I have lived in the heart of old Hollywood for many years. It’s not like you think. I started writing long before I moved here, but I have learned some things about the craft through living here worth talking about. Over the years and in many different bars, coffee shops, and various everyday venues I have encountered a number of nice folks who tell me they are writers. Later they reveal not only have they not written anything in years, some openly admit having written at all. I have met some honest to God writers who are very good and a few who are highly successful.
What I would like to share is for those who love to write or want to begin. But, do not mistake this subject for social media or texting. That is not writing, but a gruesome vomit of mediocre (at best) words about thoughts popping into heads all over the planet from rice paddies to office dwellers who are constantly bored. I am not being critical of social media or phone thoughts, but just excluding that from writing.
I am addressing those who love to write, including those who have never sold a single word or those making a living from this art. We are an odd bunch of a wide variety who love to tell stories and entertain the listener. That is all writing is, really. Entertainment. All through history the stories that entertained were passed down and the others were forgotten.
I grew up listening to one of the greatest story tellers who over lived. My grandfather was born in Texas in 1888. He married my grandmother and together they crossed the Red River in a covered wagon into Indian Territory (as it was called then prior to Oklahoma getting statehood. As a child I spent hours at his knee in wonder as he recounted his adventurous life there. After various hard labor jobs in a burgeoning oil fields, he settled in the western region of the state and raised a large family there. He planted, watered and picked cotton on his farm as my grandmother fed them from a vast garden and canned most of it to last through the brutal Oklahoma winter and right on through the Great Depression.
He told me of Indians who lived nearby and how he learned their stories while sitting in their teepees. He loved and respected their culture and felt he came away a better man as he understood how abused and mistreated they were by his ancestors. My grandfather shared with me his love and fear of God. His daddy was a horseman that rode a circuit spreading a Methodist gospel all over the frontier. He made the trip to Fort Sill after Geronimo was jailed their and shed tears over how sad the man was. Frank James shook his hand outside the Lawton bank after the former outlaw was released from prison and was by then in his late sixties. Hundreds of stories poured from his head into mine and I seemed to be the only one marked for life him and his tales.
Story telling is all I am good at.
For those who have never written or would like to begin again, I suggest the following:
Buy a pen and paper. I prefer Moleskine notebooks and have carried one with me for over ten years. Many times the right words come at the most inopportune places and times. The creative process is like a conveyor belt. Thoughts drift by and then fade into air, lost forever.
Begin a journal. Most aspiring writers don’t know where to begin. A journal is a perfect way to acquire compulsive, addicting writing. Write down one sentence about what happened to you yesterday. There! You did it. You will have done something 95% of adults haven’t done in their busy lives. You can’t call yourself a writer of you don’t write. A year later you can go back in wonder and all the things that occurred now forgotten and how much you changed in the past twelve months.
Read. Most adults don’t read books any more. You never be very good at writing of you don’t read. Go to a book store. They are a dying breed but the those who are still standing are a delight to visit. You will love the people who are there and walking around books will energize your mind.
Come back next week and I will talk about how to write a crime story.