Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

There was a great English film that came out in 1962 entitled ‘The loneliness of the long distance runner.’ It was based on a series of short stories by Alan Stilltoe. Essentially it was the story of a poor Nottingham, England teenager from a working class neighborhood who had bleak prospects in life and few interests beyond petty crime. He turned to long distance running as an antidote as well as an emotional and physical escape from his situation.

For many of us writing is a long distance journey with no foreseeable finish line in sight. If you want to call yourself a writer and not just someone with a nice hobby then it’s something you must do. Emphasis on the words ‘must do.’

Many successful writers will tell you that only after four or five books, perhaps 500,000 words put down, can you truly consider yourself a real writer. C.J. Lyon says you must follow the ABCs if you want to succeed. ABC – Apply Butt to Chair. In other words, you write and write and then you write some more. Her formula is quite simple. First, write the best book you possibly can. Then you try to find an audience for your work. Finally, you repeat the process all over again. Then perhaps, maybe, with luck and the proper alignment of the stars you just might, ‘just might’ become successful.

                Link to Palm Springs Writers Guild
                    Palm Springs Writers Guild Facebook Page

I’m learning a lot from my fellow writers in the Palm Springs Writers Guild especially the women. Many of them have chosen this new profession as their protecting companion, their soul-mate and fellow journey master into the sometimes confusing, trying, stressful but ultimately soul-satisfying world of writing.

Once committed to the journey, writing for us becomes an addiction and obsession like other times in life when you know you’ve entered a whole new phase in your life and you can’t go back to what used to be. You can’t change the past. You simply pick up where you are today. For some of us writing becomes that path not taken. For others it was a life not lived. Now it has become more than just a pen to paper exercise.

So why do people become writers and what are they trying to prove?

For many it’s a high wire mental act that constantly struggles to balance art with reality and story-telling with self-exposure. For many, it is fraught with disappointment, sadness, failure, rejection and the ever fading possibility of success and satisfaction. We’re all after that book with the long tail; something that resonates with our readers and keeps them coming back for more.

So why do it?

I’m not sure. It’s certainly not for self-pleasure like…Rocky Road Ice Cream or a long run in the woods. It’s not about the money…there usually isn’t any? I assume for some it is ego-driven. For others, it answers a long held belief in their story-telling abilities.

For me it was something I’ve always had to do and damn the results. Plain and simple, it’s become a marathon. In every instance, I want to create a mind-picture, an image, a scene or a dream that my readers can enter into. I want to journey with them as together we explore these fictional worlds I’ve created in my mind.

I used to say I wasn’t retired but after a lot of negative push-back from fellow oldsters I decided to simply shut up. So now while others talk about growing old with their aches and pains, I intend to focus on my fictional characters needs and wants and how I can best tell their life stories.

It is, for all intents and purposes in mind and matter, a long distance run…with no end in sight.
It’s become something my fellow writers and I have to do. And most of us are crazy enough to believe it just might make a difference in your lives…if it hasn’t already.

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