“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
Four hours he had made her practice! Four goddamn hours! Until she defiantly screamed out: “Papa! I don’t want to be a ballerina! I will never be one! Do you hear? Never!” Stomping her foot, she crossed her arms tightly across her chest and purposely took on a belligerent stance.
The room flooded with anger so palpable it almost smothered her with its intensity. Attempting to flee ahead of him, she lost as he caught her in mid-flight and began to shake and hit her.
Too absorbed in protecting her head and getting free, Angelina barely heard him.
Her father stayed with her and kept repeating his truth; a dogma that snapped at the air like the gnashing teeth of a vicious, rabid dog.
“I promised her! You have no choice!” he yelled over and over again as he struck her.
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.