General

What Guides Me As I Write

Although I have not read any of his books, I like Paulo Coelho as a personality. His first published book was not a success; it took time for his writing to make a sales mark. In his perseverance, optimism, discipline, and sincerity, he is a good example for any writer to try to follow.

He is also now well-known for his social media savvy. I suspect only J.K. Rowling and Stephen King come close to him in their uses of Twitter to reach readers. However, Rowling and King also regularly delve into highly contentious subjects, including directly assailing the current president of the United States with all the intellectual subtlety of a punch in the face – which would almost seem sure to turn off some readers.

In comparison, Coehlo makes his worldview known much more deftly:

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Dedicated to racists

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His observations are widely quoted, and often turned into “memes” as well.

[Screen capture of Instagram, 2018.]

Stumbling on that yesterday, I felt Coelho’s statement there was positioned by that Instagrammer as somehow wowingly “original.” However, I’m not sure even Coelho himself would think it is some profound statement worthy of being chiseled into stone.

Nonetheless I found myself reflecting on it. Your genre, I feel, is irrelevant. After all, if you don’t write “from your soul,” from where are you writing?

As for the rest, though, if you are indeed “writing from your soul,” and critics despise your writing, does that not mean that your soul may not be all it should be? So shouldn’t you be even more shaken in that case by poor reviews – because they are reviewing, pretty much, not just your prose or a story, but your soul? And should that not “unbalance” your world even more than bad reviews might otherwise?

[Photo by me, 2018.]

So there can be some “gaseousness” in such declarations. But they certainly may also make us think. This post came about due to what I had found myself writing yesterday and afterwards seeing that Coelho quote:

[Sneak peek from Tomorrow The Grace. Click to expand.]

Approaching the third anniversary of my mother’s death, my father still can’t bring himself to clear out any of her possessions: large parts of their his house is now, essentially, a shrine to her. However, he said recently that he wants to donate her winter coats to charity at least; but he said that to me last year as well. Whatever he chooses, it is only his decision. In the end, he may do nothing at all and not even mention the subject with me again.

Our relationship as I grew up was usually excellent. But he has never been one to discuss “feelings.” For example, most men have their version of this experience with their father: I never forgot OUR “father-son” so-called “talk”:

[Excerpt from Frontiers. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Our “talk” was indeed all of his three warning sentences. I was fourteen (and so was she), so I knew why he was uptight; but we had been doing homework. She had raised the music volume louder only moments before, and I closed the door because it was so loud that I was sure my mother would have yelled upstairs and maybe embarrassed me. (She was good, I always felt, at embarrassing me.) It had not crossed my mind – seriously – that my father would have thought that we would have, uh, you know…

Suddenly, even worse than my mother yelling upstairs at us, my dad was standing in my bedroom doorway looking down at us.

Decades since, our “conversations” about “feelings” remain brief. If he tires of discussing my mother’s memory, suddenly he will cut me off: “I’ve had enough now.” I suppose it can be too much for him when I try to talk about my mother with him as if she is still with us – because, in a way, she always will be:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

I have learned from my own experiences that a writer needs to be guided honestly by his or her own humanity. Trying to be what you are not will come across to readers as just that: artificial and even phony. In not fearing to embrace honesty about ourselves, and allowing it to imbue the writing, fiction writing comes across as all the more genuine.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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