DS: It’s time for another fake interview with a deceased author. Today, from his grave in Poet’s Corner, we have the inimitable Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens, you are known for painting the modern picture of Victorian England, creating larger than life characters that still capture our imagination today, and publishing your stories a chapter at a time in serialized formats. Thank you for being here today.
CD: We are so very ‘umble.
To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.
It’s that time of year. Temperatures are up, so perhaps are tempers. Motivation is low, so is our energy. Some of us are traveling or just getting out of doors but it’s a truism of being a writer, we must read books.
A lot of them.
You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury
Never one to pass up a bargain, I recently attended a free class taught by Trai Cartwright at the Old Town Library on World Building. I don’t write science fiction or fantasy, but since Trai was teaching, I decided to go because a) Trai is hilarious, b) she’s also an effective teacher, and c) I might learn something.
And boy, did I!
World Building isn’t just for sci-fi/fantasy. Any story we tell has to be set somewhere, and that somewhere needs rules. And for some genres, setting is much more than where or when the story takes place.
While I try to avoid generalized statements, I believe there is a strong case for this one. Who else would put themselves through the agony of word counts, shitty first drafts, killing your darlings, receiving criticism with a smile and a thank you and stacks upon stacks of formal rejections. Passion is intrinsic to the craft.
And, while writers are certainly passionate about writing (you know who you are, you Grammar Nazis!), I’ve found that the writing is a secondary passion.
I have a virtual sticky note on the monitor in my office. It’s a quote from Stephen King: Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter. More than anything lately, it’s what keeps me writing.
I recently sent off my latest screenplay for a professional review. While waiting for the praise, I was sure to get back for it, I worked on my academy awards acceptance speech. I’m sure you’ll all be glad to know that NCW was on the top of my list of those to thank. I worried about whether it would make sense to consider a part-time move to Hollywood because the offers were sure to start rolling in.
Summer is the time to explore new places, correct?
If you are like me, children’s sports schedules usually dictate where our family goes on vacation. Though there was the one time that I had a piece accepted by an anthology based in Ireland, and I simply had to go to County Cork. Twist my arm. Twist it again.
Back in the 70s, I played guitar in a couple metal bands. I had fun, but I wasn’t any good. These days, I’m trying to teach myself to play blues guitar again (a goal that aligns with my latest writing project). The 45-year layoff taught me two things. First, old fingers suck. Second, there’s a lot to learn about writing from playing guitar.
The best guitarist I ever saw was an unlikely-looking kid (he resembled Bob Denver from the television show, Gilligan’s Island). I won’t mention his name because he still plays bars in northern Colorado. We got together a few times, decades ago, to jam.
What if you had almost a month of undistracted writing time? With a private studio. Physically isolated from family and friends. Limited internet access—nearly off the grid except for stimulating conversations over dinner with artists from all over the country, or even the world.
Room, board, and studio provided free of charge. No obligations. Heaven or hell? Could you do it? If so, what would you accomplish? If this sounds like heaven, then perhaps a residency is in your future.