Hey Writers: How Varied Are Your Interests?

Some people have commented that I’m a little out of the ordinary. As a writer, I think that is to my advantage. Writers are a strange breed – I’m starting to think.

I’ve had some people call me a renaissance man. I take that as a high compliment whether it’s true or not. But I’m convinced that any writer who puts him or herself into a varied type of activities will become a better writer. If we want to write about the scope of human experience, we have to understand a wide swath of that experience. That’s why I’m glad I’m a little different. Consider this:

  • I’m a history teacher who majored in English.
  • I’m a drama teacher who is primarily a history teacher.
  • I’m a writer of novels and plays.
  • I write both short plays and full-length plays.
  • I’m a softball coach.
  • I love to cook, but I don’t like using recipes.
  • I’ve never acted but I teach people how to act.
  • I love politics and economics but I’ve never had a course in either.
  • I’m fascinated with technology and computing.
  • I’m not an artist, but I love creating things with photoshop. Self-taught. (still not very good.)
  • I’m not a musician, but I taught myself enough chords on the guitar that has helped me become a writer of musicals.
  • Yes, I love musicals even though I’m a man.
  • I’m also interested in religion and culture.
  • I’m a news junkie, reading everything from hard news to soft puff pieces.

As I write, I look back on all of these experiences, and I realize that each and every one of them help me become a better writer. The wider the net, the greater chance that a particular idea or scene will cement itself in my mind.

Out of all of my interests, history is probably the one that has influenced my writing the most. It has grounded my writing in the real, the here and now, the tangible, which helps me build realistic and gripping human stories. Or at least that is my goal.

So what about you, writer?  Have you expanded your interests?

It is both helpful and advisable for you to do so.

It will widen your scope and make your writing more interesting.



A Writer Stirring Up the Hornet’s Nest

Why couldn’t I just let those darn hornets sleep? I was almost finished, and then …

I’m sure this has happened to all writers. You are closing in on the end, already with one draft in the books and you’re anticipating finally closing up a project and moving on to something else.

But you, in the ever so subtle way you go about closing a book, had to leave your mind open. And you know what follows when that happens. One thought leads to the next, and before you know it you begin to question the ending or a plot point. Then a new idea slips into your mind and before you know it you are staring down the double barrel of decision.

Do I really want to re-open this plot and re-write everything I’ve already written. Just let the hornet’s sleep!

But that one annoying hornet starts flying around your drink, settling on the edge, trying to drink up a little sweetness. You swat it away, but another comes flying by, this time whipping around your ear. You hate that buzzing sound. It means anything but the finished line. It means re-writes and and pain and more time and …

You swat that hornet away from your ear, hoping it won’t come back.

But then your mind, in an onslaught of flying insect thoughts, armed with powerful stinging abilities, will not let you rest. They chase you out of your complacency, forcing you to go back to your manuscript.

Finally, you look once again at the words on the page, and you realize that the hornet’s were right. It’s not finished. There’s a better way. So the choice is simple, change it or be willing to be stung by endless stings by the writer’s best friend – an honest conscience. At that point, you know that if you really want to be the best writer that you can be – as you always say – that you must deconstruct and reconstruct again.

Once that is realized, everyone will be happier. Everyone meaning the writer and the reader.

So do I want to be known as a writer who finishes or a writer who finishes well?

All right. Now I know what I have to do. Take two.

Ways to write when you have no time to write.

Does this happen to you? You finally get some good, extended, quality time for writing, and you whip off thousands of words day after day in a frenzy of creativity only to have life slap you in the face and say, “Slow down. You have other things to do.”

Grrrr. How true it is!

Last week was writing heaven. Some many wonderful projects I was working on – mainly my fifth novel.

But now I’m back to work teaching, I’m directing drama, I had to re-write a script this evening, and I need to record another script.

I’m drowning in drama logistics up to my neck, and oh, did I mention that I’m working full-time.

The life of an indie author!

I can’t imagine how incredible it must be to be able to write full time, not that I dislike what I’m doing now. Far from it. But having the flexibility to craft story after story, spend extended time in research or fine-tuning one’s craft – that would be amazing.

But just because I don’t have extended time to sit down and write doesn’t mean I can have a productive writing day. There are always ways to be improving your craft, even without striking one key on the keyboard. Here’s a few things I like to do:

  • Watch people when walking out and about. You might find an interesting character trait.
  • Look at distances. I was sitting in a meeting today, studying what I could see of other people at certain distances. It’s quite a useful exercise in learning to write realistically about spatial elements. In your novel, if someone stands 10 feet away or 100 or more, what can be seen? When can you no longer see a smile? How might a shadow affect things?
  • Observe landscapes and scenery. Look at how the water ripples or the shards of light reflect unevenly off the tide.
  • Think in your mind, reworking scenes, re-thinking characters. You can decide quite a lot about your story before you even sit down to write. (but don’t neglect your work!)

So even if you don’t have time to write, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive writing session.