I’ve read that the average person has 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.
I hope that’s not true because it’s 7 p.m. on Monday as I write this and I’ve only had about 10 thoughts today.
Most of them have been about writing books because the rewards of penning something that touches other lives is countless. I once received an email from a man who said that he read my book (a non-fiction business book) during a flight from Rio de Janiero to Paris and that he learned a lot from it. I floated on air all day that day.
Then there was the critic from whom I sought a review who responded to my request with this: “Thanks for sending me a copy of your book. I shall waste no time reading it.”
Ooops, well okay, that one could be taken two ways….
Anyway, I’ve said before that I’m done writing non-fiction. (Never say never?) I just want to focus on fiction. However, my 7th, 8th and 9th thoughts today were that if I ever write non-fiction again, these are the topics and books I’d tackle:
1. Parenting – Remember the Expecting series? You know the ones: What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and What to Expect the First Year.
Now that I’m on the other side of that mommy stage, and I’ve experienced the truth, I’m going to write, What Was I Expecting!?
Its sequel will be Lower Your Expectations!
2. Travel – As I’ve mentioned, I travel a bit, mostly from Marpennsylginia to Georgia. I’ve also been to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, England, 13 countries in Europe….and on.
Before each trip I’ve flipped through detailed travelogues and boned up on what to see in my intended locales.
Now, with 20/20 hindsight, I’m going to write the ultimate coffee table travel book: Don’t Bother!
There are a lot of places in the world that are just not worth seeing, such as several parts of Cleveland, and choice sections of the Big Apple. Many spots in Appalachia would rate the list too. You know… the kinds of places where the Clampetts lived before Beverly Hills; the places where, if a tornado were ever to hit, it might do $100,000 worth of improvements.
Don’t Bother would save many people a lot of time and money!
3. Sports – I enjoy sports, so the Olympics is one time I often choose TV over books; however, I might just write a book in the background during the next Olympics. My book will be a journalistic expose called The Olympics: What Were They Thinking? It will analyze sporting games that are not included but which I feel should be, such as Hide and Go Seek; Red Rover, Red Rover; Pick-Up Sticks, and Extreme Coin Flippers.
Something tells me that if I were to have an 11th thought today, it would be to not publish this posting. I think I’ll turn in before that thought hits.
No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When I tell my non-writer friends (NWF) that I sometimes drive eleven hours between Marpennsylginia and Georgia without ever turning on the radio, they cock their heads in wonder as though they’re trying to figure out this phenomenon.
Their next question: “You travel with someone?”
“No, I travel alone,” I respond, even though that’s not quite the truth.
NWF: “But what do you do without music and talk radio?”
Me: “I work.”
NWF: “You work?! How do you do that?”
Sigh…where to begin?
What my NWFs can’t grasp (because their minds are normal, their thinking healthy) is that a writer is working when he’s driving down the road…and when she’s staring out the window, and when he’s mowing the lawn, and…you get the point.
And yes, as for driving alone, I told a little white lie. It’s easier to say I’m alone than to face the glazed looks my NWFs shoot me when I tell them that my car is actually quite crowded―with at least six of my key characters.
What’s more, these six characters all talk at the same time. They reveal their personality traits. They demand more page space from me. They talk and argue with one another, which of course means that at the next rest stop I have to write down their comments because I generally forget to pack my tape recorder.
At least 50 percent of the novel I recently completed was plotted and took shape on Routes 81 and 95, somewhere between Winchester, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia.
My first non-fiction book was developed almost 18 years ago on Route 70 between central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania.
I wrote this blog entry when I stopped for lunch just north of Charlotte, North Carolina, on my way to Georgia.
I can’t imagine what I’d come up with if I ever drove across country.
”I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss…you can’t do it alone.” – John Cheever
The beginning of February marks that time when all government-required tax forms should have been received.
Our toil diminished to numbers.
Now the race is on until mid-April when those numbers must be filed.
In the interim, we’ll go shopping for a blood-sucking barracuda-type CPA who can make sense of the tax codes. We’ll collect paperwork, receipts, mileage logs. We’ll assess numbers, wring our hands, and wonder, “Where did all the money go?” and “How much am I going to owe?” and “If we are the government, who decided that we should have to pay almost a whopping third of my income in taxes?”
We’ll tighten our spending for a while. We’ll head off to the grocery store, thinking hot dogs instead of steak.
And as we pay for that counterfeit meat, we’ll eye some colorful non-federal-taxpayers in line paying for steaks with food stamps. We’ll frown and eye them closely, noting their expensive tattoos and designer handbags, and the mountainous cartons of cigarettes they slap onto the conveyor belt.
We’ll wonder, what’s wrong with this picture?
Then we’ll watch them climb into their new gas-guzzling Suburban as we toss our hotdogs into our nine-year-old Honda.
Given that I work for myself and, therefore, it takes more time to figure out my income taxes than it does to make it, this means that while I’m busy pouring over numbers, those individuals who don’t pay taxes, are spending that same time doing whatever they want.
They also don’t have to pay the whopping $600 that I pay to a credible accountant each year to ensure that my taxes are done accurately.
It’s just not fair. That’s when it hits me that it’s getting more and more difficult to support my government in the manner to which it has become accustomed.
Note to Washington D.C.: Don’t make me come down there!
I’ve decided that since we taxpayers are the ones doing all the work, we should have more of the fun.
We should begin by changing tax season.
It should be more like hunting season. Wouldn’t it be fun to shoot some taxes and remove them from existence?
When we receive a W-2 or 1099 (proof that we worked), it would become our hunting license. Then we’d be free to spot a ten-point unreasonable tax, sneak up on it and blast the ever-living bejeezus out of it.
We could gut it and proudly display it on our walls above a sign saying, “Bagged another one.”
We could brag to our friends that America is a freer, happier place, thanks to us.
Or, what if tax season was more like football season? We could all meet in the parking lot of our favorite post office and, just before dropping our tax filings into the mailbox, we could hold an impressive tailgate party.
Planting season? We could drop our tax forms into the ground and whatever grows we give to the government!
Vacation season? Along with our tax forms, we could send into the IRS a list of all the great places we would have gone had we not had to pay taxes.
What about you? Any idea as to how we could make tax season a little more enjoyable?
For brevity sake, I’ll shorten what I had written: An intricate tale of…the series takes place…on a crypt-like hillside…and the raging Potomac River…
A friend, reading my book proposal, looked up, a pout on his face.
“You can’t say that,” he said.
Say what? I was confused. My proposal was for a work of fiction. What could possibly be taboo about anything in it?
“Raging,” he said reading my confusion. “The Potomac isn’t raging. It swirls around and it has a lot of rapids, but it doesn’t rage.” He paused and looked into the distance. “It kind of sighs.”
“I’m trying to build suspense,” I explained. “Your sense of fear wouldn’t be activated if you read that my character moves to a place where the river sighs.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not accurate.”
I looked at him, incredulous. Being the stereotypically sensitive writer, I was annoyed, and thought: What does he care?
He hailed from a zip code that bordered the Potomac on the West Virginia side, an area where building codes, lawn ordinances, and recycling practices were ignored, if they existed at all.
In his stomping ground, one could wear a billed cap into any restaurant without prompting stares from others, and could comfortably hang a sign on his mailbox featuring a silhouette of a gun and announcing, “We don’t call 9-1-1.”
In other words, he didn’t function in the rigid black and white; he operated in the gray area, living as he pleased, eschewing the protocols and “rules” that society dictated. I appreciated that, in fact I admired that, but when I pointed out his double standard―that he could live in the gray area but that I couldn’t write in the gray area―he was quick with rebuttal.
“Not with nature.” He shook his head. “You gotta be loyal to it. Some things just have a truth that should be left alone.”
“But that’s the whole point,” I countered, all the while mentally filing away the incredible quote he’d just given me. “It’s not truth, it’s fiction.”
“Shouldn’t you place your fiction into as much truth as possible?” he asked. “Doesn’t that make it more believable for the reader?”
“Well, yes, but you see, nature is also a tool that writers can use to—”
“No, the characters are yours. Mess ‘em up all you want. Nature is God’s and He made it pretty dang good the way it is. Leave it alone.”
What could I say? I just smiled back. I, the daughter of a farmer who had taught his children to be gentle and respectful stewards of the land, was playing God, at least in my friend’s eyes. In my fiction I was as ecologically irresponsible as the people who’ve dried the lakes, leveled the mountains and razed the rainforests.
In that instant a certain Bible verse flicked across my mind: “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:26). Further proof that I’d overstepped my bounds?
In the end, my friend and I studied the river a little more closely and we settled on “churning” because we saw little tidal swirls form at the bases of the scattered rapids.
“…the churning Potomac River.”
The word seemed apropos to me because the exchange had also churned a desire within me to be more exact in my writing.
Oh, I’m not saying I’ve stopped playing with nature. When I feel a nice destructive twister or torrential hailstorm is called for, I might play Master of the Universe and put my characters through quite an ordeal. And I’m still going to alter the terrain, whip up violent windstorms, describe spooky shadows on the moon…(Hmm, do you picture me rubbing my hands and laughing in a sinister way?)
What I mean by my intent to be “more exact” is that I don’t want my readers to be disappointed. Books introduce readers to news places and new things. So why mislead them? I recall many people saying they wanted to visit Forks, Washington after reading the Twilight series. Imagine their displeasure if they found it to be different than what they’d read in the books.
Then there are movies, Fargo, for example. I remember being disappointed to learn that it wasn’t filmed in Fargo, North Dakota, but rather Minnesota. And weren’t we all disappointed to learn that the TV series Northern Exposure was filmed in the state of Washington, not Alaska?
No, I want my readers to visit the beautiful Blue Ridge and the Potomac River. I think I’ll depict it just as it is, raging, churning or calm.
About the Potomac River: The Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S., and is about 405 miles long, making it the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast. Over 5 million people live within the Potomac watershed. Because the river is situated in an area rich in American history and heritage, it has been nicknamed “the Nation’s River.” According to Wikipedia: “The Potomac River brings together a variety of cultures throughout the watershed from the coal miners of upstream West Virginia to the urban residents of the nation’s capital and, along the lower Potomac, the watermen of Virginia’s Northern Neck.”
Jeremiah 2:7―“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and you made my inheritance detestable.”
And then there was the guy who asked why anyone would spend years writing a novel when you can buy one for about twenty bucks.
Clearly this guy doesn’t know that we writers as a lot are generally afflicted with one or more diseases that compel us to write.
Writers, here’s my list in case you wish to keep tabs on your own health:
- Scribogravitis – affliction in which victim is traumatized by thoughts of dying before being published.
- Pensanity – debilitating disease based upon the belief that one can live on the avails of one’s writing.
- Mood Poisoning – illness resulting from the development of contaminated thoughts, such as “I’ll never get published, ” or “Writer’s block is real.”
- Rowling Envy – paralyzing condition in which victim obsesses about the success of JK Rowling.
- Mad Pen Disease – fatal neurodegenerative disease that causes a spongy degeneration in victim’s hand; can be controlled with continued gripping of a pen.
- Blabiosis – affliction wherein victim is so impressed with what comes out of his own mouth that he feels he has to put it on paper too.
- Homestickness – condition wherein victim obsesses about staying home to write, eschewing all family outings and public get-togethers.
- Sophistosaurus Disease – illness in which victim compulsively uses more-sophisticated words, like “eschewing,” rather than shorter, more common words.
- Amengitis: affliction in which victim is obsessed with writing the last, most authoritative and most thought-provoking word on any topic.
- Listophobia – The extreme fear of writing a list with an odd number of items; so much so, that, even when victim is clearly done, she creates another item whether or not it’s applicable.
Explore and grow: Psalms 103:2-3 – Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.