The Good Writer

April 27, 2012

I am not a good writer.  Yes, my fiction and nonfiction pieces have won awards and a few have been published.  But that does not make me a Good Writer.  Yes, my stories have had occasional bursts of originality, humor, and even a bit of profundity at times.  But all of that does not add up to being a Good Writer.

You see, the Good Writer drops his or her butt in the chair in the wee hours and writes the whole day through, or at least until that chapter or article is complete.  The Good Writer, we have been told by many credible speakers at conferences and gatherings, has a work ethic that requires daily progress.  Don’t worry about the quality of the first pass writing, these credible speakers urge.  You can always go back and clean the mess up once your ideas have flowed down your arms and onto paper (or more accurately these days – into your laptop memory).  How are you ever going to write if you don’t – you know – WRITE?

This advice has posed a psychological dilemma for me.  I consider myself a writer, and I associate with talented, published writers who think I am a writer.  Some are convinced I am a good writer.  But my writing habits do not conform to the Good Writer I frequently hear about .  You know, Good as in, “Be a Good Boy and eat your peas”.

Sometimes I sleep in, enjoying the liberty of my vivid early morning dreams.  Often, I attend to other matters that the non-writing world considers “life”.  I spend too much of my time in my large garden, listening to my musical chimes sing in the wind, pulling weeds rather than spraying, lugging large quantities of homemade compost to the planting beds.  And then there is my family, both furred and non-furred.  All require my attention, it seems far more insistently than my writing muse – uh, named herbert, or sherbert, something like that. My hearing fails me sometimes, but he speaks in such hushed tones as well.

Why am I confessing to the fact that I am not a Good Writer?  Because I feel guilty about it, yes I do.  But also because I suspect I am not the only writer in this big writing community that feels guilty about less than ideal writing habits.

I need to feel inspired by a thought, idea, or theme to write.  I have tried to plop my butt into the writing chair at 6 A.M.  All I do is a lot of staring.  My mind at that time of day is as creative as a rusty water pump.  The ideal of the Good Writer does not work for me.  Am I the only one?  Let me know that there is still hope for me nonetheless.

Raising Llamas

June 13, 2011

When I was in my 20s, I dreamed of raising llamas. I envisioned myself on a quiet ranch in Montana or Wyoming. I would walk into lush green fields surrounded by long-necked pack animals sporting a myriad of colors. Brown, red, black, white in solids as well as every imaginable pattern of splotchy magnificence. When I reflect on this now, I shake my head. What was I thinking?

This fantasy was so far outside reality that is laughable. For instance, in my imagined world, my llamas would never spit, they would succumb to clippers without a fuss, and they would never get sick or die. Of course, the weather was sunny every day and I would rise sometime around 10 a.m. There would never be a day where I would slog through snow or mud; no animal waste to step over or in.

This has everything and nothing to do with writing. On the one hand, I am no longer that twenty-something dreamer.  The breadth of my life experiences has, without a doubt, made me a better writer. On the other hand,  wide-eyed innocence and a romanticizing spirit could still provide the stuff of great fiction, if I still possessed it. Yet, would I exchange my seasoned perspective for a llama-ranch fantasy life? Not in a million years.