How “Should” I Write?

The wife’s birthday is (was) March 15. Among other gifts, I bought her a little surprise. After I gave it to her (fortunately she liked it), I posted a photo of it to give a nod to its talented crafters:

I know them only from Instagram.

Funny, too, I thought this: now they know my address and my (non-pen) real surname. LOL!

* * *

In the evening, my wife and I and her parents went to dinner in the centre center of Welwyn village:

[The Wellington Inn, opposite St. Mary’s Church. Photo by me, March 15, 2019.]

The Wellington Inn.

The Wellington, you may have noticed in that photo above, dates back to 1352.

Apologies to French friends.

* * *

I took a photo of my dessert… because that is what we do now, right?:

[Photo by me. Vegan Oreo Cheesecake.]

It was a Vegan Oreo Cheesecake. Yes, really.

They certainly did not have that in “1352.”

I’m not vegan. I ordered it for the Oreo and the cheesecake.

[St. Mary’s Church. Photo by me, March 15, 2019.]

We are a long walk from the village. Its (Church of England) parish church is magnificent.

Overall, it is not a large place:

[High Street, Outside the Wellington Inn. Photo by me, March 15, 2019.]

It is pretty much the High Street (pictured there), and a couple of feeder side roads to the High Street. However, for a village of its size, it has an impressive number of nice shops and good places to eat.

* * *

I find walking often serves to get me thinking. Fresh air does “freshen” the mind. Yesterday morning, we had a country walk nearby:

[Photo by me, Hertfordshire, England, March 17, 2019.]

I found myself at one point thinking about what’s next: “What do I write tomorrow?”

It’s a perennial chill that envelops me. Oh, god, I fret, what if I can’t think of anything more to write about? What should I do?

* * *

Remember that word “should” as you read on. Later yesterday, having seen some “writing advice” meme [Groan] on Instagram, I opened my Kindle and had a look at various openings to some famous novels.

Here, for example, is the opening sentence – I’ve placed it (and similarly other first sentences in other novels that follow) in bold-lettering to emphasize it for a reason to become apparent – and the opening paragraph of War and Peace, by Tolstoy:

Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist—I really believe he is Antichrist—I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you—sit down and tell me all the news.”

And this is the first paragraph of Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen:

The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece, and their children, the old Gentleman’s days were comfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased. The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence.

Here’s the first paragraph of The American, by Henry James:

On a brilliant day in May, in the year 1868, a gentleman was reclining at his ease on the great circular divan which at that period occupied the centre of the Salon Carre, in the Museum of the Louvre. This commodious ottoman has since been removed, to the extreme regret of all weak-kneed lovers of the fine arts, but the gentleman in question had taken serene possession of its softest spot, and, with his head thrown back and his legs outstretched, was staring at Murillo’s beautiful moon-borne Madonna in profound enjoyment of his posture. He had removed his hat, and flung down beside him a little red guide-book and an opera-glass. The day was warm; he was heated with walking, and he repeatedly passed his handkerchief over his forehead, with a somewhat wearied gesture. And yet he was evidently not a man to whom fatigue was familiar; long, lean, and muscular, he suggested the sort of vigor that is commonly known as “toughness.” But his exertions on this particular day had been of an unwonted sort, and he had performed great physical feats which left him less jaded than his tranquil stroll through the Louvre. He had looked out all the pictures to which an asterisk was affixed in those formidable pages of fine print in his Badeker; his attention had been strained and his eyes dazzled, and he had sat down with an aesthetic headache. He had looked, moreover, not only at all the pictures, but at all the copies that were going forward around them, in the hands of those innumerable young women in irreproachable toilets who devote themselves, in France, to the propagation of masterpieces, and if the truth must be told, he had often admired the copy much more than the original. His physiognomy would have sufficiently indicated that he was a shrewd and capable fellow, and in truth he had often sat up all night over a bristling bundle of accounts, and heard the cock crow without a yawn. But Raphael and Titian and Rubens were a new kind of arithmetic, and they inspired our friend, for the first time in his life, with a vague self-mistrust.

The first paragraph of The Last of The Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper:

It is believed that the scene of this tale, and most of the information necessary to understand its allusions, are rendered sufficiently obvious to the reader in the text itself, or in the accompanying notes. Still there is so much obscurity in the Indian traditions, and so much confusion in the Indian names, as to render some explanation useful.

I didn’t bold any of this, because it’s one single sentence that is also essentially the first paragraph of A Tale Of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Why cite those? I presume I’m clueless in not knowing who this person is; and I did not even cheat after seeing it and “google” him. (He had had a meme made of his thinking, so he must be important.) So as I type this I still don’t know who he is:

[From Instagram.]

Uh, huh.

Once upon a time – isn’t that how stories are “supposed” to begin? – many years ago, back on Long Island, for my university job there I had once attended an outside “team-building” training course offered by some guy whose snappy catchphrase was this: “Don’t sh-t should on me.” I don’t even remember his name; but I recall that phrase. He hated the word “should.” The “I should do this”; “I should have gone”; “I should have applied”; “I should have asked her out.” It was a useless word: We must not “should,” he insisted, WE MUST DO. (I should have jumped off a bridge? Okay, maybe that word isn’t always useless?)

My point in recalling that here? Simply this. Write your own damn books and I’ll write mine.

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Paperback. Photo by me, 2018. Click to expand.]

I weary of being lectured that there is some “formula” to writing fiction. Indeed to assert that is actually to call for being, uh, “formulaic.” That – to me – is indicative of an utter lack of imagination and an unwillingness (or a fear) to try anything new.

How DO I write? This way: I write cover to cover in a style that I enjoy reading

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

…and I hope that other people like reading that style as well. It is that simple. Much as I wrote that just above first thing this morning, about an hour ago.

And, as you also see, it also demonstrates I had indeed thought of something to write today, after all.

“Don’t should on me.”

Have a good Monday, wherever you are 🙂


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