Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Successful Writer on Writing

Random thoughts from the quicksand
by Richard Lewis,
author of The Flame Tree and The Killing Sea

  1. I write daily, 1000 words (contract deadline helps wonderfully to motivate) which sometimes takes only an hour, meaning there are many hours left in the day to do and to be other things as well.
  2. If I go into a bar and meet a man (or woman) who says "I'm a writer" when I ask him what he does, I assume that his writing is what's paying for his drink.
  3. I've sat for an hour in front of my computer and nothing comes, another hour where a hundred words finally comes forth each one like a gnaw on granite, and yet another hour where those words are changed until erased until I'm again left with a blank monitor, and I consider this all part of writing.
  4. Thinking can indeed be part of writing--much of my pre-sleep thoughts have to do with what I'll be putting down on paper when I get up (after my mediation and kids which always come first). So that does help reduce the actual time, although not as much as one might think, because I find that it's during the actual act of writing where my thoughts are not only formalized but also actually come to me out of nowhere (I suppose the previous thinking time might have cleared the underbrush for the latter to happen)
  5. I've been writing since I could read. Wrote my first story when I was six, about a yawn that traveled the world. I knew that writing was my talent,but I wanted to be other things. I didn't start writing seriously, daily, until ten years ago, when I was 40. It took me four years and four learning curve novels to finally write one that was published. I had to put in the time to struggle and fail and learn--and that time I had to put in in order to be a good and competent writer was the time I spent writing.
  6. Well, I lie--part of of learning to be a good writer is reading, reading, reading (with a critical eye helps best of all. I also found several craft books to be of help (and how-to books is another contentious issue).
  7. Still, in order to improve as a writer, I had to write! And writing every day made me improve faster. This is another area where I don't see a short cut.
  8. I would still prefer to be a world class mathematician than a writer--math at it's highest level is to me an art, and a mathematician can discover something that's never been known before, and for the rest of history he or she will be known as the discoverer. Writing? There is nothing new under the sun, just new ways of saying the same thing.
  9. I procrastinate by writing these posts.

Read more from Richard Lewis on his blog, where he notes, "I was born, raised, and live in Bali, Indonesia, with my family. No TV as a kid, read lots of books. Wrote my first short story at 6 about a yawn that traveled around the world. University educated in the States. Bailed out of a marine geology PhD program due to technical difficulties with my soul, which did not want to be shackled to a career. Bounced around. Surfed a lot. Didn’t start writing seriously until ten years ago. Now I’m pretty obsessed with it. To the horror of my old surfing buddies, I take as much pleasure in turning an original phrase as in getting tubed."

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