On Twitter this morning I saw a post that said, “We’re running out of ideas of what to do in lockdown… any ideas?” Being the helpful one, I quickly responded, ‘Learn something new. Find something that fascinates you, study it and then write a story about it.’
Rather good advice if you ask me. It would be even better advice if I followed it myself. There are many things that fascinate me: the Sonoran Desert, jazz, blues music, animals, books, and writing, lots of things. Still, there are many times I sit in front of a blank computer screen or at the coffee shop and ask myself over and over, “what should I write?”
A gifted and successful writing friend of mine once said she wanted to write an important book. A statement I glommed onto like liquid cement. Yeah, me too, I thought. I want to write an important book, maybe something a little less bold, an important story. Some days I’d settle for one good sentence. Although I’m filled with sage guidance for others, I often get stuck when trying to follow my advice.
The question arises, “What is an important book?” Is it a book that sells a million copies? Does an important book bring pleasure and sometimes tears to a reader? If so, is one teary-eyed pleasure filled reader enough to justify the designation of important? Does a five-star review move a book from ho-hum to wow?
Why do I look at Submittable two times a day to see if one of my stories or poems has been accepted for publication? Am I vain, shallow, or insecure because I check my KDP account to see if another book or two has been sold, or if a few more pages of The Unusual Man have been read by an Amazon Unlimited reader? In full disclosure, yes, I am vain, shallow, and insecure.
Still, I believe we all want or perhaps need personal validation. Writing is one way to attempt to achieve this validation.
Ernest Hemingway has been reported to have once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” There are several variants to this quote, but they all say basically the same thing. Yet, who among us wants to bleed? Who among us is willing to bleed? I once unkindly said about a book I’d just read, “I don’t care that it’s not a good book, I mind that the author apparently didn’t care that it wasn’t a good book.” I openly admit that was a very mean thing to say.
If writing a book is an item to be completed and checked off a bucket list, most anything will do. There is nothing wrong with that. If one wants to write “something important,” then it’s a lot of work. It starts with coming to an acceptable answer to what does important mean. Writing well, writing skillfully, is damn hard. It comes from effort, from learning, from failing and from trying again. Maybe Hemingway was correct. Maybe it requires bleeding.
I ask the question I read earlier this morning, “I’m running out of ideas of what to do during the lockdown, any ideas?” If you do, please pass them on, I’d very much appreciate reading them.
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” Orson Scott.
“Write what should not be forgotten.” Isabel Allende.
Louie’s Book Bark
Desert Wife by Hilda Faunce is an old and beautiful book. Faunce and her husband Ken moved from Oregon to Arizona to operate a trading post for Navajo people. They spent four hard years and, in the writing, Faunce skillfully tells how she came to know, respect and like the people. There is no question life was a day-by-day struggle. The four-year adventure occurred between 1914 and 1918. To get a sense of the time, the location, and the adventure, read this book.
Louie gives it a 4.5-star rating.