Living The Writing Life

Earlier this year I read Annie Dillards book The Writing Life. I have to say I both liked it and didn’t like it as it described the grand thrill and depressive solitude of those who cannot help but write. I am not sure how often I will revisit it because it was confusing at times as the writing life often is but, it talked a lot about being alone.

The Writing life is an honest book. It is also a depressing book. It is true that no one can produce a work for a writer and it can indeed be a lonely road. However, as I dig into this life more and more I begin to understand that writing cannot simply be done while sitting in a cabin in the woods on some lonely Isle. The writer retells life and in order to say something about living to those who live the writer must live. Though, I understand it is difficult for the writer to come out of their shell even when surrounded by people.

The Artist’s Way

A few years ago one of my friends introduced me to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I would define it as an artists guide to help unfold the creative process. The workbook contains various exercises that refill your creative well. For those who have not read it and practices the exercises It may sound silly, like some secondhand self help book but, they work, and they work really really well. I would recommend it to any one who has a desire to paint, sculpt, write, or do something otherwise creative.

However, this book also is about being alone. What I find troubling is that we want to remain relevant as writers. We want to speak out and say something to the wide world, but we do it from the desks, studies, and coffee shops with ear buds in.

So, how do we do this writers? How does the writer maintain a balance of life and solitude so they don’t slip to the brink of loneliness or neglect their craft?



Where Do Ideas For Novels Come From?

A Sudden Storm

Ideas from novels can arrive from anywhere. They can come from reading, lectures, true life experiences, or anywhere. I’d like to share the two sparks that started my novel below.

If I’m honest, my first novel began a long time before I had a desire to write. The first moment of inspiration came when I was throwing a softball around in preparation for a softball game at my parent’s church.

It was a magnificent day like most Michigan summer days. A slight breeze was in the air. It was not too hot or too cold, just perfect. No one mentioned the weather. I had no clue that it might change and I get the feeling none of my team members who tossed the ball around with me had an inclination of what was to come.

In what seemed like less than an instant the sky was dark, then from beyond the horizon of tall maple trees came a deafening roar. It was the sound of gallons of rain drops falling from the blackened clouds above.  Lightning forked across the sky and I ran and dove into my car just as the immense rain drops clattered on pavement and pummeled my car with such force I thought it was hail. I imagined what it would have been like were there no cover at all and how the cold heavy drops would have felt had they pummeled me instead of my trusty Chevy Cavalier.

This sudden unannounced storm would be the first ingredient that would ignite my novel.

The second happened a few years later.

My friend Matt suggested that I read a book he had just finished. It was a book of popularized history call How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

How the Irish Saved Civilization

I picked it up and immediately I was hooked. As I read, I came to a part where Mr. Cahill talked about the viking raids on monasteries in Ireland and the surrounding countries. It sounded terrible. I imagined the monks in the sack cloth robes gardening in the beautiful summer morning. Then just as the change of the weather I experienced a few years before, the countryside would be filled with enemies that rushed forward from the undergrowth and cut down everyone in the monastery.

When thinking back on my first novel, The Tale of Calelleth, I realize that there are many things that formulated the novel in my mind. These are the first two experiences that I can remember that cemented the idea of an enemy showing up unannounced. It has since changed from a faceless pure evil to something more complicated, but the storm and Mr. Cahill’s book forever impressed upon my mind the idea of this horror that some in the tangled history of the planet had to live through. They had no refuge as I did in my Chevy Cavalier.

So how about you, reader? Are there any particular experiences or things that you have read that were the seeds to a novel you are now working on?