Last week I began the journey of how I became a writer. To recap. I got sick. I read a lot and became a geek. See pretty easy. But, we all know it’s more complicated than that. Writing is all about experiencing things, or in some cases wanting to experience things. That’s where reading comes in handy, but we’re jumping ahead of the story.
So, let’s backtrack to 1977. Bellbottoms were all the rage, as were sideburns, disco, and several other things I still try to forget. To state it as delicately as possible, my mother dressed me funny, and I went as fat Elvis for Halloween. There, my childhood horrors are all laid bare for you to imagine and snicker at.
1977 is important for a lot of reasons. I turned 8 for one thing. America turned 201 and in May of 1977 my life was forever changed! I know that is pretty shocking to hear someone say but it is nonetheless true as my wife and family can attest to. As the year began no one could foresee that not only my life but countless others would be sidetracked by something as insidious as a motion picture. If they had, I doubt they would have let it be shown in theaters.
To backtrack a bit in the auspices of adding flavor to the story, I had already developed some small love for Science Fiction. Planet of the Apes had instilled a love of the futuristic what-could-be in me. Well, it was about to be blown away by one simple phrase…
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…
Yep, you guessed it. Star Wars. I am not saying it suddenly turned me into an author. Things like that don’t happen in a second or even in a few years. What Star Wars did though was fuel my imagination. At the time, I had no idea there would be a second or even third movie. That left me only one recourse to find out what happened next. I made up stories. That summer I think I flew the Millennium Falcon from one end of the galaxy to the next. Okay, I flew Vader’s Tie Fighter from one end to the next. Bad guys get all the cool toys and I wanted me a Tie Fighter so bad I could taste it. I had already been playing around with making up stories but now I had a purpose. To take over the universe.
My imagination didn’t stop there. The 70’s brought me another true love. The Three Musketeers came on TV on Sunday night and I was spellbound. Michael York and Oliver Reed instantly became my heroes. I wanted a sword, a big floppy hat, and boots that would have made Puss jealous. On one of my many trips to the local library I found the book and spent many hours in France. As a result, when not saving the, or enslaving, the galaxy rather, I was fighting the Cardinal and saving fair damsels in distress. That my friends is what I call a lot of overactive imagination at work.
Fortunately, I had a lot to spare. Good thing too, because my trifecta of greatest loves was about to stumble into my life. On yet another trip to the library, yeah, I was one exciting kid, I saw this strange book. It was white with like this ring thingie in the middle with strange writing all around it. That wasn’t the weirdest thing. No, it had a giant eye in the center of the ring. Drawn to it, I picked it up and flipped through the first few pages. It opened with a birthday party of all things. While my grandmother found some books of her own, I began reading. There were strange things called Hobbits who lived in a place called the Shire. There was even a wizard who made the best fireworks. Now, I liked wizards and fireworks. My grandmother came back to pick me up but it was too late. I was on a quest. To Mordor! With the Fellowship of the Ring. Btw, I would go on to own this book and the others. In fact I own probably around three or more copies of it for some weird reason.
I was no writer yet, but hey I was only nine. All my stories took place in my head, but what stories they were. I think the point I’m trying to make in a rambling sort of way is that you can’t be a writer unless you have great inspiration early in life. I’m not saying Star Wars and Lord of the Rings work for everyone, because we’re all made different. What appeals to me, isn’t necessarily going to jazz up the guy or girl next door. It’s all about finding something that you love and makes you happy when you read it, or watch it. That’s what inspiration is all about. It’s not what someone else says you should love. Nope, love is personal and should never be dictated to you or forced upon you by popular vote.
I really can’t tell you why these three things impacted me so strongly, just that they did. As I’ve grown older, I’d fallen in love with other genres, but none of them resonated with me like these have. I can ride a horse and travel out west and get submerged in the story as it unfolds. I can even get locked in a haunted house and scream my head off until I’m able to rip open ‘The End’ waiting for me on the last page. Since you probably know already, I write Romance novels, you know I can fall in love with the idea of falling in love between the pages of a good book. Reading is about, for me at least, falling into love each time you open a book. Doesn’t matter the book, it’s all about the ‘escapist’ emotional connection you feel from the first word of the first paragraph that lasts until the last breathless word of the last page.
Through becoming a writer, I’ve discovered the art of fiction is the same way. Unless you fall into love with the first word you write and keep that love growing to the last page, it shows. I hate to say it but I don’t always succeed in accomplishing that. The hardest thing about writing is staying in ‘love’. Life drives creativity totally away at times. Heck, even the story will present problems you hadn’t envisioned when you start out. Sometimes, gasp!, you’re just plain wrong about what your own story should be about. Just because you love something, it doesn’t automatically mean you understand the complexities of it. Otherwise men and women wouldn’t be two different species most of the time. Okay, all of the time, but you get the point.
First loves are always the strongest loves of all. You remember your first kiss but rarely the tenth or so. When writing, it’s up to you to keep that love alive not only for yourself but for your readers. That might be the hardest thing of all to do. This brick wall, if you hit it, shouldn’t discourage you from writing. It’s the point where honesty comes in. you have to be honest enough with yourself to say this honestly isn’t working and you need to step back until it does work. Forcing it will bring you some honesty you really don’t want. It comes in the form of the greatest and worst thing an author has to face, the voice of their readers. Trust me, you would rather wait for a story to work than to discover it doesn’t in the court of public opinion.
Okay, that’s it for this episode of Jmo revealed. Stay tuned until next week, as we get to the unusual education of said me. It sounds more exciting than it is, but the point is to get you to come back and read more. So, there’ll be explosions, international spies, alien abductions with prerequisite anal probes, and shiver, nuns!