I’ve been writing every day for almost a hundred days now, and for the vast majority of those days (ninety, I think), I’ve put something on my blog for folks to read. During these three months, I have written every day, even if I haven’t posted anything.
The struggle to write has been a strange one with me. I’m sure my readers have noticed how, in the last five years, I will post things on the blog, and then after a couple months, I will give my blog a silent farewell. A few times I have quit for a couple years without writing a word.
Quitting is easy.
Recently I’ve been doing my best work at posting something with flavor to it. I’ve posted a lot of reminiscences: times and people growing up in Pistol River, days in college. Sometimes I’ll explore my deep (or shallow) thoughts. I will rant, or praise, people and things I see. And, once in awhile, there are times I’ll just throw 9 or 10 YouTube links onto a screen, and bask awhile in the songs that I like. But what I really enjoy doing is to write a story; and to really tell one is hard.
The craft of storytelling has been with us ever since there have been campfires. It helps us explain the universe. It gives us time to think about something other than the real-or-imagined monsters. It allows us to reflect on our actions. Storytelling makes us better people.
I’ve heard at least a few authors begin their introductions with “I tell lies for a living.” Because, after all, isn’t that exactly what storytellers do? Some people are better than others at spinning the yarn, and I think that over the centuries, the heroes have shifted. The heroes used to be the ones who lived a thousand years, or who slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. We could never aspire to be heroes, because we just weren’t capable of those things. Even in the 1700s, we preferred stories about gods and monsters.
That said, we still like our heroes with flaws. (“I’ll have one hero and a Sprite.” “Would you like a side of flaw with that?” Always take the combo meal.) Moses can’t control his temper. Zeus can’t keep it in his pants. Frodo Baggins is a very small person in a very big world. Ned Stark sticks by his principles until he loses his head. It humanizes them.
But, around the time of Shakespeare, a curious phenomenon happened. We fell in love–not with monsters, gods and superheroes–but with Everyman. Since the year 1600, Composers have written over 70 operas about the musician Orpheus defying the underworld to bring his dead wife back from Hades. I would even dare to say (without any proof whatsoever) this guy Orpheus, as much as anyone, was the guy who made the Everyman the Hero to our modern eyes. Just the regular guys and gals. Shipwrecked Olivia dresses as a boy and becomes a page to a duke. An old guy reads so many romance novels, he goes crazy and starts attacking windmills. A man escapes after being in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Lizzie Bennet, must marry up, possibly without love, or face ruin.
Even though we love the little guy now, we still have a place for the superheroes in our heart. We love us some hammer-wielding Thor, and we suffer in sorrow with orphaned rich boy Batman. But for good company, we want someone who is like us. A dirt poor prairie farmer’s daughter. A grouchy Private investigator with a heart of gold who drinks himself silly every night. A rancher in Pistol River who lost everything that matters.
I feel like I can do this. It’s not just a possibility; it’s a reality. So I’ve been pecking away at a story. Three stories simultaneously, if I want to be honest about it. I’ve even put a few sample drafts of the stuff I’m writing on this blog, just to give folks something to look at.
But I don’t know that it’s my best idea ever. Some days my storytelling turns out great. Some days, it reads like an incoherent ramble. I may or may not share bits of it with you. You see, storytelling is a circular process; at least writing a story is. As I write, I learn more about the person I’m focusing on. I learn about their actions and reactions. I realize what I’d said before just didn’t quite make sense, given what I know now about my characters. It’s hard to share a work in progress without everyone looking back and saying “Wait… Didn’t you just say in the last chapter that his eyes were blue?” Sure they were! But things change. Even eye color.
And it is because of that, I’ll take most of my fiction writing offline. It’s not because I’m ashamed of my writing. I slowly am coming to learn that you love reading what I write. I’ll just keep my early drafts to myself. Mostly. You might get a sneak peek here and there.
But I plan to keep writing. And I plan to keep every one of my readers, if not entertained, then at least annoyed, by my daily offerings.
Blessings to you all.