Hello everyone. Thank you for checking in on my website and Facebook, and of course for reading my books and supporting my work.
Supporting “my calling”, I ought to say, and I’d like to talk a little bit about that today and what it means.
As most of you may know, I did “retire” a few years back. I thought I was done. This was not really my decision, but a set of circumstances that led me to the conclusion that I was finished as a writer and there was no point in going forward. At that time, I figured I would just kinda coast and find out what else life had in store for me.
Well…it happened through another set of circumstances that I was “called” back. Yes, really. I heard that calling very clearly. Things happened that brought me back into the field of writing. I am not the same as I was and certainly not in the same place I was. It’s interesting to me that after ten years of being “back” many people who read my earlier work have no idea I am back writing. If they find out, it’s usually a big surprise to them. But I am working, and working very hard, and I believe my best book is still ahead of me.
I have always been very blessed to be able to “see” something in my head and write it down as I see it. I have been blessed to be able to put stories together, create people, and essentially build worlds that did not exist before. The creative process to me is still amazing. It’s mystic, really. A mystic journey into the unknown. I still don’t understand it, but I surely do appreciate it.
I am asked—as most writers are—where I get my ideas. There is no one answer to that. I just know I am “open”. Only recently I got a story idea from an old photograph in a book. The wheels started turning. As will happen, my mind will work this idea like a Rubik’s Cube over the next year or so, while I’m working on another book. There will be a place in my head where this book idea will be “tested” for strengths and flaws, and slowly but surely I’ll decide if it’s a viable subject and if I will remain interested enough in it for the seven to nine months it takes to get the story written. This is how it happens. An overheard comment…a photograph…a dream…a news story…a wish or a fear: the book may be born from all those, and more.
An important thing, this is…I want to be able to write what I feel I want to read, but I can never read it unless I write it. It of course has to hold my interest over a long period of time. It has to have a depth that fascinates me and keeps me going. I have said it’s like a painting that comes to life, revealing all sorts of colors and layers that you didn’t know were going to be there where you made the first brushstroke.
It’s a long journey, to be sure. Each book has a different personality. Each has its own problems to be solved and offers its own rewards. I’ve worked on books that posed tremendous problems of timing, in that characters had to “be” in a certain place at a certain time. I’ve worked on books that worked on me in my sleep, causing me to try to solve their problems in dreams. I’ve worked on books where characters resisted the actions I wanted them to perform, and seemed to “correct” me or take off on their own.
Oh yeah…the characters. I’m working on something now where I’d planned the lead character to die in what would have been—hopefully—a very wrenching scene. Well, this bad boy says “No way, Mac! After what you put me through, I ain’t goin’ out!” So there you go…he refuses to be killed as a reward for his bravery, and so he will live to fight another day.
As I say, it’s a mystic journey. I don’t work from an outline, so sometimes I am very surprised as to how things develop. I think the work is more difficult and slower because I don’t use an outline and haven’t solved all the problems beforehand, but to me the work stays fresh this way and I always am excited to come back to it.
Someone asked me if I ever get “stuck”. No, I don’t. Here’s my secret: when I finish writing for the day, before I get up from my desk I always type one letter for the next line. The letter is random. D…H…K…B…whatever. So when I come back to work, I begin the next sentence with that letter. Might not work for everyone, but it does work for me.
My calling. I’ve often thought what else I might have done or been in this life. I always come up thinking that, for better or for worse, I am exactly where I need to be. I don’t think I chose writing as a career, I think it chose me. Does that sound strange or pretentious? I was writing short stories in the first grade. I was “seeing” things that I wanted to express and describe at a very early age. My calling. It called me, even when I thought I was done. Especially when I thought I was done. It reached out for me and brought me back.
Now, it didn’t and does not and never will promise an easy road. I will tell you that this is one of the most difficult callings a person can have. Imagine…you have a story to tell and you must tell it, you have characters to birth and worlds to create and you must—you must—do this to be true to the fire that illuminates you…yet you must do this alone. No one can help you define and refine these visions. You must be apart from other people, for such a long time. It is a very lonely calling. No one can do this for you. The mystic journey cannot be shared by anyone else.
It is a solitary trip, with an uncertain destination…because how can you be sure when this book is finished that any publisher will want it or anyone will want to read it?
But if it’s your calling, you have to take the risk. As a matter of fact, your entire life becomes a risk. How long do you devote to a project, if it’s not immediately coming to life? Is the breakthrough on the next page? In the next chapter? Would you be better off working on something else? But…if you give up…are you a failure? Or are you a failure if you keep on working at some creature that you thought would come to divine life only to find that it is a half-life, an artificial life, a forced life…and you should have known a hundred pages ago to let the creature sleep?
Risk and rewards. Or risk and no rewards. But always risk.
The book must be my Paradise. It must be a place I want to visit and revisit, and live in for not only seven to nine months but for the rest of my life…because it’s going to have my name on it. It may have gone through many hands…some tender and caring, some dumb and rough…but in the end, it always has my name on it and so I take responsibility for every word and every thought.
There are not very many other professions where one person signs their name to the work. One person. Opening yourself up to whatever may come to praise you or to bury you. So toughness is also part of this journey. That, and understanding you will never be perfect. You will never write the perfect book, the book that has no error (or typo!). But still, even knowing that…you do have to try.
And that I guess is the heart of my calling. The eternal effort. The trying and trying, as much as someone might try many keys on a difficult lock to open the door to a room that entices and beckons yet promises nothing. What is beyond that door? I don’t know…but I have to find out.
The eternal effort and the curiosity. The risk, the toughness, the work that can only be done alone. The feeling that no book can ever be perfect, yet the next one might be. The drive that says if you wish to read this, you must write it…because no one in the world, no one who has ever existed or ever will exist again, can create it in the same way that you will.
So I embrace my calling. I embrace all of it, the highs and the lows…the past, the present and the future. I am, as with every other writer, part of the heart and soul of the world of creation. We are the night workers, the daytime dreamers, the fighters in the trenches for so many things that lie on the edge of being lost. Our calling is huge, vital and important. Without the voice of the writer, who could sing? Who would speak for those who often can’t? And who would dream for those who have lost faith in dreams, in our troubled and very uncertain age?
I embrace my calling. And though it does not and never has promised an easy road on this mystic journey, I am sure without a doubt that it embraces me.
Thank you for being here, and thank you so much for reading my work.