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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 246

Updated on March 4, 2019

March Comes in Like a Lamb

Mother Nature is all confused, poor Dear! March is supposed to come in like a lion; instead she came in all meek and mild with our warmest day since mid-January. After the warmest January on record, and the coldest February on record, I can hardly wait to see what March has in store for us.

Language is a fascinating construct, don’t you think? The same word, or phrase, can mean different things to different people. Take the phrase “climate change, “for instance.

To many Liberals and Right Wing Conservatives in the United States, climate change is synonymous with “global warming.” It is a rallying cry for the environmental battle. Taken literally, though, it simply means that the climate is changing. In fact, the climate is constantly changing. The climate here, in Olympia, is drastically different from what it was when I was a child in the 1950’s. That’s not a political statement; that is simply a scientific, quantifiable statement of fact. And yet if I were to say that to certain groups of people, they hear me making a statement in favor of environmental measures and drastic changes to our lifestyles i.e. fossil fuels, etc.

So be careful in choosing your words, and on the other end of the spectrum, be careful how you interpret the words you read. Put another way, not all news is fake news. LOL

Let’s do this Mailbag thing, shall we?

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room!

No Outline

From Nithya: “A great mailbag installment, thank you for sharing. Writing with an outline all worked out in your mind is quite the feat. I wonder how you do it!”

NIthya, I honestly don’t know. I’m not terribly smart when it comes to the workings of the mind. I do know I am a very logical, organized person. I see things in linear fashion when solving problems. I go from Point A to Point B to Point C, one point at a time, finish one, move on to the next. I’m the exact opposite of my wife Bev, who sees twenty steps at the same time, does bits and pieces of Point A and Point F and Point Z simultaneously, and somehow ends up at the same conclusion I end up at.

I suspect my ability to outline in my mind is a direct result of that organized thought process I’m saddled with. It’s just the way I’m wired and thank God I am, because I hate writing outlines.

Mea culpa Sister Mary Elizabeth! You tried your best in 4th Grade and God bless you for it!

Song Lyrics and Poetry

From Pete: “Hey, Bill, lately you’ve shared song lyrics from Dan Fogelberg, and that’s got me thinking about poetry and song lyrics. Does it follow that a good poet would be a good songwriter? A song is nothing more than a poem to music, after all, so maybe many poets are missing their calling by not writing songs? Or is my logic flawed?”

This is a fascinating question, Pete. Thanks so much for asking it.

Let’s take a look at some lyrics from Fogelberg from his song “Ghosts.”

Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath
And yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes
Like the taste of some forbidden
Along the walls; in shadowed

Moving like a thought through
Haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter

Banished dreams that never
Sank in sleep.
Lost in love and
Found in reason
Questions that the mind can find
No answers for
Ghostly eyes
Conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door....
Every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure
In the mystery
Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us
We are free.

Which came first, the lyrics or the tune? I’ve heard some songwriters start with the lyrics and add the music later. Others do the exact opposite. Different strokes for different folks, but that doesn’t answer your question. I do not think it naturally follows that a good poet can be a good songwriter. It takes talent to match words to notes, and not every poet has that talent. Dylan did it successfully, as did Coen. In the song above, Fogelberg wrote the poem and then added music.

J.D. Souther, a songwriter in the 1970’s, said all a good poet has to do is dumb down his poetry to write pop music.

I suspect it all boils down to this: it takes talent to combine good poetry and music. Some have that talent. Others do not. I will never be able to do that, and I’m fine with that. On the other hand, I’m willing to bet I can write a better novel than Dylan can. I don’t say that with any hint of ego. I just don’t think Dylan is wired the same way I am.

There are no time restrictions when writing a novel.
There are no time restrictions when writing a novel.

How Long to Write a Novel

From Missy: “I know you’ve written several novels. I’m thinking about writing my first. How long do you think it should take to write a full-length novel?”

Missy, it takes as long as it takes, and I do not say that facetiously. If I have the time I can write a 75,000 word novel, and publish it, in six months. The one I’m working on now has taken over a year. I have a friend who took three years to write her first. It took Harper Lee a year to write “To Kill A Mockingbird.” There is no simple answer to your question. It’s going to take you as long as it takes you to complete it. I send best wishes for your journey!

Goodbye February!
Goodbye February!

Enjoy the Lamb While It Lasts

That’s it for this week. I hope you are enjoying a mild March like we are. May March be fruitful for you all. Remember to spend all thirty-one days of March living in love. The world needs you to do so!

And finally, Rest in Peace to a HP and blogging buddy, Greg Boudonck, who passed away quite suddenly Friday night in Puerto Rico. He posted his blog, went to bed, and died. Food for thought as you begin your work week. Make it count!

You will be missed, Greg my friend. I will not forget you, and your words will live on long after we are all pushing up daisies.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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