“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.”
– George Harrison, Cloud Nine
When I was looking for a quote to start off this post on risk taking, writing, and an author’s choices, this quote most affected my natural reflective and introspective self. At first, I wondered whether it had anything to do with my recent Beatles music immersion with the Cirque du Soleil’s presentation of Love. Maybe it did. Who knows? The point is that it struck a chord in me that I have never considered before, especially with respect to my writing. You see, I’m an organic writer who more often than not starts off a chapter with images (and ideas) then just lets it evolve according to its natural flow. Often in this early stage of my writing, development is more driven by characters and situations than by me. Strange though that may sound, at this stage I would describe myself more akin to a back stage technician critical to the play’s success out front. To me, George Harrison’s quote tells me that it’s okay not to always know where I’m going with a particular chapter or plot because each ‘thought-thread’— different in texture and creative bent—will eventually take me to a location where I should and must be in that particular piece of writing.
Challenging Norms, Alternative Realities and Consequences: Risk Taking Choices for a Writer
Challenge yourself to become better; the path won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
As a writer, it is important to never get locked into a specific a style of writing. I hope that every book I write will challenge me to climb higher along the learning curve. For me, that will probably include taking risks (stepping outside my comfort zone). Recently, I read Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers. It’s an excellent novel written in first person from the point of view of the protagonist. Telling a story in first person point of view is something that I would like to try. It won’t occur in my second book (or even the third) but I know at some future date it will happen. My aim at each stage is to always work toward being a better writer. How? It can only happen if I continually broaden my base and adapt to the world. It must always be a given that quality must not be compromised. That having been said, I would be naïve to think that everything I write will be liked. That’s life. But, I will do everything in my power to be viable as a writer.
My writing and research feed into each other. In other words, the research provides the writing with the ideas, sense of presence and creditability; while the writing breathes life into the research through the characters and situations. The two of them are constantly evolving in an ‘organic’ partnership to not only provide the initial ideas but others for me to ponder on. Sure, some of the research is garnered from the internet but the ‘real stuff’ comes from actually eating, sleeping, drinking, walking and just generally having both a presence and experience there. In other words, all I’m trying to say is to get out there and live it (just like Hemingway did).
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember,
involve me and I learn.”– Benjamin Franklin.
As an educator and now a writer, those words carry a lot of meaning for me, in the context of the interaction between teacher and student and the between writer and reader. Making the process work is not an easy process (and nothing worthwhile usually is) its rewards are lofty and worth seeking. Writing and teaching are life-long learning processes. Once you forget that, both your readers and students suffer because you as a writer (or teacher) begin to lose that “…emotional being—the effervescence, the sparkle,” as Patricia Cornwell describes it, so essential to keeping connected to both reader and student.
Going into the publishing process, I was a bit overwhelmed. As a first time writer, I discovered that there was so much more than “writing” to get a handle on – learning how to develop and deliver an effective pitch, how to interview, learning how to market myself, etc. Early on, I learned that how you deal with disappointment is critical to your success. Failure can either shut you down or spur you on; you can let it define you or you define it. Simply, you always have a choice.
I strongly dislike, no, let me just say it, I hate using the word “failure.” It conjures negative, hurtful images from my time at school and maybe it does for you. Let’s replace the word ‘failure’ with the phrase (at least until I find something better) ‘brain-teaser.’ Why ‘brain-teaser?’ Well, most people enjoy solving puzzles, no matter how many attempts it takes to solve them. The joy and challenge comes from solving it and/or winning. Few people keep a record of your failures (oops, there I go using that word again). Most people will laud your accomplishment and be amazed with your success. In other words, if you’re not successful the first time you attempt something, don’t sweat over it. Watch and learn from others who have been successful and the missing links will eventually fall into place, allowing you to be successful on your own terms.