I have lived in the heart of old Hollywood for a long time. It’s not like you think. I have been writing long before I got here but I have learned some things while I have lived here worth talking about, Over the years, in bars, coffee shops, and various nefarious venues I have encountered some nice folks who tell me they are writers. Granted, some are, and very good. Most have not written anything in a good while or not at all. What I would like to share is for those who love to write. But do not mistake this for those who like to post every single miserable thought that pops in their brain on social media or texting. That is not writing but a gruesome vomit of mediocre (at best) words that occur in daily life all over the planet from rice paddies to office dwellers who are bored. I am not criticizing social media but excluding that from writing.
I am addressing those who love to write. Those who never succeed commercially or those who do. We are an odd bunch, those who love to tell the stories and enjoy when we entertain the listener. That is all writing is really. Entertainment. All through history stories that were entertaining were remembered and those that did not were forgotten. I grew up listening to one of the greatest story tellers that ever existed, my grandfather. He was born in Texas in 1888 and after he married my grandmother, they crossed over Red River in a covered wagon into Indian Territory as it known then, because Oklahoma had not yet reached statehood. As a child I spent hours at his knee listening to him recount his adventurous life there. After various labor jobs for small wages in the newly discovered oil fields, he settled in western Oklahoma and made a living off his farm. Together they had nine children (two died young), and raised the seven by growing, cultivating and picking cotton. He raised chickens, pigs, and cattle while my grandmother grew a large garden that fed them year round through a canning process.
He told me about the Indians who lived on his land in teepees and how he understood their suffering but respected their culture and tried to benefit from them by being a better man. He was the son of a Methodist circuit rider who spread the gospel in the frontier camps and settlements, and was born into a fear and love of God almighty. My grandfather went to Fort Sill after Geronimo was arrested and jailed there. He visited the man in jail and came home grieving over seeing how sad the great chief was. He met the outlaw bandit, Frank James, at a bank in Lawton after his prison days were behind. He told me literally hundreds of stories while growing up, I seemed to be the only one marked for life by him and his tales.
Story telling is about all I am good at.
For those who have never written or haven’t done it in while, I suggest the following simple steps.
- Get a pen and paper. I prefer the Moleskines that are sold everywhere and keep one with me where ever I am. Many times the right words come at the most inopportune places and times. If I don’t stop right there and write it down, it will be lost forever. The creative process is like a conveyor belt. They glide by and then fade away.
- Begin a journal. Most aspiring writer don’t know where to begin. A journal is a good way to begin. Just write one sentence about yesterday. There! You wrote something. That is more than 95% of your fellow humans will ever write once they reach adulthood. Write in it every day. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write. A year later you can go back a read things you have done that are long forgotten and be amazed at how much you change in a twelve month cycle.
- Read. Most adults no longer read books. You will never be very good at writing if you don’t read what others say. Go to a book store. They are a dying breed but the ones who are still standing are delightful. You will love some of the folks you will find there. Come back next week as I talk about how to write a crime story.