writers Everywhere
- The Writer's Life: To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not To Yield.
A tribute to all the writers out there. May you all live long and continue to bring beauty into this world of ours.