When the Clouds Part: The Best Part of Writing

Someone said (probably a famous writer whom I can’t remember) that writing a novel is like driving in the fog with one headlight out.

I like that analogy because that’s the way I write. I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t know the climax, the end game, the resolution, or who takes whom to the dance. I’m as lost as the reader until ….

THE CLOUDS PART. THE SUN SHINES THOUGH. THE ILLUMINATED IS BATHED IN A HEAVENLY SPOTLIGHT AND I HEAR THE ANGELS SINGING.

It is revealed. I love it when that happens.

I never know when, or if, it will happen. Sometimes it doesn’t and I just muddle through and try to think what is the best ending. But other times, it is revealed. Not created. Not imagined. Revealed. It just comes, to me, but I did nothing to allow it to come to me. It just does.

And when it does, I’m just so happy to be the conduit of the revelation. It’s one of the BEST parts of writing. It’s kind of like a vindication of the hours spent in front of the screen and the gods of writing finally nod and say, “Ok, let’s give him some satisfaction.”

Thank you.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it happened today. I’m writing my tenth novel and I’m having an absolute blast. Probably the best time I’ve ever had in writing. It’s about baseball, of course. What else could cause me this much joy?

I’ve always admired the works of W.P. Kinsella and I’m not ashamed to say that my work is heavily influenced by his ideas. Not that I’ll ever attain his impeccable prose, but I hope to take the spirit of what he wrote about baseball and humanity and just have fun with it in wrapping it up in an engaging historical fiction that runs through the American century  from 1920-1955. The Mythology of Baseball is its pretentious title. I love it. Truly do. Early this week I was lamenting to my students that I wish the main characters were real people. I want them to have walked the earth and to have done the things that they have done. I wish it were so. But I guess that’s what makes good fiction. I hope, at least.

Today, as I was finishing one part of the story – this is not a conventional novel that starts from the beginning and ends at the end. Certainly not. Baseball is not that neat and tidy. It is many stories. Yet one story.

Have I told you that I love it?

Anyways, I was finishing one part of the story that had been causing me some consternation. I really didn’t know what was going to happen until the character made this gesture that even surprised me. It surprised me, the writer. I couldn’t tell you how much I loved it, cause the recipient of the gesture sure loved it a lot. The clouds cleared and the beauty of the moment emerged.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I can not wait to share The Mythology of Baseball with the world. It’s already at 77,000 words and counting. It will likely be my first work ever to top 100,000. I hope so, cause these characters deserve it. Every word.

The Apple Tree & Writing

The idea behind the following metaphor is not new. Other writers have expressed similar ideas. This is, however, how I envision a successful writing process.

Here goes.

Writing is an apple tree full of red, ripe apples. Every apple is an idea. From a distant observation, each fruit looks equally delicious. What a bumper crop! You shall never run out of things to write about.

However, the writer would be wise to show restraint and not impulsively climb the tree to pick every reachable apple, for every reachable apple is not a quality apple. A conniving worm might be eating out the core. It’s impossible to tell at this point.

Good ideas are more apt to come to fruition when accompanied by patience

So what’s a writer to do? Find a comfortable beach chair. Put on a Hawaiian shirt, keep the front unbuttoned, and have a beverage of choice within arm’s reach. Sit in the chair, stretch out your legs and ponder the apples. Patience leads to a little miracle called inspiration.

One by one the rotten apples will begin falling from the branches. Caution: a writer may not want to sit directly under the tree.

Once the rotten fruit has revealed themselves and lay a stinky mess on the ground, what remains is the one true apple, the sweet one, the crisp one, the one you desired all along, only you didn’t know where it was on the tree.

Suddenly, there it is. Redder than the others. Sweeter than the rest, with a hint of sour crispness which will make the plot even that much more unpredictable. Choose that one. The one remaining.

Be patient. Be observant. Allow nature to do the rest.

Then place that apple into your hand and devour it with every bit of strength that you have.

 

 

The Irony of Writing Time

I woke up this morning to a text message from Saudia Airlines, telling me my flight itinerary to Greece in May had been cancelled. I had planned a self-derived writing retreat, where I was going to split my time between the island of Poros and Athens for nine, sublime, uninterrupted writing days.

But like the rest of the world, well, yes; we know what’s going on. Travels, jobs, nerves have all been frayed by the little novel virus, which decided to wreck havoc on many untold and told plans. You know the Jewish proverb: Man plans, God laughs.

However, there is a bit of irony about this situation for me as a writer. It was not long ago – no more than two months – that I was lamenting to whoever would listen that I did not have any time to write. I had for months been busy with teaching and producing shows – all of which I love – but I was feeling it deep down in my being that if I did not get extended writing time in the near future, I would experience some severe life fatigue. Yes, writing is my release. Thus, I booked my trip to Athens. I’d at least have nine days.

Little did I know how the world, let alone my little writing plans would be thwarted and changed. Ironically, my 9 writing days in Athens has been multiplied. I did not see this coming. Ever since my country of residence (Saudi Arabia) clamped down to fight the virus, time has been one thing I have had. All flights have been cancelled. All school is virtual. Evening time is under a curfew starting at 7. Low and behold, my writing time has a bank ledger brimming in the black. I have so much time, I am starting projects I didn’t know I’d ever get to!

In the past two weeks, I’ve edited and compiled three play volumes I’ve been wanting to produce for years. My first play volume was published in 2016. It’s been four years, and now, all of the sudden, I have three new volumes which will release all at once. More on those later.

Now I’m staring down 9 days of spring break (I was supposed to be in Turkey) where I can begin a brand new writing project. And I still have those 9 days in May where I will be able to write from here.

My how things have changed. The tragic circumstances of the coronavirus is nothing to be thankful for, but one never knows when time, the most valuable commodity we have in this life, will give itself back to you. Please make the most of it. I know I plan to do so.

Biggest Sale Ever – Entire FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY for only $2.99

Biggest Sale Ever – Entire FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY for only $2.99

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Don’t Gravitate Towards Sports Just Because Everyone Does

I’ve seen it many times over my teaching career. Talented art-leaning students choosing sports because everyone does.

And before you peg me as a non-sports person who doesn’t know … blah, blah.

I understand. Growing up, baseball was my life. Quite literally. When I wasn’t playing on a team, I was throwing the ball against our porch wall or creating elaborate fake leagues with statistics and MVPs and trades and expansion teams. I was obsessed. And in those dark winter months, I started listening to Pitt Panthers basketball, created fake hockey scores, and played a lot of tackle football in our backyard. I was a sports guy, completely. And I wasn’t so bad at it. I had a fastball in the mid-80s and was even told I had a shot at getting drafted if I worked hard. Full disclosure, I didn’t.

And I think I know why. I was an arts person caught up in a sports world. The thing is: I didn’t know I was an arts person. How is a person to know? Okay, I liked to write poetry. Perhaps that should have been a clue. I liked to attend plays even though I was much too shy and lacking in confidence to think I should ever have auditioned for them.

I still remember watching my sister perform beautifully in the play Done to Death. I admired her so much. She painted too. She was an arts person, who sadly died her senior year in high school when I was ten. I still think about her all the time. I miss her.

I created things all the time – whether my own radio station on cassette tape or a play or a song lyric. But I loved baseball, and so I pursued it.

Nothing wrong with pursuing sports. I get it.

But I have seen too much creative talent being wasted in a mediocre basketball game. I’ve had kids who have terrific vocals, strong creative skills, wonderful acting abilities who end up playing third strong on a team when they could have been starring in the spotlight—kids who could really go somewhere in the arts—and if not, at least benefit tremendously from the communication skills and creative people-skills so in demand in today’s world.

I’ve told kids repeatedly, don’t go your entire high school career without trying out for a play. Step out of your comfort zone. I’ve seen talented and creative folks with great potential quit drama in the middle of a production because of a sport or they have too much to study.

Please, parents, you know if your kids are creative. Encourage them. “Hey, have you thought about dropping basketball for a year in order to take part in the musical? You have those abilities.”

They don’t always listen to me, but I almost can guarantee if they do, they will never regret it.

Creatitivity breeds confidence and more creativity. It will change the way you think, what you do, what you feel is important, and it will open doors you never thought possible.

So please, don’t gravitate towards sports just because everyone else does. Kids need to be encouraged  to do something creative, something co-curricular, outside of the realm of a classroom. I’m going to keep encouraging kids to do what I never did.

I realized late in life how important the arts are to me. I’m grateful I found this hidden calling of mine. I’m hoping there are many young people who will discover this side of them much earlier than I did.

Remember: create, not consume.