All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, December 21, 2020

One Last Little Christmas Note

I decided that for this short little post - the last one of 2020 - I would write a little something about Christmas. Normally, Christmas is not thought of as a writing time of year. Rather, it is about the togetherness of family, going to church, exchanging gifts, gaining weight and appreciating what we have. Well, things have changed this year, and not for the better. So how can we use the tools we have as writers to reclaim some of this most important of holidays?

I don't care how good a writer someone may be - they can still spread a virus around if they aren't careful, so the ugly facts on the ground still apply for 2020. I won't be going in public more than I absolutely have to, which means no church and no family on Christmas Day or the days surrounding it for that matter. I will celebrate in my own personal ways, but it will be different. The important part is my decision to also be a writer during this time. 

One of the skills we pick up as writers is the ability to process our thoughts and feelings in a way so that they come out on paper. We channel a lot of things into the world when we write, and by doing this, we can create some very special things.

A quick consideration for making Christmas particularly special during these days of COVID. For the people who you were hoping to see this year but can't, write something for them. Write a quick description of your favorite memory about you and that person. Write them a fun little holiday poem. Just write them an email personally telling them why you will miss seeing them this year. Use your abilities and tools as a writer to communicate those feelings in a very simple manner.

This may sound cheesy, but trust yourself as a writer. Trust that what you say will have meaning and feeling. And believe that when you do this, you will move the person in the way a gift should.

This definitely will not feel the same as it does in other years, but let's face it - nothing feels the same these days. The point is that it's not doing something to recover what things used to be like, but to try and live in the spirit of what things are meant to be about.

My favorite story for the season is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! With this, my main takeaway is that while the Grinch stole all of the trappings of the holiday, he only belatedly learned that the part he couldn't steal was the thing he never understood - Christmas involves a spirit, an attitude, that can't be taken away from us. Not by the Grinch, or by a virus, or anyone. And you can retain that spirit with something as simple as your writing.

So on that note, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I will see you with my next post, which will be Monday, January 4th, 2021, so Happy New Years as well.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Other People's Stories

I can't say this one enough but I need to say it now and then - the most important part of being a writer is writing. Now and then, I add to this that this next most important part is reading. Writers learn plenty from nourishing themselves with other styles and techniques, approaches, openings and wrap-ups. I don't know a writer who isn't well-read, and there's a good reason for that.

Now I would like to add a third qualifier to important things a writer will do, and that is listening. Particularly, listening to other stories. You may think this is the same as reading stories, but you'd be mistaken. We learn about structure and layout from the written stories, but other people teach us about voice and presentation, about mood and presence. These elements are crucial to any good written story, but we learn about them from storytelling.

The storyteller on my father's side of our family was Uncle Thurman. Having grown up in the Great Depression and fought his way through the Pacific during World War Two, he had a wealth of stories to tell, not to mention everything that happened after he came home in 1945 and established the rest of his life. The more relatable stories came from his career, family, friends, and just the daily routine from the place he called home, and he told each one with a devotion to making it come to life. He was regularly requested to tell the story about trying to get an extra egg out of the chicken, and he never failed to please.

One side note - a part of Thurman's ability to tell stories came from his passion for the old radio shows of the Forties and Fifties. They presented each story without the benefit of pictures or even hand gestures and facial expressions, so they had to create a world simply with the voice. He followed them religiously, and they became an important tool in his ability to tell a story better than anyone else.

It was about fifteen years ago that he started talking about his experiences during the war, and crafting them as stories rather than a few details of where he was and when he was there. Maybe there was a reason for this that I will never know, but as a storyteller he needed to express these parts of him after a long silence. I listened. I learned - about him and about how to reveal a world that most people could never understand. Needless to say, these stories had a different mood than the one with the chicken, but as a storyteller, he could recreate his tour through the Philippines to where we could feel the fear in the air.

Uncle Thurman died yesterday at the age of 95 from COVID-19. The man survived a world war, but this was just too much. Fortunately, he told us his life (or at least the parts he would admit to) and those stories will remain just as much of a legacy as his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who sat around him, listening attentively.

I was just a nephew, but I listened too. Maybe some days I will write down his stories, but more than likely I will just use his techniques to tell the stories with the kind of passion he did. Except for the one with the chicken. That one's just tough to explain.