Friday, April 13, 2012

The Work of Writing

Anyone who has ever tried to do serious writing knows it is not easy. I've had occasion to reflect on that truth in the past few weeks as I have sat at the laptop, working on a couple of stories.

If I have a serious hobby at all, it is writing. At one point in my life I entertained the idea of writing the next great American novel. In assessing my desire to write, I came to a point where I realized that if I was to ever do any good writing, I needed to practice. I needed to sit down and write. I still have the notebook containing the pages pounded out out on the old mechanical typewriter that had been in my possession since high school days. Then came the PC, and now the laptop.

I remember someone saying that if you wanted to write, write about the things you know; the things that come from your own life experiences. So it is I have written a number of short memoirs; recalling incidents and happenings from my life. I have tried my hand at poetry and on the left of this page you will find a link to my poetry blog. I've also written a few more lengthy essay type pieces which are found here on the Billy Goat Blog. And yes, blogging itself provides opportunity for practicing the art of writing.

None of what I have written has ever been formally published, but has been self-published in some forum or other on the internet. Irrational as it may be, my greatest fear is the fear of what some editor might do to the things I have written. The stories, essays, and poetry are my life, the revelation of some intimate corners of my soul, and as such are sacred ground.

There have been only a few times that I have tried my hand at writing an original fiction piece. The two projects in the works at this time are both fictional. My inspiration for trying my hand at fiction came about a year or so go when I re-read Ray Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric and Other Stories" along with "The Martian Chronicles".

Through his writings, Bradbury taught me that what makes fiction work is in how it pictures the human condition. What made his stories memorable were not the mechanics of projecting the advanced science of science fiction, as interesting as that may be, but the human condition that remained the same in Sci-Fi, historical novels, or any other kind of genre, fictional or real life.

And so I write. I wrestle with words and sentence structure and paragraphing. You struggle with writing in a way so that the story the reader is reading is the story you are telling. You go over what you wrote, asking yourself if a first time reader is getting the same message you think you are telling. It is classic communications class 101 all over again. Life demands its priorities. You have to work a paying job, and there are family responsibilities, and the opportunities to spend any lengthy time on a writing project is limited.

As a writer, I do not "make up" a story. A writer does not create the story; the writer tells the story that he or she discovers is already there. It is not always clear how the story is going to develop. The basic story line is there, but as you fill in the details, you find the development is not going where you thought it was.

Other stories intersect the story you are telling. The one story I am working on could lend itself to a trilogy, but I'm not sure it has been given to me to tell the other two intersecting stories.

In writing, one story develops in a relatively straight forward somewhat logical manner. The other story develops in bits and pieces that are not in any logical chronological order.

How many times through the years I have thought about writing, and than sat down to read a favorite established author, and conclude that in comparison to that author I don't know how to write at all.

But I keep practicing. I keep writing. And if any of my writing is ever formally published or not, I would still write. I would tell the stories, and leave them for my children's children.

I do not want to write for the "Christian market". If I can't write a story that touches all kinds of people, Christian or otherwise, I would rather not write at all. Yes, a Christian view of life gives philosophical foundation for my writing, but I loathe and resist a pop Christian cultural concept of Christian writing. I resist being bound to that mediocrity. True Christian writing should be much, much better then that.

So I write, and as long as I am able, will continue to write. And just maybe, God helping me, I might possibly write something that actually has some literary value for the ages.


(Here is a link to a list of my writings that are published on Scribd. )

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