The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 196
Spring Busts Out
The cherry blossoms are in full display around our town. They are absolutely stunning, of course, same display every year, you know what to expect, but when it happens it still forces you to slow down in the car and gasp.
The odd thing about cherry trees, or so it seems to me, is that they bloom seemingly overnight. It’s like they all wake up on a particular date, in the middle of that night, and in the morning every single cherry tree in the entire city is in full bloom.
That’s what the creative process is like for me. I’ll be bebopping along, doing my thing, and suddenly, out of nowhere, an idea for a short story or novel pops into my head, like it’s been there all along, dormant, but it just decides to erupt into my consciousness on that particular moment. And like the cherry blossoms it is a beautiful moment for this old writer. I’m still blown away that I am a writer, that I do this for a living, and that people actually find value in my words.
Blah, Blah, and Blah!
Happy Easter to you all. Let’s do this!
Hp and Editing
From Eric: “As for editing and HP. Do you think their format and standards for featuring are helpful for discipline?”
Eric, I think it must help some people, right? There are some very undisciplined writers out there, judging from comments I’ve read. It can’t hurt them to follow the HP format, can it?
You are, of course, talking to the King of Discipline, thank you very much. LOL I didn’t need HP’s help with discipline, but they have been helpful to me with following a particular format in my articles about social issues, and even in short stories. Their format prevents me from falling into bad habits and sacrificing quality when I’m in a hurry, so for that I’m grateful.
Flawless but Boring
From Mary: “Bill, I'm happy that in spite of your busy schedule, you keep doing this. I always learn something or feel encouraged when I read the mailbag. I sometimes wonder why there are some novels or stories that are flawless but they make you go down into boredom when you read it. Do you think it reflects the inner state of the writer?”
Honestly, Mary, I think it’s because there are some very boring writers who do not have a certain flair which captures the attention of readers. Especially now in a world where self-publishing has made such a huge splash . . . my God there are some very average, mundane writers out there self-publishing.
But, in truth, I’ve read some of the “classics” and been bored beyond tears. Who determines that a book is a classic, by the way? Who sat down one day and decided Bronte is a “must-read” for everyone, or that Russian guy with a name I can’t spell? My good Lord, reading “War and Peace” is like taking a handful of valium. And that’s a classic????
I’m only partly jesting, of course, but I have wondered, at times, how some classic novels ever “made the grade,” and who the hell decided they were timeless. I understand some people do love “War and Peace,” or “Crime and Punishment,” and I’m sure they have great reasons for it.
But not me!
Too Many Ideas Follow-Through
From Emese: “Great mailbox, as always, Bill. Too Many Ideas Syndrome, I have it, and I do what you do with it: write it down, in a new Word doc. Or write it down in a notebook. But, I rarely ever go back to any of them. So my question is: how, or when, do you 1. find time for, 2. remember to do, 3. feel like developing any of these ideas. Granted, what you do might not work for me, but I'm curious because this happens to me all the time. I am cluttering up my house, my computer with the ideas that are waiting to be developed, it is starting to get overwhelming.”
Emese, there was the “Before 2018” period of my life, and the “After 2018” period. In the Before Period, I would have my week scheduled out with Thursdays and Fridays set aside for creative writing. It was then that I would go into my brain’s storage shed and pull out one of those ideas waiting for my action. Now, though, I seem to be awash in freelance writing gigs for customers, and overwhelmed by my duties in farming, so those creative writing days have been sacrificed for the common good. Now they just sit in a corner collecting cobwebs . . . a sad sight indeed!
To answer your question, back in the day of creative production, I would set aside particular times and days when the only thing I did was pay attention to those ideas . . . it helps to be disciplined, by the way, and determined to follow through with that plan. There were times, pre-2018, when nothing else was allowed to interfere with that writing, not family, not phone calls, not chores, nothing!
I doubt that was very helpful but it was, at least, truthful from my standpoint.
Traveling and Creativity
From Pete: “Do you travel very often? I ask that because your character in “Resurrecting Tobias” traveled all over the country, and it seemed like you had visited those same places. Do you feel traveling helps a creative writer?”
Pete, with regards to “Resurrecting Tobias,” I only wrote about places I have visited or lived in for a time. I wanted to write from a certain place of authenticity, so I limited Toby’s travels to cities I knew fairly well. Since I’ve seen thirty-eight states, lived in four, and visited often maybe ten, I have a few to choose from when writing stories. Once I decide to write a chapter in a particular city, I refresh my memory by calling upon Google maps for street names and accurate orienteering.
I did the same thing in my first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” by the way. Being a fairly lazy writer who doesn’t like research, this just seems to make sense to me. Now you know the real truth: I’m a lazy researcher!
Do I think traveling helps a creative writer? It certainly can’t hurt a creative writer. I think the more life experiences you have to call upon, the more interesting and authentic you will be in your writing. The same can be said about holding jobs. A creative writer who has had thirty jobs during their lifetime has more to draw from than someone who has only had three jobs, don’t you think? And those experiences inevitably end up in their novels.
So yes, I think traveling helps a creative writer. Do I think it’s necessary? No, but it certainly can’t hurt!
April Is Busting out All Over
Flowers and trees and spring animal births and WOW! Spring is such a cool time.
Need inspiration? Pull yourself up off the couch and go for a walk. Spring is out there waiting to inspire you. All you have to do is show up and pay attention. Hell, go to a farm and watch all the babies romping around. Very cool indeed!
Thanks to all who showed up in the Mail Room this week. You are all greatly appreciated!
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”