I just finished a novel so compelling that for long hours over two days I did little else but read it, marveling at how a story that I would never be able to write, much less imagine, became so beautiful, interesting and meaningful.
The experience of being thoroughly enthralled in a book happens less often now than in my youth, when books became the strong voices in my life. I was at odds with just about everything around me: my parents, my self (I was fat and suffered from allergies), any kind of optimistic faith in the future, my friends, any kind of sport or physical activity. Books were a gateway to different worlds in which I was not odd.
It’s no wonder that I began to write. I wanted to make worlds for myself, and anyone else who wanted to come along. I sought advice from other writers: Fred Pohl, Lester del Rey, Harlan Ellison, Keith Laumer, and I followed that advice: write about what excites you, delights you, what you really want to say.
This advice did not prepare me for the other things that happen to those who reach deep into their souls, fashion a gift made with love, and have that gift refused, reviled, ridiculed or just plain ignored.
Along the way, I DID get some stuff published and heard some nice things from agents, editors, publishers, critics and people who just liked what I offered.
But writing has been difficult. I don’t just want to write what excites and thrills me, I don’t want to be hurt.
When I taught martial arts, I’d get students who had been injured badly in fights they did not win. When it came time to practice a technique, they’d flinch, which would make any kind of practice much more awkward, or they’d become cynical: how is repeating this simple thing over and over again going to change the fact that people who are bigger and stronger can hurt me?
I didn’t have an answer. One teacher did. He said, “love what you do.”
Another teacher said, “Just look for the way in.”
Into that point at which you forget about what happened, or the very real monsters that can harm you again. You do this simple thing.
And, if possible, love it a little bit.
I want to write a book as good as the one I just finished. But I still flinch. I don’t want to feel that what I love is worthless.
I’m looking for a way in.