I think of myself as an ordinary writer. I’m not brilliant, especially talented, or have extraordinary gifts. However, I have spent a long time learning to construct meaningful sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters. Writers like to hang out with other writers. Because of that, we forget what a truly remarkable life even ordinary writers have.
We create imaginary worlds, starting with nothing more than an overheard conversation, an idea that won’t let us go, or an image that stops us in our tracks.
We focus on that imaginary world long enough to write 450,000 words, hoping that 90,000 of them will be keepers, and trusting that those keeper words will gel into a novel.
We are incredible pack rats, filing away a tattoo we saw on the subway, the taste of Aunt Sophie’s lemon pie, the way steam rises from downtown buildings when the temperature drops to forty below, and an article on the neurological basis of fear. One day, when we’re mildly distracted, walking to work or doing the dishes, we suddenly know that our next book is about a terrified, tattooed, homeless man, named Raoul Cardinal, huddled against a downtown building, trying to sell lemon pies from a cart, and knowing he has to get out of Winnipeg today, or he’s going to die.
Painters don’t display a portrait with only the base coat in place. Sculptures don’t put a partially carved block of wood out for everyone to see. Dancers don’t bring a couple of minutes of a work being choreographed to the stage, and ask the audience what movements should come next. But, writers trust other writers, and even non-writers with our unfinished work. Other writers, knowing what a great gift this is, try their best to give helpful, not hurtful, suggestions.
We know this is a tough business, yet we still open our hearts to other writers, particularly new writers. Many of us believe that when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed.
All of this seems like no big deal to us. It’s the way writers live. Take my word for it, it is a big deal. We should celebrate being ordinary more often.
With that in mind, I’m crowd-sourcing a problem. I working with a new character named Lollie Whitsunday. She was born and raised in England, but now lives in Canada. Lollie is a nickname that evolved in childhood before she could pronounce her first name correctly. The problem is, I can’t think of a first name that would devolve into Lollie.
The name of everyone who suggests a name will be put into a hat. I’ll and draw one name, and send that person a copy of Some Welcome Home, the first book in my mystery series.
Ideas are cheap, though not, of course, the ideas about Lollie’s first name. What ideas really need is a Value Added Tax. Hope to see you next Tuesday, February 10th, for more about taxing ideas.