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The Writer’s Life as Told to Me by Others

I’m told that the life of a writer is often a journey filled with passion, creativity, challenges, and introspection. I also hear that writers are individuals who have a unique way of perceiving the world, and they use words as their medium to express their thoughts, emotions, and imaginations. My god, what a load to carry all the way to the word processor, typewriter or pen. Somewhere I even read once that each writer’s path is distinct, although there are (said to be) common elements that define the writer’s life.

A sigh escapes my lips as I contemplate the burden

And here I always thought it was supposed to be a bit fun, something that if I were a horse, would prick my ears. I know there are those who feel history must be honored and an empty whiskey bottle is required, while others are attentive to the fact that if you don’t write, your life is not complete. It’s been my experience that biographies of writers seem to require quite a bit of salt, generous amounts of pepper and perhaps a handful of freshly cut garden-herbs to make them palatable.

Certainly no biographer ever went wrong with a dash of hyperbole

But if you’re new to the game, don’t be surprised that it’s largely dedication and discipline. It’s not a way of life. Few writers can give up their day-job for years on end. So, with that in mind, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or journalism, you’re going to need something to keep you coming back to the page. That something is often watching your characters take the plot away from you and run with it.

Mark Twain had a thing or two to say about that and he was a man who cherished every aspect of enjoyment, while still being a prolific writer and speaker. Interestingly, he never made a dime from publishing but was well compensated as a speaker. And there’s something to be learned there. Writing, after all, is no more than speaking on paper. Following up on that thought, storytelling is the main deal. Hone your skills in that direction.

But back to Twain

If you can get hold of his auto-biography—held for publication until 100 years after his death—you’ll read of his joy when his characters led the way. In fact, he had what he called a ‘drydock,’ where he put any story when his Tom or Huck got lazy. It would sit there, sometimes for years (as did Huckleberry Finn) until those subjects were ready to get in harness and run with the text again.

You’ll think I’m making that up. I am not.

But it’s a joy in fiction and happened to me with every novel I wrote. Some characters were not even there in the original scheme of things. I recall in EVOKE, the Senator and his billionaire dinner guest, were making chit-chat prior to getting down to the business of the day and a remark was made about their children. Ordinary stuff.

But the 3rd generation Senator had a son in the family law firm and it suddenly became apparent he was under the enormous pressure of expectation. As I followed that side-line, he wrote himself to be gay and dating a ‘cover’ girlfriend to whom he was engaged. That discovery opened him to being a major member of the ongoing story and changed the entire thrust of the novel. An inexperienced writer at the time, I can’t over emphasize how much joy that brought to me.

Find the joy, love the joy and cherish every moment of it. If it’s not yet there for you, insist upon finding it. You will have nailed down the secret to longevity.

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