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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 209

Updated on July 2, 2018

Current Project

Sheez, you people just won’t let up on me. Nag, Nag, and Nag some more. You are all NAGGERS of the highest order.

“When are you going to write another reflective article, Bill? When are you going to write the sequel to “The Day the Corn Died?’ When are you going to finish that ‘Shadows’ novel? When, When, When???”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have people actually ask about my work. It’s flattering to know there are people out there, people I’ve never met in person, who actually give a damn about my writings, but the pressure to create time out of nothing is a bit much.

Whine, whine, and more whine!

So I am here to announce that I am currently working on a reflective piece about the Human Experience, and in particular about the pecking order in nature. It’s a topic I find fascinating . . . there are parallels, you know, between a chickens’ pecking order and we humans.

Or so says this observer of life.

So that article, when it is posted, will hopefully keep those wolves at bay. Then I’ll only have to listen to those asking me to finish my next novel.

I say all this in jest, of course. I love the attention, just like we all do, and I thank all of you for asking about my works-in-progress.

The first question this week is about something near, and dear, to my heart.

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room! | Source

Cathartic Pain

From Eric: “Bill it is the pain. You know my kind of writing. It is painful. I understand cathartic, all well and good and true to me. But Bill I also know you and you write of character's pain. I just assume when your character is in pain -- so are you. Does 'ya got's a band-aid?”

It’s been so long, Eric, since the days when I “made my bones” on HP by writing one cathartic article/story after another, that I think there is a whole new generation of HP writers who don’t even realize that’s what I once did daily. Now all they know me from is the Mailbag.

It’s not that I love cathartic writing. It’s that I find it necessary to do so I can stay sane and go on living.

How’s that for honesty?

I’m an alcoholic . . . recovering, yes, dry for twelve years now, but an alcoholic nonetheless. I mention that because one of my trademark character flaws was refusing to let anyone in to see the real me. I put up a wall for much of my life and would not let anyone see me. Now that I am recovering, and now that I made the decision to live my life without a crutch, I believe it is necessary to keep those walls down and never again hide from all of you.

So cathartic writing keeps me alive, figuratively and literally.

My innards are screaming at me to get with it and do some more cathartic writing, Eric, so I’ll go get a big supply of BandAids for both of us.

Thanks for the question, buddy! See you round the bend in the Looney Bin!


From Fellow Hubber: “Bill, What are your thoughts on the recent announcement about Hubbers being able to apply to become Mavens and run a vertical site? To me, it seems like a lot of daily work for uncertain payout and taking you further from the Hub community. They're about as clear as mud in their blog explanation. P.S. I love you. Keep up the dynamite Hubbing, buddy.”

Who the heck is “Fellow Hubber?” I wish I knew because of that very sweet comment at the end. I love you too, my friend, and I thank you.

I had to go read the HP blog about this opportunity. I failed to qualify on the very first requirement, 25,000 views per month! Sheez! I would die for that many views per month. Seriously!

What do I think about it? Seems like a good deal, but what do I know? I know Maven has some juice behind them. How could that hurt? As for the extra daily work, for those of us with blogs in addition to HP, it wouldn’t be extra work at all, in my opinion. Honestly this seems like a good deal to me. I would probably give it a go if I had that kind of following on either of my blogs, which I don’t, so there you go.

One additional word about HP: I have been critical of them in the past, but I will give them credit here and now. Many such sites have come and gone in the time I have been with HP. Many promised more money and delivered for a time, only to crash and burn. HP remains. They keep trying to improve their site and, by doing so, improve the earnings of writers. My own earnings have increased over the past three months. So my hat is off to HP for the good they have done in a very tough field.

Having said that, my earlier criticisms of them stand!

If You Could Be

From Paul: “Hey, Bill, if you could go back and change something, maybe your career choices at early adult age, what would you change it to?”

Shoulda, coulda, woulda . . . that’s a game I don’t allow myself to play, and the reason goes back to my earlier comment about being an alcoholic. The past is gone for me. Reliving it does this boy no good, because my addictive mind instantly wants to go back and be depressed about past mistakes. That’s a dead-end road for this former drunk.

The fact is, if I’m being perfectly honest and La La with all of you, I wouldn’t change a thing. All of my decisions from the past led me to this point in my life, and this point in my life is damned good. Because I’m a big believer in the Butterfly Effect, I wouldn’t want to change anything for fear I would end up in some torrid, tragic love affair in Paris, or the father of sixteen illegitimate children in Bangladesh, or some drunken bum, dead at forty-two from a failing liver.

I’m fine with today, thank you very much. A lot of my decisions turned out okay. I loved my nearly twenty years of teaching, loved my years as a business owner, and loved an assortment of other jobs I had, so it’s all good.

But I can play this game in a detached sort of way . . . if I could go back and choose, I think I would have gone into newspaper writing or radio broadcasting. I think either of them would have been fascinating. Ooh, maybe farming . . . or maybe a vet . . .

But I can’t so there you go!

If I could...I might have been a farmer
If I could...I might have been a farmer | Source

Research and the Truth

From Chris: “To some degree I know the answer, or at least an answer, to this question. But I'd like to hear your reasoning. What is the benefit to a fiction writer to have specific, in depth knowledge of a subject that arise in a story? We all do research for our stories. What is the difference between knowledge we already have sored in our heads and knowledge gained in new research? I have to laugh when people read one of my stories and come to a point where they question a factual point. They suggest I research that part to make sure it is true. If they only knew...”

Chris, I think having in-depth knowledge of a place or event shows in the writing. One can certainly learn the basic facts on Wikipedia, but one cannot get a personal sense of what it was like, or what it looks like, or what it feels like, unless they have been there. There is a huge difference, in my opinion, between knowing facts and experiencing situations. I can write about Vietnam, and I have, but I’ve never been in a battle, so my writing will always lack a certain authenticity.

I hope that’s what you were asking. Now I make up for that lack of experience, at times, but trying to imagine what a situation looked like, felt like, sounded like, etc., and if I do a good job of imagining I can come close . . . but close only counts in horseshoes, right?

Great question, Chris!

Wearing Several Writing Hats

From Eric: “Bill I am having just a bit of a problem between creative and technical. Yes my niche on briefs and court motions and such is to bring in "The human" aspect. Lawyers have trouble with that. But still it is very technical obviously. And then back to my "Sermons". Schizophrenia or Bi-Polar maybe. I know you do both. A little advice here.”

Eric, it is a valid concern, and it is a problem I face often since I have a freelance business which requires much different writing from my creative writing. My answer to you is all you can do is try to compartmentalize. There is no way to completely keep your creative voice out of the technical writing. I, personally, have found it impossible to do. The people I work for have remarked on that, that my writing is distinctive and unlike any other business blog writings, and that is because my “writing voice” will not be subdued.

So I really don’t have any advice here; only empathy and understanding.

Removing Wilder

From Mary: “I have a question for your next mailbag, what are your thoughts on the powers that be removing books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?”

Oh, Mary, this is indeed a sticky wicket!

For those of you unaware, Wilder’s name was removed from an award because sections of her books are considered racist against Native Americans. One section mentioned says “there were no people there . . . only Indians lived there.”

Sigh! I get it. I really do. I understand why Native Americans would be upset with that line, looked at in today’s inclusive light. I also realize that the passage in question was written many years ago, and it is very likely that the section wasn’t meant to be racist at all. So which wins out, literal or intent?

More than anything else, this decision just leaves me sad, sad that everything said, and done, is viewed under a microscope, and dissected on social media, and . . .

I think our innocence has been stripped away, and that makes me sad as well.

Removing Wilder
Removing Wilder | Source

I Need to Go Write

The pressure is on, now. I have to go finish that article about the pecking order so I can get some of you nags off my back . . . he said facetiously. Keep pushing me, folks. I don’t ever want to become complacent, and if I have even a sliver of writing talent, I don’t ever want that talent to go to waste . . . so keep pushing me to get off my butt and write!

Wishing you all a spectacular week of life!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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