Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The roots of who we become as adults are first put down when we are children. Always a great believer in happily-ever-after, fairy tales, and worlds that should be but aren't, I was fascinated by Walt Disney's "Pinocchio," and I suspect I subconsciously patterned much of my life after the song, "Hi-diddle-dee-dee":

An actor's life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold with a diamond chain

An actor's life is gay
It's great to be a celebrity
An actor's life for me

Though I was much too shy to be an actor, I substituted "writer" for "actor." And while I have yet to buy a high silk hat or a silver chain, or find the "celebrity," I did get the "gay" part down right.

To say that I am a writer is a statement of fact as simple as saying I have brown eyes. I am a writer because I cannot conceive of being or ever having been anything else.

I can't presume to tell you why other writers write, but I can tell you why I do: to tell stories that assure both the reader and myself that those things which unite us as human beings are far more important than those which separate us, and that none of us is, as all of us sometime suspect, truly alone.

Of course it helps that my mind is one gigantic version of Lawrence Welk's bubble machine, constantly sending out thousands of thoughts and ideas which appear and disappear in an instant. I'm constantly reaching for them and every now and then one will alight on my palm long enough for me to see the elements of a story reflected on its surface.

I've often said that I do not write my books, I read them as the words appear on the computer screen. I am incapable of plotting in advance, because new thoughts and ideas keep sending me off in new directions. I am constantly editing and changing, going back several pages or chapters to lay the groundwork for the appearance of a character or plot element that came along as I wrote. I primarily write mysteries, and while I start off with the basics of the plot and know generally where I'm going, the route I take to get there is not laid out in advance. I often don't know who the killer really is until well into the story, or I'll begin intending for one person to be the killer and end up with someone completely different...occasionally a character I hadn't even created when I began.

Writing is, to me, a far more effective way of communicating that are spoken words. Once out of the mouth, a spoken word cannot be changed. But in writing affords me the luxury, if I don't like the way I've said something, to go back and change it, and to go over and over it until I'm satisfied that it says what I want it to say.

My characters and plot elements are often based (generally very loosely) on my personal experiences, on places I've lived or been, and on people I've known or encountered. I enjoy naming my characters (either first or last name, but never both) after my friends and acquaintances. I find I seem to have a penchant for names beginning with the letter "J"...Jonathan, Joshua, Jered, Jake, John. Why this should be I haven't a clue, which is fine with me. There are many things in writing which have no explanation, and that is part of its wonder.

But I do think that whatever success I have had in writing comes not only from my ability to tell stories people seem to enjoy reading and can relate to, but from the fact that I am always acutely aware of the reader as I write. I look on every book as a conversation...albeit one sided...with the reader. And I am delighted when that conversation is reciprocated in a note from a reader.

There is no greater catharsis than putting thoughts in writing. Writing for publication is not nearly as simple as it may seem, but it is only one aspect of writing. I encourage everyone to write first and foremost for themselves; to put thoughts on paper (or computer screen). You may well find, as I often do, in the written word used to express those thoughts, surprising insights into who you really are and what you really think.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend. Your comments are always welcome. And you're invited to stop by my website at, or drop me a note at

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