It’s true, writers like nothing more than to write about writing, to postpone the real work (of writing). And like the game of golf, you get lucky with a few strokes and then spend the rest of your life thinking you may be really good, but most times wind up cussing and frustrated.
This post is for a blog tour I was invited to participate in by a friend and writer in Canada, Ross Murray. Like many other things on the Internet, I don’t fully understand what I’m doing or what the hash tag really means, so if you have questions about it, please contact Ross: he started it.
And I met Ross through another writer named Michelle, who I’ll introduce later. This is one good thing about the Internet: you get to meet good people, and they’re two of my favorites.
Among other things, Ross hosts a blog called Drinking Tips for Teens. I was hooked on my first visit, thanks to the goofy photos of Ross and his family — but more from the stories and getting to know Ross, the man behind the blog, glasses, and beard (who looks like me, but older). Good writers carry you away, the best do it with a sense of humanity and wonder for our world. Enjoy reading Ross, I always do. Now on to my interview.
1. What am I working on?
After many years of talking about it, taking notes about it, then getting depressed about it and doing nothing, I have started work on my first story. Like a bill in Congress, it has many iterations, most people won’t understand it, and it’s hard to talk about. And it may never pass, and that may be alright.
The story is inspired by a nightmare my mom had when she was visiting us in Seattle last summer about a figure who brushed her arm and left her feeling like she’d been infected by something.
That figure became a character I started building out during walks in my neighborhood. I found a spot on a dead end street where I started imagining something wonderful or awful that happened there, and named it The Magic Place.
And then I introduced a boy named Benny Hopstock, to develop a relationship between the boy and the figure from my mom’s nightmare. The boy is inspired by a kid from my childhood who I taught to shoplift, who always had a runny nose and large brown eyes, like a cartoon deer. In the story, he’s me and a variety of people I’ve known. As they say about our dreams, everyone is really a version of you.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I was inspired by the James Joyce coming-of-age novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That book is beautifully written and also very hard to read. Mine won’t be as beautiful or as hard, but follows similar discoveries and transformations necessary for the artist to understand the world and his relationship to it.
I’m not concerned about my work being different yet. I think the challenge in being different is the challenge of being yourself, which is hard enough. No stories are unique, but each of our experiences is. We have to fashion our stories into a construct for others to relate. It’s easier said than done.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Like most writers, I write because I have to — certainly not to make a living. It’s a different kind of living. I write to make people feel something, to move them, and that’s to honor the beauty of imagination, art, nature, and our world.
In a college writing class one of the students asked our professor if anyone has ever lost their mind from writing. I thought it was a silly question, but the professor said there are probably cases of writers losing their mind from not writing, and I can relate to that.
In paintings, music, and literature, I respond to the artist’s restraint: to guide, but not push me. I like to coax the reader in a direction to where their discoveries are as charmed as mine, or more so.
4. How does my writing process work?
I jot down ideas in a pocket notepad I carry with me every day, use my blog to communicate with the outside world, and pick away at my story on the laptop, on the recliner, before I go to work in the mornings.
In the past, I’ve tried outlining a story or writing around it, but that hasn’t worked for me. It’s felt defeating and like a stalling mechanism. So this time, I just launched into the story based on some images and themes that have been building inside me.
I’m writing scene sketches in a non-linear format. I have around 50 of them, some a few pages, others a few paragraphs. I go back and read them from time to time, but try to resist the temptation of polishing vs. plotting onward, into the forest. I haven’t printed it out yet, either.
In school, I learned there are three types of conflict in literature: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Himself. I chose the latter, because it’s what I can relate to most. And I like the blending of good and evil in a character, a character struggling with madness. That conflict drives the story.
That’s enough about me, really.
Now, check out Michelle at The Green Study. I have one of her coffee mugs in my kitchen, for placing third in a blog contest she hosted last year. I like Michelle’s writing for its honesty and depth. She’s one of a few voices on the Internet that sound full and real to me, and I’m eager to hear more about her latest project next week.
Thanks for reading about my writing! Now, back to work.
“I like to coax the reader in a direction to where their discoveries are as charmed as mine, or more so.” Mark that one down as “success.”
Thanks for playing.
Thank you Ross!
love hearing about your process, each person’s is as different as they are, and it proves there is no, ‘right way.’ i’m happy to see you’re in book mode, and like seeing your face on the blog once in a while. ) beth
Seems there’s a million right ways and more wrong ways. Yes, seeing your face on the blog reminds me of happy blogging days, and your continued support and coaxing, which always brightens my day. And today, in Seattle, 85 degrees! A record! Speaking of bright…best to you and yours, Beth. Thank you for your kind words.
Aside from your writing style and the hat, I thought you really were Ross. Thanks for clearing that up… it’s cleared up, right? Anyway, the description of your writing project already has me hooked, which I’d consider a good sign from someone with a short attention span. Thanks for sharing your writing process as well as the catalyst for your current story. Consider me coaxed.
It’s not cleared up but it’s on the mend. It still burns, and I won’t go into the details here. Oregon coast?! We have to talk. God, I love Oregon. God, I don’t understand Oregon and that’s part of why I love it. It seems so far from Seattle, and that may be a good thing, for Oregonians. Few things amuse me more than making fun of my hippy friend Loren, from Portland. Actually, by way of San Francisco…seems it’s the new hip-hippy town – new to me that way, anyway. Thank you Ned. WordPress won’t let me follow you for reasons I don’t understand, but I’m not going to let technology get in the way, of using technology to get to know each other better. I do want to read your #process post when it’s posted though, and will drop by your store again soon. Cheers friend! – Bill
And I LOVE Seattle! If I ever had to live in a big city, it would be Seattle without hesitation. And I’ve spent time in L.A., New York, Boston, Dallas and Atlanta. The culture in Seattle, the underground, the Pike, the blending of old and new, the harbor and islands — I just love it. The first book I ever wrote, a mystery novel, took place in Seattle even though I’ve never actually lived there. Ok, enough about Seattle; I’m getting jealous…
Anyway, I’m really glad we’ve linked up, Bill. I’m truly looking forward to not only following your stuff — including the book you’re working on, which sounds terrific — but also the very real possibility of meeting up sometime soon, whether on my turf or yours.
Cheers to you as well my friend!
Hey Ned – thanks for this nice note. It was a great way to wash off the work day when I got out of there, cracked open my phone, and saw this. And now I read that you are based in Florence, or the paper is where you work, and realize we were there last August on a roadtrip, and camped a couple nights at the Jesse Honeyman (sp?) campground, went into Florence and ate at a seafood restaurant there on the water, then played the Zoltar dummy at a nearby ice cream shop. https://pinklightsabre.com/2013/09/01/a-bit-green/
Yeah, next time you have plans to be in Seattle let me know, and some day would be cool to see you in your neck of the woods, too. That’s a charmed place where you live.
Thanks again for taking the time with this note and your words of encouragement recently. Best – Bill
I actually live about three blocks from Zoltar. My family and I walk there to BJ’s Ice Cream regularly. I’m glad to know the chances of us meeting up at some point just increased dramatically. Zoltar said so.
And thanks for the catch on the possessive in my last post. I can’t (cant’ ?) believe I did that. However, it was a direct quote from Publisher’s Digest, so….
Anyway, I think coffee or some Red Hook together in Seattle this summer — and I mean you and I together, not the coffee and beer, ech! — is in the cards.
I thought you did that deliberately! Didn’t mean to be a dick, but sometimes cant help it! Thanks for the note back. I dig that Zoltar black magick.
I haven’t seen much of you on the blogosphere lately. Nice to see that you’re still around. I’ve been asked to join this tour too. I need to get busy and write it.
Yeah do it! Kind of fun. I’ve gone into remission so to speak, but seems like I’m starting to show signs of flaring up again. Thanks for checking in Glynis!