#IWSG: What I’ve Learned from the Insecure Writer Support Group
It’s December, 2015, the second of the month, to be exact, and it’s time again for my contribution to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group, a forum of bloggers who share their fears, hopes, dreams, and ideas for the benefit of the writing community. You can see a list of them here, as well as throw your own hat into the ring and share your pearls of wisdom.
This is the last post of the year and, sadly for me, my last contribution to the group. I find that running two blogs, reviewing 3 – 4 books per week, trying to write my own books, and teaching three courses at local colleges—just to list my main activities—takes up more time than I’d anticipated. In addition, I’m not sure I have anything else to share that’s really new.
I thought for my last post in the group, I’d talk about the things I’ve gained from being a part of IWSG for the past many months. That’s right; this has been more of a learning exercise for me—I’ve gained much, much more than I’ve given.
I’ve learned that, while writing is essentially a solitary activity, thanks to social media, blogs, and the Internet, a writer doesn’t have to be totally alone. I’ve gained many friends over the past three years, many of them writers, and I’ve learned something valuable from each of them.
Reading the blogs by other members of the group I’ve improved my own writing. Hints on how to develop characters, or to develop meaningful character names, a great post by Jody Hedlund. There were a lot of inspirational posts, like Rachel Shieffelbein’s advice on not quitting when the going gets hard.
There were more, so many more that there’s not enough space here to mention them all. At this writing there were 255 bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer Support Group monthly posting. That’s a lot of potential sources of advice and inspiration. I know—I’ve been inspired and gotten tons of advice over the months. I’ll keep dropping in from time to time, because I know there’s always something new to learn.
In the meantime, my parting piece of advice to all you writers and wannabe writers out there—stop threatening to write, stop procrastinating. Listen to Rachel Shieffelbein; sit yourself down and put fingers to keyboard and WRITE.
Happy holidays to all my regular readers, and a happy successful year ahead. Keep reading, keep writing.
#IWSG: How Having an Established Routine Can Help You Be More Creative
Here we are, another first Wednesday, and time for a contribution to Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a talented (yours truly excepted) group of writers who share tips, advice, fears, and other neat stuff about writing. If you have something you’d like to share, trot over to the IWSG site and join up. In the meantime, this month, I’d like to talk about something that might seem counterintuitive—how having a relatively unvarying routine can help your creativity. That’s right, a dull, boring, same-thing-every day routine can actually be a boon to your creative process, so stop shaking your head and laughing and listen up. If the link above doesn’t work, go to http://insecurewriterssupportgroup.blogspot.com/. This is a temporary link until the insecure Writer Support Group moves to a new domain.
My Daily Routine
Every day, except when I’m sick and have to stay in bed (and, thankfully, my sick days are few and far between), I’m up between 5:30 and 6:30. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I started life on a farm, where early rising was part of the daily routine, went from there to the army where it was part of the daily routine, and after 37 years of that as a daily routine, it is now hardwired into my system. Since I retired from government service three years ago, my wife has tried to get me to sleep in on occasion, but my body has become so accustomed to the 6 – 8 hour per night sleep, after 7.5 hours, my brain starts urging it to get up, and if I go over 8 hours, I get sore muscles, back aches and headaches. Besides, as you’ll see when I get to my ‘Work Routine,’ having a regular sleep-wake cycle is part of what contributes to my creativity.
After getting up, I do my daily exercise, shower and shave, walk the dog (or when we haven’t had a dog I just walk about half a mile), and fix breakfast. After eating breakfast I check emails, and then write for a few hours unless I have a scheduled activity outside the house.
After a couple hours writing, I take another walk. Then, if the weather is good I sit on my deck for two hours, smoking my pipe and either reading, taking pictures of the birds that visit the feeder, or making notes in one of my journals.
Two to three days each week, when I don’t have scheduled activity away from home, I take a two-hour nap from 2:00 to 4:00. As you get older, you too might find this a refreshing way to recharge and build energy.
In the evening, around 6:00, I feed and walk the dog again, wash up and eat supper, and then watch about two hours of TV. After getting my idiot tube fix, I hit the keyboard again and write until around 10:30, or sometimes 11:00, then I go to bed.
I do this Sunday through Saturday, holidays included. When I travel, it’s much the same except for walking the dog and fixing breakfast—I eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant on the road.
What follows is my writing work routine, and you’ll see how my daily life schedule fits it—and, hopefully, how all this feeds into what little creativity I possess.
My Work (writing, photography, and art) Routine
My focus here is on writing primarily. For starters, I have a daily writing quota of at least 2,000 words per day (I once did 1,000, but now that I no longer have a full-time day job working for someone else, I find it quite easy to make the 2,000 quota, and quite often exceed it by several thousand words. I do this regardless of any other planned activity, writing in portable journals I always carry with me when I travel. I write blog postings, book reviews, and work on whatever book project that is in progress—often having two or three books going at the same time.
I spend at least one hour each day reading. I read everything; books for review in several genres, books for pleasure—also in several genres, but mainly mysteries, thrillers, history, and science fiction—checking current news both local and international. When I’m reading, even for pleasure, I make notes of passages that strike me as exceptionally well done. These become guides or jogs for my own writing.
When I’m working on a book project, I write until I’ve reached a point where the ideas begin to slow, but not before I’ve done 2,000 words. I never stop at the end of a chapter, though, writing at least the first paragraph of the next chapter before closing it out. This makes it easier to pick up the next day.
Before I start on a book project, I do a rough chapter or section outline with main plot themes, characters involved, and the action for each chapter. I make character lists, with names, origins, ages, gender, occupation, and special characteristics of each character listed, and refer to them frequently as I write. I also do a timeline for the whole book, with start and end date, and then research to learn what historical events took place during that period. Sometimes the events will be specifically referred to, and at other times, I’ll have a character react to some historical event. I find this adds authenticity to stories and helps put readers more into what’s going on.
Sometimes I’ll devote most of a day to either photography or art (drawing and painting). For either I’m thematic. For instance, if I’m taking pictures, I’ll focus on birds or landscapes. Same with art, I’ll pick a specific subject and do drawings or paintings of that subject for a few hours.
How my Routine Helps my Creativity
At this point, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with creativity. Well, since I have my day pretty well mapped out, and I’ve been doing it so long I no longer have to think consciously about it—for instance, when I put on my shoes I always put the left shoe on first for some reason. This leaves my mind free to focus on the creative aspects of my work. While I’m cooking my breakfast, for instance, I’ll be thinking about my work in progress. I might, for example, think about how preparing a meal could be worked into my current story, and how it might be used to foreshadow a key event in the story.
Even when I’m out taking pictures, my mind is taking in details of my surroundings. What sounds do I hear? How does the ground feel beneath my feet? What does the forest smell like at certain times of the day, or during different seasons? What color is the sky in the early morning as compared to late afternoon? All of these can add to the depth and richness of what you write.
Even when I’m taking my afternoon nap, my mind is working. I usually fall asleep thinking about my work in progress, and when I wake up, I’m one of a fortunate few people who can vividly remember my dreams. Immediately upon waking up, I go to my journal and jot down the most memorable parts of my dreams.
Now, I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. By having a well-established routine, your mind is free to roam; to go off on those creative tangents that help to enliven your writing. You get more done—sort of two for one, if you will—the day-to-day activities of life get done, and at the same time you are creating what could very well be something a great number of people would enjoy reading or seeing.
#IWSG: Where Story Ideas Come From – 2
In this month’s offering for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group monthly blog, I’d like to continue my post from last month about the source of ideas for the stories I write. First, though, a few words about the group. This is a posting on the first Wednesday of each month by some outstanding bloggers from around the world addressing the insecurities and fears of writing as well as advice and tips on how to get the most out of your talent. You should pop over and check it out, and while you’re there, sign up to join this august crew.
Okay, enough promotion, now on to the finale of ‘where story ideas come from,’ an adaptation of a post I did a few years ago.
When I started writing the Al Pennyback mystery series, I didn’t have a specific sub-genre in mind. It’s not a hardboiled mystery with a hero who is always battling bad guys; nor is it a procedural mystery – I go light on the technical aspects of crimes, criminals, or police procedures. I was just going for a good story that had a crime as a central element, which the hero, Al Pennyback, would then set about solving.
My main motivation for writing this particular series was the fact that I live in the Washington, DC area, and have for more than 30 years, and most of the stories set in this locale are about politicians, spies, or high-powered lobbyists. I know that the average Joe and Jane who happens to call the Washington metro area home lives a life that can be just as exciting as the K Street crowd, or the boys across the river in McLean, so, about ten years ago I started drafting.
My first, Color Me Dead, went through more than six years of rewriting; the title changed, the central plot changed, and most importantly, the name and background of the main character changed. I no longer remember what I called him at first, but, one day as I was sweating over the tenth or twentieth draft, Al Pennyback was born. He’s an African-American; after all, the area is predominantly African-American; he’s retired military; being retired military, I can relate to that, and the area also has loads of retired military people; and he’s a sucker for puzzles and unsolved mysteries. Despite, or because of, his military background, he hates guns, preferring to use his wits or his martial arts ability to get out of tight spots. He’s a widower; gives him an air of sympathy; but, has a girl friend. The sex scenes are only hinted at. I think too many modern mysteries go overboard on the sex. And, the language is mostly mild. On occasion, Al or one of the characters lets fly with an earthy expletive, because that’s the way people talk after all, but you won’t find curse words on every page.
That’s sort of the definition of a cozy mystery; cosy in British English; but, I didn’t set out to write cozies. Despite that, one of my British readers has decided that’s the sub-genre of at least one of the stories in the series, Dead Man’s Cove. He gave it such a good review, I don’t have the heart to argue the point.
Following the advice given in most books on writing, I try to show, not tell. I let the characters’ dialogue and action move the story rather than filling page after page with exposition or descriptions.
Now, the question one might well ask is; where do the ideas for this series come from? The answer is – everywhere. I read newspapers, print and online, and every edition has at least one story idea. Till Death Do Us Part, for instance, came from an article I read in a South African newspaper on a flight from Capetown to Copenhagen a few years ago about a couple who’d come to Johannesburg on vacation and been victims of a carjacking. The wife was killed, but the husband escaped unharmed. It turned out later that he’d arranged the incident in order to get rid of his wife. I changed the setting to Jamaica and was off to the races.
I’ve done two books about radical militias, Dead, White, and Blue and Deadly Intentions. The proliferation of militias and other hate groups in the U.S. over the past several decades has always concerned me, so this was a natural.
Deadline started out as a story about scams against lonely women, but about one-third into the first draft I decided to throw a ghost in just for the heck of it. I’m a bit agnostic about ghosts – I don’t know that they are real, but I don’t know that they’re not, so there you are.
Whatever motivates the story idea, my main objective is to write a story that keeps the reader wanting to turn the page to see what happens next.
There you have it; that’s where story ideas come from. I’ll bet if you stop and think about it, you’ll find that your inspiration is similar.
#IWSG – What Does it Mean to ‘Write What You Know’?
Here we are again – first Wednesday, and time for another session of Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group, a forum of writing advice, pats on the back, and anecdotes on the writing life to help us all get over those little bumps in the road. You should drop over and take a look at all the great writers who are a part of this group, whose mission is to ‘rock the neurotic world of writing.’
I want to talk this month about an issue that I’ve addressed before, but taking a different tack. If you’ve read any writing advice or instruction books, you’re sure to have seen the commandment, ‘write what you know.’ Unfortunately, too many people take this advice quite literally, and believe they can only write about things they’ve personally experienced. Big mistake – and just plain wrong. Thing about it. If all writers took this advice literally, we’d have no great works of historical fiction. Think, for instance of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. Since she wrote of prehistoric times, there’s no way she could have directly experienced it, or even learned about if from direct sources. She studied it intensively, and then used her imagination to create a story that even years later I remember vividly. Her book was even better than the movie.
So, what does it mean, ‘write what you know’? I think it means that you should do what Auel did. Learn as much as you can about your subject, and then let your imagination do the rest. I write a series of novels about the Buffalo Soldiers of the post-Civil War era on the Western frontier. I spent time in the army, so I understand military tactics and protocol, but mainly I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about the era, the weapons, events, etc. And, I try to infuse the color of the time into my stories, all of which are fictional, with a backdrop of historical events for authenticity.
Unless you possess a completely blank brain, you can do the same. Write what you know, but resolve to know something new every day. That way, you’ll never run out of things to write about.
See you next month.
#IWSG: To Write or To Have Written: Which is More Important?
For my second Insecure Writer’s Support Group offering of 2015, I wax a bit philosophical about writing. This is also, by the way, the second year of my participation in Alec Cavanaugh’s blogging effort. Comments are welcome, and if you have anything to contribute, check the IWSG link and sign up.
When I worked in Zimbabwe (2009 – 2012) I wrote occasional opinion pieces that appeared in the independent press which was opposed to the government. Some of the more popular of those pieces were put together in a little book which was provided to schools and youth groups. The book, Where You Come From Matters Less Than Where You’re Going, was quite popular, but aroused the ire of the government even more than the original editorials had, generating weeks of back and forth over, of all things, the title. I defended the title, while the government’s propagandists attacked it vigorously. Looking back, I now realize that a better title might have been The Journey is More Important than the Destination.
I mention that episode as a digression of sorts to introduce a topic that I’ve been thinking about lately – is it more important to write, or to have written? Now, working on book number 52 that might seem like an academic or even moot question for me, but it’s not. The question ‘do I want to be known as a person who writes, or as a person who has written?’ is still a valid one. It’s in fact a question that every writer should ask – and answer.
I think I know the answer for myself. After I’ve finished writing something, except for the unavoidable marketing once it’s published, I pretty much forget about it because I’m already working on the next; and sometimes thinking about the one after that. Having written is nice, but what really drives me is the desire to write, write, write. I wake up in the morning thinking about writing. I go to sleep at night thinking about writing. Most of the hours in between are about writing. Sometimes I even dream about writing.
You see, having written is a destination. Once you’ve arrived, where do you go next, if that was your focus? Writing, though, is a journey; one that is always fascinating to me because I never know what I’ll encounter in that next sentence, paragraph, or page.
So, stop a moment and ask yourself the question: which is more important to me, writing or having written? Answer it honestly. Then, you’ll know if you’re really a writer.
#IWSG: Writing Your Book in 5 Easy Steps
Happy New Year, and welcome to 2015. I think this year will be an interesting one for writers. I imagine most of you have made your resolutions for the year, and I hope, if you’re one of those people who have always been threatening to write a book, finally doing it this year will be one of your resolutions.
This is my first post of the year for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group, a dedicated group of bloggers who offer advice, hints, or just anecdotes about the writing life on the first Wednesday of each month. Another of your resolutions should be to consider adding your voice.
For now, though, to my topic of the month, how to get that book written. Here are the steps I follow. This is not the only way, but I offer it for your consideration.
- Outline your book. I’m assuming here that you already know what you want to write about. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, having a rough outline will help you develop a coherent structure. Like me, you might not be a person who works from a detailed outline – and, that’s okay. I rough out the number of chapters and briefly describe what happens in each. As I write, I often make changes (add or subtract chapters, move action from one chapter to another, etc.). This is much easier to do if you have it written down than if you’re trying to keep it all in your mind. This is also the point when I develop character lists (names, biographies, etc.), locales, time frames, key events, etc.
- Do your research. Before you start writing, research the information you want to include in your book. You’ll want to dig up more information than you’ll actually use, but don’t get so involved in research you neglect to do the thing that’s most important – write the darn book.
- Develop a writing schedule. Many would-be writers shy away from tackling book length projects because they feel incapable of creating something so vast as a 60,000 word-plus book. If you make a schedule – say, plan to write 1,500 to 2,000 words a day, it is suddenly not so gargantuan. After all, that’s the equivalent of a magazine article a day, and if you write 2,000 words per day you can complete the project in 30 days. That’s right; you can write a full-length book in a month.
- Write it. When you’ve completed steps 1 – 4, the only thing left to do is write. When you begin, let the creative juices flow. Don’t try to edit or proofread as you write. Get the story down on the page – or on the screen. You’ll want to take some time writing that first chapter. That’s the one that most often determines whether or not readers will keep reading. Take some time to get it right. While writing that first chapter, give a lot of thought to the two most important parts – the first sentence and the last. It’s a good practice to end each writing day by writing the first sentence or two, or even a paragraph, of the following chapter. This helps keep you on track when you pick up the following day.
- After you’re finished writing, let it cool, then edit rigorously. When you write that last sentence, put the book away for a few days. Take walks, start making notes of your next project, grab a camera and take pictures – anything to take your mind off the book you just finished writing. Then, after a few days, go back to page one and read it line-by-line, word-by-word for typos, grammatical errors, or formatting glitches, correcting as you go. When that’s done, go back and read it again for plot, flow, dialogue, and the other things that you look for in a good book.
If this sounds simple, it actually is, and the more you do it, the less intimidating writing a book becomes. It’s said that each of us has a novel inside. Some of us have more than one – and maybe a nonfiction book or two as well. These five simple steps can help you get them out where they belong, in the hands of readers.
#IWSG: Advice – To Follow or Not To Follow, That’s The Question
It’s that time again – time for another contribution to Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. You should really pop over and join. My offering this month is about following (or not) advice.
There’s tons of advice out there for writers: how-to, what you shouldn’t do, you could fill the Library of Congress with it. I’m taking a poke at one piece of advice in particular – some people are adamant that you should never give what you write away for free as this devalues it. I’m not taking a side, nor am I attempting to debunk that belief. I’m doing what all the how-to authors should do, and telling you what works for me.
I’ve been publishing my books on Kindle for several years, but I resisted participating in the Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select) program for a long time because of the aforementioned advice. It was only after I’d launched my Buffalo Soldier series that I decided to give the KDP free offer a shot. I did the free 5-day giveaway with the fourth in the series at the same time I published the fifth, just to see what would happen. Up to that time I’d been getting 3 – 5 sales per month. That month, though, after over 600 downloads of the free book, I saw a significant uptick in sales of the earlier books. The new book also had amazing sales (nearly 800 during the first three weeks).
Since then I’ve been doing a 3 to 5-day giveaway each month. My sales went up after I started the practice, with an average of 100 – 150 per month. I can’t attribute all of the new sales to the promotion, but then again, who knows. Maybe it is a bad idea to give your work away, but then again – –
#IWSG: A Rule about Rules
Really sharp-eyed readers will notice that this is the second installment in two weeks of my offering for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I did a piece last week on creating fully rounding supporting characters in your stories. One reader caught me on the fact that I was out of sync – I guess everyone else was just too polite. That sharp-eyed reader said (tongue in cheek, perhaps) that I did it deliberately to see if anyone was paying attention. As much as I’d like to go along with that, truth is, I was just so busy with my writing projects and a few other jobs I’m doing right now I misread my calendar and thought June started last week. I broke the rule. And, that’s my real topic this week – writing rules and whether we should feel bound by them.
There are more rules on writing than I can count – so I’ve basically given up on most of them. I’m instantly suspicious of any writing advice that contains the words ‘always’, ‘never’, and ‘must.’ Even the rules of grammar can and should be broken on occasion.
Now, having dropped that controversial little bomb into the conversation let me explain. I don’t think you should necessarily ignore or be ignorant of the rules. I do believe, though, that you should consider junking them when the essence of the story you’re writing demands it. Take grammar for instance. In dialogue, if every character in your story speaks with absolutely ‘by-the-book- grammar, imagine how boring it will sound – and unreal. Real people butcher the language, and within reason, so should some of your characters. Fragmentary sentences, misuse of verbs, the whole ball of wax. Let your characters speak in keeping with their background, etc., and your story will be better for it. Regarding grammar rules, by the way – remember that ditty ‘it’s I before e except after c or when followed by g’? What about rein, ceiling, etc.? These words break the rules, and sometimes – so should you.
There’s more. Rules like start the action on the first few pages, for example. Not a bad idea for a lot of stories, but you can write a chilling tale by holding back on violent physical activity and just building up to it in some other stories.
I could go on and on, but the guts of what I’m saying is that you should let your story determine how and what you do. By all means know the rules. But, also know when breaking them is okay.
#IWSG: Putting the People in Your Stories
It’s absolutely amazing how often first Wednesday’s come around – like once a month, and to a busy writer, that’s like light speed. Well, here’s another installment for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a group of bloggers who share hints, fears, tips, and a lot of good dope on the writing life. You should pop over to Alec’s site to get a gander at some of the great blogs in this group. In the meantime, here’s a little piece on what to do about secondary characters in your stories:
You’ve done your book outline, created fully-rounded main characters, given your protagonist(s) daunting challenges, planted clues, and painted scenery that adds to the suspense and mystery, so you think you’re ready to dash off 40 to 50,000 words of deathless prose. Think again. There’s one more thing you need to do to have a story that your readers can really dive into – you need to create a cast of walk-ons – the nameless supporting characters that make your story truly come alive for your readers.
In the movies, the background characters never have names. They’re merely ‘the policeman at the intersection’ or ‘the convenience store clerk,’ but, without them, a story is one dimensional. It’s little more than the main characters talking to each other against a flat backdrop. The same is true of written fiction. Background or supporting characters add the necessary color and authenticity that makes it possible for a reader to suspend disbelief and enjoy your story.
While it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time crafting these characters, care must be taken to keep them from being flat, cardboard stereotypes that can turn a reader off. By flat, I mean characters like ‘the vapid blonde’ or the ‘stingy Scotchman.’ If your protagonist enters a store or fills up at a service station, he or she is likely to interact briefly, or at least notice, the staff. Without using too many words, paint a picture of these characters that adds a touch of realism to the scene. Getting to know the demographics of your setting is the way to do this. Who, for instance, is most likely to be a taxi driver in your area during the time of your story? In Washington, DC, where many of my stories are set, during the 1970s until the late 1990s, most cabbies were African – mainly Nigerian. In the past decade or so, that demographic has altered. Now, many DC cab drivers are from west Asia – Bangladesh or Pakistan. In many of the city’s urban neighborhoods, the convenience stores were once run by Koreans, but that too has changed. Now, your protagonist is likely to buy from an Indian or an Ethiopian.
If you want these characters to be more than cardboard props who make change, study the cultures and even though they remain nameless, have them speak and act in character. This can be done through dialogue. Many Asian languages, for instance, form plurals of nouns by merely adding a number rather than changing the noun. In Korean, for example, the word for man is nam-ja. A man is not ‘a man’, but merely ‘man,’ and more than one man is not ‘men,’ but ‘two man’ or ‘many man’ (tu nam-ja or mani nam-ja) and often a foreigner will, when speaking English, do a direct translation from his or her own language, making these phrases come out ‘two man’ or ‘many man.’ Inserting such a phrase in a bit of the character’s dialogue, along with a description, effectively paints the picture. Be judicious, though, when you do this. Once or twice is enough to let the reader know the character’s background, and if the character speaks again, even if you write it in standard English, the reader will make the translation because you’ve already set it up.
It can also add interest if you turn stereotypes around. The ‘dumb blonde’ for instance, could be a blonde receptionist who is reading a copy of National Geographic or Scientific American. With just that bit of prose, you’ve created a character that will stand out in the reader’s mind.
Creating credible secondary characters can make your story stand out, and is worth the effort you put into it. And, it’s not all that difficult. Keep a journal with you as you travel, and make notes of interesting people you see – how they dress, how they speak, and any peculiar mannerisms. Then, when you have to insert a walk-on character into your story, mix and match your observations. Don’t name them unless they will play a part in the story at a later point. A brief description that makes them unique is enough.
You’ll find that rounding out your supporting cast will make your story come alive.
#IWSG: I Am a Writer – and So Are You
It’s that time again, time for another installment for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This week, I delve into the deep, dark recesses of the writer’s psyche – addressing the question we probably all ask, but don’t like to admit that we ask: Am I really a writer?
There’s probably not a writer who has not awakened in the middle of the night wondering why even bother – why am I calling myself a writer, exposing my innermost thoughts to total strangers, and opening myself to public criticism?
What person of sound mind does that – other than politicians, and I’m not at all sure that a person of sound mind choses to be a politician. You have to be a bit crazy to put yourself out there for the public to pick apart, right?
Of course, once I have that thought, I remember that I’ve always had a love affair with the written word. I’m the kind of person who would rather curl up somewhere with a good book, or lock myself away in my office and write than watch a football game. And, the few times I do watch football, I find myself mentally creating stories about football as it would be played in zero gravity, or on a field laced with hidden death traps. For me, the written word has always been the key that opens doors to imaginary worlds, and I have a compulsion to share those worlds with others. Before the invention of writing, people with such a compulsion were known as story tellers, and I imagine many of them were criticized for the stories they created.
After lying there, staring up at the dark ceiling for a few minutes, I realize that the question is moot. I’m calling myself a writer, because that’s what I AM. I can no more resist the urge to tell (write) stories than I can resist breathing. In fact, I can hold my breath longer than I can resist inventing some new story to tell. While I’m staring up at that ceiling – you guessed it – I think of another story, or a twist on an old story.
I do that because that’s what writers do. So, yes, I dare call myself a writer. I’m a writer, not just because I write, but because I MUST write. I’ll bet if you think about it, you feel the same. So, what are you waiting for? Get back to sleep. Let that story percolate in your dreams. Then, when you wake up in the morning, do the necessary, and hit that keyboard.
Do what you must do – WRITE! Because, you are a writer, and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.