My daughter told me after I published my first book that I should think of myself as a writer. And being the obedient father, I agreed.
Being obedient allowed me to remove that horrible sounding phrase “I’m trying to be,” in front of the word “writer” whenever someone would ask me what I do now that I gave up on trying to earn a real living. Now I simply say, “I’m a writer” to anyone questioning my laziness.
It really helps at social gatherings, which of course I don’t attend, but I’ve been told that people seldom extend a conversation with you by asking, “How is the trying going?” But they often will make the mistake of inquiring; “What is it that you have written?” An opening no writer can refuse to leap into.
So calling myself a writer, I went to a workshop the other night on writing, a short primer on how to create great narrative. The lecturer, a fairly successful writer when measured in book sales, started out with the basics of first creating the story and a central theme and then the characters whose lives tell the story and reflect the central theme.
I only developed a little angina during that part of the lecture, and my fluttering discomfort came from the fact that he said you develop the characters to play out the story and the theme, and with my writing, more than a few times some of my characters have written the story.
The next section of the lecture pretty much pricked the writer balloon that I’d blown up around me when he emphasized the need for storyboarding the chapters of your book before writing it. You see: I can’t do that. I’ve tried many times to use that approach and failed. The characters I create just don’t want to follow a prearranged destiny. And the minute they take over the writing from me, they throw the story line out the window and go on their merry way with me just tagging along to document their escapades on my computer keyboard.
I left the lecture more than a little conflicted by knowing that I’m doing it wrong, and I told myself that if I really want to be called a writer, then I have to learn how to do it right.
So I sat down at the computer this morning and looked at a three-quarters done sequel to one of my books. I tried to storyboard the next scene in the book, but in my head I heard a voice saying pretty emphatically: “You may have created me, but don’t you dare try to control me.”
I may be doing it wrong. And I guess that says I’m not the writer: My characters are.
And after a little reflection, I had to admit I’m okay with that. I enjoy following them in their lives.