Loose Wires

Sometimes you just want to shake your head.

Mention to someone, anyone that you are a writer and like clockwork the comments come. “Oh. I’ve always wanted to be a writer” or “I’m going to write a book when I retire” as if it were that easy.

This is not a choice. I did not wake up one morning and decide to be a writer. I simply realized I already was one.

Writers are not like other people. We are wired differently.

And there are a lot of loose wires.

Writing is not a 9 to 5 job. There is no clock to punch. You are always writing or reading or thinking about writing. I toss and turn at night until my wife finally tells me to get up and write whatever story I happen to be working through. It simply cannot be turned off.

One example of this came to me recently. A friend of mine mentioned that she was house-sitting for a relative. Sounds innocent enough. Not so fast-my mind starts wandering, meandering down various avenues. At first all I could think of was her taking the house out for a walk. Let me repeat myself:  All I could think of was her taking the house out for a walk.

That was just the beginning. Now that I was down the rabbit hole ideas came quick and furiously. Now this house was not always where you left it. Or maybe the doors within this house led to different places and times. In my mind I twisted and turned my way around the thought of someone house-sitting to my own bizarre version of the locked door haunted house.

Like I said loose wires.

There is something just a little off about us writers. I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.


Writer’s Write, Always

Writer’s write. It is a simple mantra I repeat over and over again. I do this because it is true, it is necessary. If a writer does not write then what is he?

There is no simple formula to writing. I do not believe any two writers truly go about it exactly the same. That being said there are boundless volumes devoted to the art of writing. My personal favorite has always been On Writing by Stephen King; it still remains my go to book on the craft.

Once I asked writing friends of mine on Twitter how they wrote. I was trying to raise the level of discussion. More importantly I was trying to see if there was something different I could do to refine my own process. One of those friends simply said that this was a discussion far too big for 140 characters. He was right.

It is far too big a discussion for 140 characters or 140 pages,  It is probably too big a discussion for 140 books. There is no end to the discussion because it matters. We can all learn from other writers, good or bad. We learn what to do, what not to do. We can find ways to jumpstart our own writing or find new paths out of the weeds. But any discussion starts with that mantra. Writer’s Write.

All I can offer is what I do and maybe it will help or inspire.

I do not follow the same path each time I sit down to write. Some days I outline, others I just walk out into the jungle to see what is there. When I do outline it is loose. I want a guide to follow so I can find my way back to the main path. I like to wander, to find things I never thought of at the outset. For me it is always about the journey, the final destination may change. It should change. I want to be surprised as much as my readers are.

Some days I skip the outline all together. So many thoughts fight for space between my ears that sometimes I just have to get them out. I am so very willing to simply vomit all over the page. It comes out in spurts, rambling thoughts that may have little to do with each other. That is where editing comes in.

It has taken a long time for me to understand how to edit properly. I learned in journalism to simply get rid of anything not essential to the story, it is freeing. Taking a machete to your stories can often make them stronger. It is not easy. Early on as writers we often fall in love with a turn of phrase or a little set piece that we love. It is hard to let go of something we are fond of. Put all those little phrases, ideas, characters that do not work in what you are writing in a junk file. You can go back and try to use them later. They are your babies.

There are only so many kinds of stories. That does not mean there are not an infinite number of ways to tell them. All we have to do is ask questions. What if? Why? Whose story is this? Even when retelling a story everyone knows we can dramatically change things by asking these questions. The hero is not always the hero, the villain always the villain. You are in control. It is your universe, tell your story.

Writer’s write. And sometimes we don’t. We read. We watch life go by. We have adventures. These are things we all need so that when we sit down in front of the computer, typewriter or with our trusty pad something happens. Anything. Just put one word in front of another.

In the end our stories are alive, these are just the chronicles.