Each of us wannabe would-be writers walk into our ‘room of reflection’ with a special DNA and skill set. We walk into our ‘room’ with life experiences that have similarity to other lives, but there is a uniqueness in each of us, different appetites and desires, different cultures, large and small alteration patterns in our family environments.
Some of us bring into the ‘room’ a life generally filled with joy and happiness, wholesome family connections and memories. Some of us bring despair, loneliness, sadness, and tragedies. Some of us bring keen minds with which to pen our thoughts and enlighten the readers of the world. Some of us want so much to convey our long buried messages of where we’ve been and how we’ve survived but feel inferior to the task. Some of us struggle to write the words that would set us free from the demons of our pasts. Some have the mental acuity with which to paint a word portrait of stunning quality. Some struggle and produce masterpieces of their own. Some struggle and leave the ‘room.’ There are millions of us wannabe would-be writers in the world. Some of us do leave the ‘room,’ finding after all that writing is not our true passion.
Those of us bitten by the writing bug know the long hours of staring at a blank page. We also know the overwhelming feeling of pride when we have written something so emotionally satisfying our own tears splash on the laptop keys. It is in this ‘room’ that we find out so much about ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses. It is here that we come to understand those parts of us we struggled to know for so very long. It is here in this privacy that we become who it is we truly wish to be… not necessarily the author of Book of Month clubs, not necessarily the author that publishers rush to sign, not necessarily the exact masterpiece we had wanted that book to become.
In ‘the writer’s room’ we become more than we ever imagined we could be. We can create a story with true elements from our own lives. We can place in the story those characters that we have known, respected, or reviled. These characters can tell the story of our lives with all of the emotions assembled therein. We can be old, young, man, woman, child, and these characters, with our lines and between our lines, tell the world about that special and unique DNA we brought into the room.
Will our time spent in ‘the writer’s room’ make us rich and famous? Could happen, of course. If we are serious about our craft, however, should that be the real intent when we enter that room? That is for each of us to decide. For me, whatever the story I’m writing, there are pieces of me strewn throughout the pages. For me, it is in this room where I have grown the most, have discovered more about myself than all that living gave up to me. You see, I was too busy being that actor on the stage of life to really know my true self. It took this ‘room,’ these private moments to really find me. It took this room, all the writing errata, to become confident with the fact that, yes, I can honestly pen words and phrases that can compete with anyone. Do I realize that Shakespeare and Hemingway live not within me? Of course, but, then, were that the case, what would have been my discovery?
Go to ‘the writer’s room’ and create a world where you discover yourself. Make your mistakes, grow and become the best that you can be. If fame is meant to be, so it shall come to pass. If self-awareness and truth are your rewards in that ‘room,’ be joyous in that recognition.
Robert Browning, one of the great Victorian poets of his day, made claim that ‘striving was a noble thing’ — if one digs a ditch, it should be the best ditch that one can dig. So it should be with writing.
If your proclivity is writing, go to ‘the writer’s room’ and find your true being.
This is a ‘Don’t Miss’ combo for you: an interview with a quality author and a partial review of his 5-Star book, “Everyone
Burns.” If you have not had the pleasure of reading John Dolan you’ve missed a great experience from a writer
extraordinaire. JD is truly a wordsmith for his times. He is also the man who introduced me and countless others to the
word, ‘Galericulate’ — that’s the name of his website/blog. (See end of interview/review.) He’s the man hidden under the
hat and he’s roaming around some continent or another. At last report, he was in Amsterdam… OOPS – UPDATE: that was
2012…he was just recently released from Foxes aHounds Tranquility Center! He’s much better now, I’m told! I do
so hope my information is accurate… But, be gone, my foolishness! Here’s a re-blog of my 2012 interview with this
important literary figure and an update on his writing…
Thought I might try to titillate you with the first two pages of a ‘Prologue.’ Call me shameless because the ‘Prologue’ is from my novel, Mama’s Madness.
This book was taken from some true life events and it was tough to write. It startled me to think that mothers of such quantifiable evil existed and doled it out at regular intervals. There are no ‘spoilers’ here and perhaps you will want to read more. The good news is that these mothers from hell are hopefully outside the reach of those reading this small portion.
From Mama’s Madness by Billy Ray Chitwood:
“Help me! Please help me!”
It is a piteous whimper, lost in the black void of the narrow closet. The weak and eerie sound of her own voice chills her more fiercely than the cold. The thought brings an aberrant amusement. Her own small voice frightens her!
A sound! A creaking sound. Far off. A footfall! Is it? No. It is not a footfall. It’s just one of the strange noises that comes in the night.
Is it night?
Time is lost. Time is gone from her world like a chunk of youth. The black hole draws her toward an uncertain vortex. She must close her eyes. But, not so tightly. She sees less with her eyes lightly closed. There is better control of her quivering body. With eyes open, the blackness comes alive with trickery.
Some crawling thing moves along her upper arm. That is her perception. She shifts and finds a wooden wall protrusion. A vertical beam. She moves her arm and body in back and forth rushes to accommodate the itch.
Her wrists are painfully numb and raw. The handcuffs seem now natural esxtensions of her hands.
Her shoulders ache in their sockets. They are taut from the pull of arms bound behind her back.
How long? God! It seems an eternity! A small lifetime she has lived in this palpable darkness. Maybe, it has been two days. The air has no texture or stir. It hangs there, stale and dank.
Her face is flushed with fever. It feels stiff and crusty from the tears running over her abrasive wounds. She squints and contorts. She opens and closes her mouth. There are sharp responses of pain. Her entire body feels leaden and bloated. When she moves there is a burning chaff between her thighs. A complacent soreness pervades. It no longer matters. Nor does the stench from her body’s waste matter.
It is her mind which throttles her. Whisks her off in searing flashes, abates, lingers amid the blackness. A fragile sentry. Both enemy and friend.
It is all happening again! She is next to die. Just like Celia. Was it a year ago? Two? Time, again, is elusive, lost. What does it matter? A year ago or an hour ago! Sarilee knows she is next. Just like Celia…
Mama had beaten Celia, too. Had gotten so mad she shot her. But the bullet didn’t kill Celia. The fire killed Celia. The bullet lodged in Celia’s back and stayed there for two years. Celia healed with the bullet there in her back. Then, Celia had wanted to leave home.
Was that one year ago?
For some unknown fathoming, Sarilee wants to be precise in her remembering. Somehow, it is important to remember this point.
Yes, it was a year ago. They were living in an apartment near the old trailer court where Mama used to live…
Okay, that’s just the first two pages of Mama’s Madness. It’s my hope that you’re interested enough to read more. It is a dark tale but there are some moments of recompense and justice.
It’s on amazon.com (Kindle and paperback). It’s on Nook at Barnes and Noble. It’s on amazonUK. It is also on other E-formats.
Guess I write quite a bit about my feelings, about my life and times. Thought I would allow a small portion from one of my books to do the ‘talking’ in this post… The following is a section from ‘The Way Station’ (a euphemism for a Care Facility) in my book, “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections From An Appalachian Son.” Prentice Paul Hiller is recovering from a complicated hip surgery, meets and bonds with a former Clinical Psychologist, Greta Fogel. Over the weeks of teasing and mental jousting, Greta has encouraged Prentice to write about his life and times, suggesting that it might be not only good therapy for him but that the end product should be a great read…
EXCERPT – from “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections Of An Appalachian Son” by Billy Ray Chitwood:
Having just settled in with my laptop, Greta came into the sun room. Without too much preamble, I moved the laptop to her lap, with the cursor set to start on the last two sections. “See what you think of these two sections,” I said with a doubtful expression, “I’m ambivalent! Don’t know if I went too overboard.”
It took some time for her to read the sections. She paused time and again in very thoughtful poses.
When she was finished, she asked: “You want to talk now or later? Want me to leave you so you can write?”
“No, let’s talk! First, Dorie seems really nice,” I said.
“She’s a really good lady. I’m very impressed. You’re going to like her.” She sat on the wicker chair near the window. Greta was wearing a lovely lavender sweater and beige pants outfit plus a new hairdo. Her eyes glowed with the combination.
“I already do. We had a chance to visit when she got here. She’s a version of you, really!”
“Don’t know about that, but I like her and I’m glad you do…” She paused for a second. “Shall we talk about these last two sections?”
“Really! You want to talk about the last two sections? Why do you think I shoved the laptop on your lap? Of course, sweet lady, let’s talk about these sections…you read it and acted like you wanted to leave. You don’t like the sections, do you?”
“Of course, I like the sections! You know I like your writing. You raised my eyebrows a bit, that’s all. You surprised me!” She said with a slight nod and a wry smile.
“Bet I know why!” with a nod and smile of my own. “The ‘Vickie’ sex snapshot?”
“Well, certainly, that raised my eyebrows! And we won’t dwell too long on that bit of memorabilia! However, it might surprise you to know that that kind of experience is not so uncommon, particularly when you consider the environment in which you lived, notwithstanding the criminal implications of Vickie’s complicity in the seduction. No, it is not a pretty snapshot, and it does surprise me somewhat that you would make it part of your ‘reflections,’ although your penchant for honesty and ridiculing yourself would preclude your leaving it out.” She was about to say more when I interrupted.
“It was such a vivid recall, Greta, like the earlier sex encounter with my pre-puberty aunt. It was somehow important for me to put it in, even knowing that is was highlighting depraved behavior…”
“I understand, Prentice. You need not justify it to me. You want the writing to portray the ultimate true picture of who you were then. It couldn’t be any other way for you.” She paused again, then went on.
“The ‘Vickie snapshot’ is not necessarily what I meant by ‘raising’ my eyebrows.”
“Of what then do you speak, dear lady?” using my chivalrous tongue.
“I speak of your ‘isms’ section, EST and ‘Tao Te Ching,’ and your ‘political views’ section to the larger extent. What raised my brows and surprised me a bit was the length to which you’ve gone to find yourself, your belief system as it relates to your political morality. In other words, you’re a man who strives so hard to find integrity in yourself and in others. You fight in your mind the battles of our times, wanting desperately to find a Utopia which you know does not exist. In some ways, you are an incurable romantic, a Don Quixote chasing ‘windmills’ you think are giants to be slain. You know your sins, Prentice! You know your faults, your errant ways! Your missed opportunities! And you’re trying to make up for it all with the pages of your book.” She paused, eyed me carefully with a fondness she would not hide. “And, you’re doing a damned good job!”
“Whoa, wait a minute! There’s something else you want to say. ‘A damned good job’ doesn’t quite say it all, Greta. Come on, I can take it. It might hurt, a lot, but I can take it. I might never speak to you again, but take it, I shall!” She could see the last bit as mock and tease.
“Yes, a damned good job! I say what I mean, Mr. Hiller. And, yes, Mr. Hiller, there is something else to say…” Again, she paused, looked out the window at the lovely blue sky day. “What you put down is well written. You would be aware that some of your reading audience might not share your views. That, I know you know! Incidentally, I’m not one of those ‘really smart people’ to whom you refer, but I am non-partisan. What you want, I believe most people want. You write about it passionately and sincerely. How could I fault you? The chivalrous battles you fight with your writing are noble, patriotic, and good…” She paused yet again, then wistfully continued.
“Why, I’m not completely sure, but I’m thinking of those two great volumes of Spanish literature.” She waited, pursed her lips in that cute little habitual way she had, and went on. “His neighbors thought him mad for all his dedicated reading of chivalry, but Alonso Quixano gave himself a new name, ‘Don Quixote,’ put on a suit of old armor and went off on his chivalrous quests with wild imaginings. He was at times beaten, ridiculed, and ultimately unintentionally betrayed by his dull-witted squire and neighbor, Sancho Panza. His quests, his imaginings, ended in a great melancholy. Alonso would put away his armor. The melancholy worsened with his age, and Sancho in the end tried to restore his faith. But Alonso Quixano died a broken man, and, with him, his alter ego, ‘Don Quixote.’
“What does ‘Don Quixote’ have to do with what you’re writing? The chivalry part, mostly. Though, at times, you do seem daft and wildly imaginative!” A pause for chuckles. “You write about many differnet things in yur life. You bemoan at times the sad states of your existence, your life style, your ‘images’ of the good life, your moods, your legacy. And, to repeat myself, you do a damned good job of it. If I have any concern, it comes from my fondness for you. I don’t wish you to become ‘melancholy and broken,’ Prentice.
“Don’t try so hard to make up for your life! This writing business, the process, is good for you. Use it for all the right reasons: the legacy thing, the self-ablution, as it were, the process itself. You are who you are. You will try too hard. You will continue to beat yourself. It’s too late for the couch, not that you really ever needed it, but, if I could push but one button for you, it would be the button that makes you believe in yourself and makes you have more faith in the God who made you and accept whatever it is He intends for you. You are really a dear, dear man, and I don’t wish to see you hurt so much.”
She stopped talking and looked again out the big window, her face creased with a sadness beyond the mere interpretations she had rendered on the sections of my book. That sadness held me for a moment. Then, I decided to revert to my easy tactic of light patter.
“Well, Greta, you’ve totally blind-sided me! What the hell am I supposed to do with Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and you?” smiling, with raised eyebrows. “Okay, methinks I get it. You’re a sweetheart!” I closed the laptop and got up. “Come on, let’s break out of this joint and find a Big Mac, fries, and coke.”
Actually, ‘Don Quixote’ and I likely had a lot more in common than I might be willing to admit. Then, again, there might be more Sancho Panza in me than I might be willing to admit.
“Writing And Me”
Posted November 1, 2012 by Billy Ray Chitwood
Most people who write and those who wish to write likely know that the libraries of the world are comfortably stacked with the ‘how to’ of creative writing. Guess the thing for me is, I’ve got to do my own struggling, got to find my own way of saying things with these fingers that dance along the laptop keys. The question for me is not so much, how successful can I be financially in my writing? (Don’t get me wrong, would not mind at all cashing a lot of royalty checks!) More important for me at this juncture in my life is finding out about where I’ve been, all the bad things, all the good things, and getting a better idea of who I really am. My books have plots, such as they are, and they have characters. These plots and these characters serve me and give me a chance to ‘muse and fuse,’ to maybe discover some things about me I never knew.
Sure, I want my books interesting enough to be read, enjoyed, and to have people talking about them. The most important thing, though, for me, is being true to me, plumbing my depths, finding the music of my soul, and hoping I discover more of me. Ego? Maybe so. But it has got to be me finding out whether or not I’m any good at this business of writing. You know, I’m beginning to think maybe I am. It’s not that I’m not willing to learn — it’s just, it better be there within me now, this style thing, this appeal to readers, because I’m not necessarily going to find it in the library.
I’m thinking we do it by ‘doing it,’ over and over again… if we’re any good, we need to trust that little voice inside that says we are.
Everyone has to do her and his own thing. I’m old enough to think I’m just as right as some folks who write about writing and maybe too dumb and inflexible to realize I’m singing a song here with a guitar out of tune.
That’s what I’m thinking!