Thursday, March 26, 2015

Woody and Me

Some three years ago, Becky and I set out on a quest to watch all of Woody Allen's movies.  (He's made more than you might think.)  We are still trying to get to the end of this queue.  

Recently, however, my attention fastened upon a character played by Nick Nolte.  In this one scene Nolte, a painter, was discussing the significance of his painting with a young art student who was threatening to quit.  She asked, "But how do you get inspired to paint?  How do you find the energy to keep doing it?"

The answer came suddenly, with the Nolte blurting out, "One doesn't paint because one wants to.  If a person is a painter, he will paint because he can't do anything else."

I've heard this same line used in ministry . . . but I've also heard it used when it comes to writing.  Writers write because they have to.  At least it's held true for me.

Even now, sitting here watching an NCAA basketball game that I've pulled in through my rabbit ears (and high def no less) . . . I am writing.  In the past two hours I've written three essays to meet a publication deadline.  Last night I wrote five short stories (all less than 1000 words each, but five nonetheless).  And early this morning I finished two poems, wrote eight pages of material for a review, and began writing a new book proposal.  Why?  What else can I do?  What else is there to do in the middle of the night?  (And don't mention sex cause I can't meet that deadline any more.)

No . . . it's writing from here on out.  Writing until my back goes, my knees, my mind.  And besides, I've got too many books, too many stories, too many essays, too many poems--both unpublished and yet to be written--that are waiting in the wings.

An actor acts.  A painter paints. A writer writes.  It's a life sentence

Friday, March 13, 2015

Books of the Year

Back in October I traveled to New York to visit editors at several publishing houses, talk shop, and even deliver a book manuscript. I also had drinks with my former literary agent who, at one juncture in our conversation, asked, "So how do you manage to write so many books for so many publishers?"

It was a question I had not pondered before, but my answer leaned into the category of diversity--and the idea that I write different types of books for different publishers:  some are relational, some theological, others are more in the vein of general interest or even academic.  I'm not sure that's a sane answer, but it's one that I've lived with now for some thirty years as I continue to write devotional work, academic, self-help, travel, and fiction in the genres of mystery and science fiction and literary.  

Last week I had a short story accepted for publication that is romance, so I guess I write romantic fiction, too.  (My wife thinks I know nothing about this subject and believes I am a fraud.  But since she doesn't read what I write, what does she know?)

I also had two essays accepted for publication last week on outdoor/sporting related subjects . . . so I guess I write outdoor and recreational work as well.

All of this to say that every day is an adventure.  I never know what I'm going to get into when I wake up at four a.m. to begin my next writing session.  I might write a chapter.  I might write an essay.  I might write a poem.  It could be a short story or a 2000-word essay on some subject I know nothing about (such as Jungian psychology or the chemistry of chicken feed).  If an idea grabs me, I start writing (or I start learning) and I go with it.

Last year (2014) I had four books published and anticipate at least six in 2015.  But It's always fun to look back and give thanks for what can be accomplished through blood, sweat and tears . . . which are a writer's greatest friends.  (There's no such thing as a "muse" . . . only hard work and discipline.)

Gotta feel the gratitude in these . . . and thanks for reading.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Week in the Life Of . . .

Now and again people ask me, "What are you working on?"  I guess they think I actually work, which is a good sign.  Or perhaps they recognize that writing is work . . . especially the way I have to do it:  late at night or at ungodly hours of the morning when I frequently rise at 3 a.m. or thereabouts.  I'm not complaining, but my goal is that someday (in retirement?) I will actually be able to write in the daylight instead of in the dark.

But in answer to these inquiries:  "Yes, I am always working on something."  In fact, I am always working on somethings (note the plural). 

Last week, for example, was a very productive pipeline despite having the flu for two days.  Before and after the vomiting I had a number of deadlines to meet, producing four essays to be published in March, and I also received word from Poetry Quarterly that they were accepting three of my poems for publication this summer.  (I thank the editors and their kind words about those respective poems.)

In addition, I also proofed an entire book (Common Ground) now in the galley stage, and began working with a designer on another book that will also be released in May of this year.  (Two massive books in one month ain't for the faint of heart or for the sleepy . . . but I figure I'll have time to sleep when I'm dead.)

I also received word that another publisher is interested in one of my books on cancer--or, more accurately, cancer support.  I'll be hot on the trail of that puppy very soon and will have to write that one quickly.

And finally, I received word that my book, The Other Jesus, did not receive a Wilbur Award . . . an accolade given each year to various books in religion (kind of like an academy awards ceremony for nerds).  But hey, it was nice to be considered, though I doubt anyone would want to take a selfie with me.

All in all, a rather memorable week, puking and shakes notwithstanding.  

And, although Becky claims I got sick because I am worn out, I actually don't feel tired at all.  Rather, I feel stoked.  But I'd better be.

With all these pages to write and a short time to get there, I'd better buy some more floppy disks and keep my water bottle near the monitor in case it bursts into flames.  Call me a Luddite if you like, but I doubt there's another writer in America who is still dredging up work from his old Tandy 1000.  

Now excuse me while I catch two hours of sleep.