Monday, April 30, 2012


I've been reading Annie Dillard's An American Childhood and thinking about my own childhood, remembering it, trying to put a name to it. I asked myself: What did it mean to be a child? I decided that the one thing it means for sure is that I (the child) have no memory. When I was born, I had nothing in my brain (memories) to fall back on, to tell me what was going on, and that was the case for quite a few years.

As an adult, I can remember my very first memory. I recall it vividly. I was walking down the street, holding my father's hand. I had a diaper full of doo-doo. On the top of the fence pole, there was a large Lincoln Head Penny.

I was potty trained when I was two years old, so I had to have been two years old or less. I walked at around ten months of age, so they tell me, so I might have been one or two years old. Was that my first moment of self-realization? Why did that memory stay with me for the rest of my life, and nothing much else until I was older? What was so memorable about it? I can't say. It just is. Just like a child, I just was.

Being a child means learning how to remember--to remember without remembering. We forget almost everything we remember. Yet, we remember it all. It is within us. We just don't remember it. So being a child is all about memory.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What do you do when you know you're running out of time?

I just downloaded to my Kindle free of charge 30 or 40 of the classics that I've never read, or would like to read again. Yet, I know there's probably no way I'll ever read all those books. Oh, I could if I put my mind to it. But blending reading the classics with reading contemporary books, blogging, writing my own books...well, it just isn't going to happen. I'm 65 years old and who knows how much more time I have left. I'm in excellent health, really, for my age. I can see myself living another 30 or so years. That's a lot of time. But it's nothing like having 60 or 70 years ahead of you, as I once did. You just cannot make up for lost time; at least, I can't, not with all I have and want to do.

Fortunately, I have a lot of work to finish that's in various stages of completion. But I also have the nagging desire to write new books. I do have a few stories floating around in my head. How to get it done? What am I to do?

I have a three year-old-grandson I'm raising. He can't be left unattended. Even when he's older and, until he's an adult, he can't be left unattended for very long. You can never stop being vigilant in caring for your children. That comes before everything else. So I have to squeeze in all this other stuff around caring for my grandson. It's hard to do. But I must do it. Somehow I must find a way.

Which brings me to thinking about those of you in high school, or even college. You have a lot of time left, but you really don't. The necessities of living will rob you of much of your time. It's a rare person who can attain their dreams at a young age. That's especially hard for writers. (I've discussed this in other posts.) So, what are you to do? Most of us live our lives without much planning or looking ahead. We tend to live for the moment. Carpe diem. And there's nothing wrong with that. Unless you can somehow find the financial means to write fulltime for a few years until you can become financially self-sufficent writing (and that's hard to do), you'll have to squeeze your reading and writing in around your living for the day. In other words, part of your living for the day must incorporate reading and writing. If you don't, it'll all evaporate over time. It's a tough challenge. Only a few can succeed at it. Part of carpe diem is "do it now."

But, I also believe that do it now (writing) can wait until your formal education is completed. If you want to experiment with writing while in high school or college, that's fine. Experiment. But put your education first. Finish that part of your life first.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Which is better...generalist or learned specialist?

I've been pondering this for a while now: which is better for a writer of fiction, or poetry for that matter, to be, a generalist or a learned specialist?

Quite a few doctors and lawyers have turned to writing fiction, and I would consider them to be learned specialists. And they seem to be quite successful as writers: Steve Berry, Michael Creighton, Robin Cook, Frank G. Slaughter, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and many others. I'm sure that many successful authors were also generalists: Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and many others. Of course, I've done no study of this. I'm just speaking off the top of my head (I'm a generalist and don't have any special knowledge; I have a BA in English, I studied and obtained a certificate in computer programming, and I worked for a while on an MBA, before deciding that running corporations wasn't for me). I'm more of an autodidact and have read about almost every subject under the sun. I'm a jack of all trades and master of none.

It seems that being a learned specialist is valuable. If nothing else, her dedication and concentration on one subject for a number of years lays the foundation for the discipline necessary to be a writer. The subject of study perhaps doesn't have much bearing on it, just the fact that she's studied something assiduously for six, eight, ten years has prepared her for working on novels for long periods of time and seeing it through to the end. To me this is a distinct advantage.

As a generalist and autodidact, I wander from one subject to another, never mastering anything. Perhaps I just have a short attention span (and I do). Jumping around from one subject to another gives the illusion of being learned. I can talk about most anything up to a point, then I have to shut up. When confronted with a specialist, who doesn't need to b. s. anyone about his subject matter, and doesn't have to b. s. about subjects he knows nothing about, I must shut up and listen.

Does this mean it's better to be a learned specialist before turning to writing? I wonder. What do you think?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I've been tagged: The Lucky 7 Meme

I've been tagged by Elizabeth Varadan (her website) with the Lucky 7 Meme. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been so lucky in my life.

Now I have to:

go to page 77 of my WIP, go to the 7th line, and write out the next 7 sentences. So here it is from my novel The Sendoff:
            Sarah was a born musician. She played the piano expertly at age five. She didn’t seem to want to do anything but play music. She took up several instruments while she was growing up. But it was the cello that she enjoyed the most. When her father bought her the first cello, she began playing it with tenderness and a depth of emotion that stunned him. Her talent was so deep that she and the cello complemented each other, the instrument fulfilling her creativity, and her creativity fulfilling the range of the instrument’s possibilities.

I now have to name 7 people to tag and let them know.

Tim Greaton
nick hight
erin summerill
jessica salyer
kerry freeman
Maeve Frazier
jenna quentin

Now we have seven more lucky people. I can't wait to read your WsIP.