April 11, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

For the last two days, I’ve been working on Upside Down and Whopperjawed, the fifth book in the “Confessions of April Grace” series. Just when I thought I had a cool first chapter, I decided it was too serious and dark for an opening. So I rewrote it. Then I decided that chapter was too dull. So I went back to the first idea and added to it. I like it, but I don’t know …

I’m going through one of those phases we writers often enter. It’s a perilous place to inhabit, and I intend to leave as soon as possible. It’s the land of I-CAN’T-WRITE-WORTH-A-HOOT-SO-MAYBE-I’M-ALL-WASHED-UP.  In other words, self-doubt. I figure this is brought on by a combination of exhaustion, caffeine withdrawal, sugar reduction, and too much to do but not enough time to do it all. This feeling is not unique to writers. I think we humans are prone to it. Often. That said, the best way to exit this country before it becomes the Land of No Return, is to take some time away and re-evaluate priorities. I’ll do that today. Maybe a nap will help.

In Defense of Fiction

I’ve had some interesting experiences lately. I met a wealthy old recluse who chose to leave his fortune to his brother’s only grandchild. Then I attended the bizarre funeral of an eccentric old woman. Teary-eyed and helpless, I observed as a middle-aged woman came to grips with unexpected widowhood. In addition to this I traveled across the country with a band, watched a little girl escape her captor, and in New York City, I saw a woman too scared to cross the street to her husband. As if that weren’t enough, I served as a small town assistant pastor where I discovered a recently murdered choir director behind the church organ, then had the dubious privilege of identifying the perpetrator.

So…what have you done this year?

Did I really participate in these occurrences? You bet I did! Did they actually happen? Of course not. So, am I unique or something? No more so than you. In fact, if you really wanted to, you could fall in love with the man or woman of your wildest dreams; you could discover gold in the Klondike. Or take a trip to Scotland. Maybe you’d rather sit on the front porch and churn butter.

If you really want to, it’s possible to engage in any adventures you choose. Easy, affordable, and you can be as comfortable as you like. Pick up a novel and participate in a life beyond what you know. Find a ghost, swim the English Channel, travel back in time to the War Between the States and meet General Lee.

Open your mind and suspend your disbelief. Life offers so much more than daily existence in the familiar.

Someone recently said to a writer friend of mine, “But these are lies. Why do you write what isn’t true?”

I’ve also heard, “I don’t read fiction because I read to learn.”

If you feel this way, think on this: what story from your childhood made you happy? What did you read to your children at bedtime and do you think they remember it? What is your favorite movie?

Do you realize one of the greatest teachers of all time taught his lessons by using invented stories? He called them parables, and he used them because he knew it’s as easy to learn from “make believe” as it is from the real thing. For some people, it’s easier because they remember it longer when it’s in the context of a story. And you don’t even realize you’ve learned it because you had such a good time.

Read one of the Laura Wilder “Little House” books, and after you return from the 19th century to this time and place, list how many details you learned about pioneer life. Or pick up an old romance novel by Lucy Walker and learn about the land and people of Australia while you cheer on the girl and the man with whom she falls in love.

Fiction is a viable, noble art form with the unique ability to take us to another time and place, give us a whole new body, change our gender, our race, our social status and provide us with adventures we’d never be able to have otherwise. And that’s something no nonfiction article or how-to book can do.