I think writing itself is a craft of both nature and nurture. It would be attractive to say writers are "born," but I think its more complex than that. I think storytellers are born. Those with natures of the DESIRE to express and illuminate what burns inside them are born. Some people quench that desire with writing, others with art and music. Film, too. So Young Shea was not born with a quill in her hand, although the folding wheelchair did come out first. I'm still searching my feelings about this.
Before I wrote, I was always telling stories. I'd have complicated little plots going on in a simple game of Pet Shop (little furniture pieces and characters), in which my friends and I would adopt a single character and impersonate it for hours as the story unveiled, improv style. I'd play in the backyard under the same theme of designing a character and, like a stage actor, staying in-character for the entire duration of the game. It was the liberation of this kind of play that nurtured the author in me. After that, when I really started writing, I could knock out page by page of the little stories I created, all with very serious undertones despite the amateur experience, and was fascinated with how the writing filled up the page like a real book. The first time I ever printed out a story was at my Great Aunt's house -- one about a polar bear -- and I cut out a Cap'n Crunch cereal box to use as the cover. I was so proud and made my mom read it to me. Poor Mom. So that's really how I got started. I was nurtured by the nature. I was engrossed in the desire, and kindled by the burning of what was needing to be told inside me.
Emotion, dignity, and passion were all covered in the previous question. Let's get a little more practical.
The force that physically motivates me to sit down (that's hilarious) and write is Laura. I constantly watch the clock to make sure I am maintaining a durable pace that she won't fall asleep on and fulfill the obligation I feel to provide her with one chapter every night, allowing for at least a 20 minute discussion window afterwards. Without her, I am sure I would have written half the books I've done now, as there would have been no one waiting for an attachment, no one to inform were I to put it off for a night if I wasn't in the mood. Words don't tumble from a writer's hands in ecstasy all the time. Often times I stall on the computer, write a sentence and stall again, stare at a blank page, and just feel stuck. But the longer I'm stuck, the stucker I get. Laura helps me through that.
Another motivation is my dad, who calls almost every night so I can read him a chapter over the phone. I speed things up as I could never tell him I don't have one for him.
Cookies are compliment tidbits given to an author which the author nibbles on like Morph from Treasure Planet and becomes entirely, contently absorbed in, permitting you to throw whatever abuses and criticisms you need to at anything else in their work.
I like the little exclamation point, Laura. I'm feeling the excitement. Something surprising and unexpected? Not all authors are dashingly arrogant. NO REALLY, IT'S TRUE.
Kidding. What I think might surprise you is that, contrary to popular belief, authors do NOT need to travel to foreign countries to "study" for their next book. This is a lie you have been charmed into believing. I wrote about the arctic, Africa, Egypt, Australia, Persia, India, Turkey, mythic-Ireland, and England. I have not left this cramped, cozy, tiny little shnook (Shea nook) in the entire time I wrote that.
That's right, John. I know that cruise to Istanbul was NOT necessary to your next Brotherband book.
Gosh I mean...what's a rainbow's process? How does a flower bloom under the morning dew? How does a UNICORN assert its grace into every fable and tapestry? What is a unicorn's process, Laura?
I usually have to gear up a little before I write or whenever I get stuck, and this persists of my iPod -- usually book-related songs that can be found in the Fun Stuff tab -- and an ample area to pace. I have to pace. I have to be moving. Even when I am mentally plotting to music in the car, I will pause my iPod when we stop at a red light and resume when the car moves. I need to see the world moving by and propelling my thoughts. The movement is what makes me feel I am a part of it.
It is all I think about when the colors flash on me in a movie theater. Film is such an astounding pulse on the world and on us as a people. It's like I said before -- humanity has a pulse as it is. Writers are the ones who press down two fingers and feel it. I am quite certain, however, that I would be the film industry's most loathed author as I would be on set every day, possibly sleep there, be a part of every audition, and give the actor(s) portraying Marty, Ben, Caz, and Xander private lessons. I'm THAT dedicated.
For fanfic, I encourage it. I encourage anything that gets people writing. I would be honored and would most certainly peruse the work and smile, laugh (warmly), or -- yes, we all know it's true -- cringe upon occasion. But I'd love every minute. Perhaps there's have to be a Fanfic Friday christened in my future.
I also hope my stories could be used for good post-publication in the areas of charity and influence with whatever meager celebrity they garner. Emporium could have a great affect for animals, environmentally, and another crusade I won't mention for spoiler reasons. Along with Breakers and Fantasy (AND Ridley), I hope, in my humblest of desires, that the love in the characters could be refuge for those who need it. That is what it is meant for.
In my third novel, a protagonist held the dying character in his arms. The dying character was shuddering, trying to mouth his last words as the protagonist gagged his name, clamped him harder, tried to keep him here. He knew he couldn't. Knew he had to respond to the last words. "I know, man. I know."
Here, more than anywhere else (and there were other occasions), I spilled silent, poised tears, hammering away at the keys with equal focus as my face and shirt were drenched. The hardest part, for me, will always be the reality of what we must lose. What we can never keep. Even the things we create, the things that should be untouchable. The hardest part is having to accept, as someone speaking that pulse, how painful the world must be. To ignore this, to fantasize everything in our work, is to dishonor the courage and endurance we weather, the same our characters must, as they are as real as you and me. Luckily, for me, they will always live. One went on before he was even born on the page, I believe. They are like spectral guardians to me, but to you...I only hope they are the same. Otherwise, I could not be you.
As far as the business, beyond the craft itself, the hardest part of writing is reading the lines of print that strip your dreams, the rejections and trying-to-be-gentle criticisms that pierce past any cushion. We work hard every day, breathe, dream, laugh, live, and cry our stories but get little to no recognition for it. After 7 novels, I arrogantly proclaim that I feel like the rocket scientist forced to be a janitor. All my fellow writers reading this understand that devastation. But with every rejection I got, the fiercer I believed in my story. Even J.K. Rowling and Ernest Hemingway got harsh rejections. One day, they'll say, even you got rejected. And you'll be the one making some young dreamer smile, thinking maybe their rejection isn't all that bad.
I have an idea! Why don't you ask me an easy question like which family member I would save in a scorching house fire! It's like Sophie's Choice except I wasn't taken into custody yet for being disabled.
I know and love every character like God knows and loves all His children -- even the villains. Likewise, I believe some part of me is stolen by, or absorbed into, the characters -- even the villains. I see a part of myself in every one of them, extension's of my spirit. In each one, I find a different sort of sanctuary. In Marty there is my comfort and assurance that being disabled does not hinder me from being strong, capable, cool, confident, smug, and devilishly good-looking. In Xander, I am flooded with the relief of his carefree, "she'll be right" attitude that reminds his author to brush off my problems and make Shea-be-alright. In Adam, I find my father and a fairy-tale-like, firefly-lit tenderness. Sandra offers...certain exposure to certain parts of my brain. Tyber is beautiful; the manifestation of my romance and sentimentality. Cazimir -- what DON'T I find in Cazimir? And Peter is the one I miss writing the most, as his spareness, humility, and goodness were so organic and entrenched in my soul (he was my very first main character), I feel like his hands are mine, his breath stops when mine does. I could go on and on.
There is...one, though.
I still don't have a favorite. That is impossible. But...one has become a little more.
I knew this character would die before I even wrote him. He is the one who started it all. It is almost as if he appeared intentionally, as if he needed to stand there before me and make me the writer I am today. I met him in a dream, the one that became my first novel, and since, he has hovered in my life like a guardian. In some ways...I wonder if he is.
I'll let the readers guess which character this is. In my acknowledgments to him, also ambiguous, I wrote, "Though I wrote how you led...you led me."
An editor is your FAN first, editor second. In an editor, I want dedication, attentiveness, and engrossment. No, not that the editor is grossed out. But your editor needs to be almost as absorbed and enthusiastic as your story as you. Otherwise, you'll run into frustrations where the author finds the editor is making suggestions that show they were not paying attention to the story, and the author will become defiant and resistant like this:
Once you achieve this in-sync relationship, an editor should be able to tell you when something is amiss in the story before it gets too late; when something doesn't feel right. They need to be the ones who make you re-examine when you need to, in all subjects of character, plot, presentation, and yes, even petty grammar. A lot of times, I'll get an inkling something isn't quite right, but need my editor to check me and make sure -- if not entirely address the problem. Editors are doctors who must treat their author in both conditional and preventative medicine, using their skills to pave the way for yours. They will speak for every reader the author will face and are responsible for not letting the author step out that door without his/her hat on, if you catch my drift. Except neither Laura nor I can reach each other's heads to put on a hat.
The funnest part of my job is that it is not a job. It is a calling and a part of who I am. Therefore, it is what makes me sigh in a here-we-go way every time I plop down in my wheelchair. It is what grants me the life-sustaining necessity of dignity and identity. Crafting Tyber's compass from cardboard and beads (thank you for your tireless support of the arts, Mom), dressing up as characters, sketching maps and emblems, ordering Ben's dog tag and wearing it around my neck every day, that is all fun. But perhaps the greatest fun is overhearing my dad ENTHUSE about the novels and pore into every detail of the plot, correcting ME sometimes.
Or maybe it's those late nights. The ones where I ignore the clock, pace the tile because I am happy, and grin down at my phone as it lights up with Laura's name vibrating on the top of the screen. Sharing things with her that I will only be able to with her. Letting the stories weave us, and all those who have encountered them, eternally together.