PRESIDENT’S LETTER # TWO from Gary McLouth to the GCWA membership.
August 5, 2014
The myths of summer—breezy love—lake waters—ocean shores—mountain vistas—world travel destinations—writers conferences—time to read—old friends visit—new friends party—relatives appear from somewhere else, and you’re wondering if you can or should get some writing done. I don’t know about you, but I can rightfully claim that too much has been happening in my life to even think about writing. But, guess what I’m thinking about?
Summer used to be a time for me to disappear into my writing self, whether I was alone or with somebody. Mountain retreats, stuffy city apartments, Amtrak trips and even a visit or two to a writer friend’s cabin fueled the notion that I was working in self-sacrificing, writer fashion. That was then; this is now, and nothing has changed. When I’m not literally writing, I’m writing in my head, if you know what I mean. Seeing, hearing, feeling and tasting the natural and human environment around me constantly challenges me to describe things. Words, phrases, snippets of dialogue flip through my mind, often amid conversation with others. Sometimes, conversation in my head gets mixed up with the dialogue in live progress. Who’s to say creative types don’t exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia?
Which, while I’m thinking of it, gets me to the point of asking how your summer is going, which in turn gives me the opportunity to tell you how my summer is going. That’s if I can tell a story about it that stimulates your interest, and garners your commitment to stay with it until the end. I guess it doesn’t matter what my summer story is about as long as I can establish a context where people do and think things in ways that spike your curiosity and solicit your involvement in their lives. Sounds a little formulaic, but I do believe that writers without readers are accountants.
When readers tell me I write well, it boosts my confidence and shines my ego, but when one asks me why I don’t write “my” story, I don’t know what to say. Everything I write comes from me whether it’s me or not. A major component of “my” story is learning how to write stories. And, a key to writing stories is listening to reactions from readers, and paying attention to what you’re not paying attention to.
For instance, I showed a story to a non-writer colleague of mine a while ago. The story involved a juicy romance and a bizarre highway chase game. What did he get from the story? The name of the highway and the definition of “limited access.” At first, I was dumbfounded, and then I realized he appreciated those accurate, factual descriptions. It was a quick lesson in why the writer has to get the facts right when using material from the real environment.