So you can read my books

Sunday, January 8, 2012


{"Read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.

Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.

Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window and start again wiser."

-William Faulkner.}

William Faulkner, ghost, here :

I am deeply touched by the response my last guest post received.

It has been a long time since anything I have written has been appreciated.

I asked Roland if I could thank you all with another post.

He, being my friend, said : "Of course."

But what to write? What did I know that would assist you?

Know. The word mocked me. Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.

What to give you in return for what your comments gave me?

I decided to give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire of the struggle to be published...

I give it to you not that you may remember time,

but that you might forget it now and then for a moment

and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.

Because no battle is ever won. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

The artist doesn't have time to listen to the critics.

The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don't have the time to read reviews.

I remember what Samuel McCord told me in the New Orleans of the Roaring Twenties :

"I think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly passion goes along the earth, clinging to it,

so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other;

and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.”

Angela Brown commented on how odd "soul" sounded to her mind in this modern, remorseless world. Soul.

It is just a word. Soul, we call it. But I have been used to words for a long time now.

I know that that word is merely like the others:

just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time comes,

you won't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear. When your prose fills that lack in the reader's chest, "Soul" will take on a life of its own.

But let us talk of what it takes to be an author :

Don't be 'a writer'. Be writing :

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

And to work well you must write with the embers of truth stinging your eyes.

You can have 13 people looking at a black bird and none of them will get it right. No one individual can look at truth.

Even simple truth. Look deep enough, and the simplicity disappears in the murky depths.

Truth blinds you. It is too much for one set of perceptions to take in. To a man with rose-tinted glasses, the whole world is rose.

And so it is with the writer looking at Man.

We call ourselves Homo Sapien, the reasoning animal. But Man is not made of reason.

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is its own misfortune as well.

And so all human behavior is unpredictable. Considering Man's fragility and the ramshackle universe he functions in, how could it be otherwise?

So how does that affect you as a writer?

1) The writer must not set himself up as judge :

He must focus on action, the character's behavior. Maybe your protagonist, like so many people, has no concept of morality,

only an integrity to hold always to what he believes to be facts and truths of the human condition.

2) The character does what his nature dictates.

He acts not as the writer would, not as a man should do, but what he will do -- maybe what he can't help but do. Which leads me to my greatest fear :

3) I fear that Man is losing his individualism, his sense of self, in doing what the herd does in order to stay safe.

Which is why I do not belong to anything besides the Human Race, and I try to be a first rate member of that.

4) You are first rate as a human being and a writer if :

you do the best you can with what talents you have to make something positive that wasn't there yesterday.

How do you do that you ask :

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. And he makes his home of the stones of his efforts.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home until I realized that home to a writer is where his mind, his heart is.

5) Most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be. Strive to thrive where you are. "How?" you ask again. And I will tell you :

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good.

You have to have courage. Courage is not so hard to have in writing if you remember that :

All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection.

6) I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I'm convinced I could do it better.

This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off.

Of course he won't. Which leads us to the next point.

7) The phenomenon of writing is its hermaphroditism:

the principles of victory and of defeat inhabit the same body

and the necessary opponent, the blank page, is merely the bed he self-exhausts on.

8) You can learn writing, but you cannot teach it. A paradox but true despite that.

And what have I learned from my novels?

I learned how to approach language, words:

not with seriousness so much as an essayist does,

but with a kind of alert respect, as you approach dynamite;

even with joy, as you approach women: perhaps with the same secretly unscrupulous intentions.

Are you a writer? Really? Then, what are you doing about it? Go, write. And remember :

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.

And that's why a dream is not a very safe thing to be near...

I know; I had one once.

It's like a loaded pistol with a hair trigger: if it stays alive long enough,

somebody is going to be hurt. But if it's a good dream, it's worth it.
A little humor icing on this literary cake :


  1. This jumped out: Don't be 'a writer'. Be writing. Let that be my motto.

    If we do it for the joy of the art and not the "artifice" we will write truer and better.Not writing to the reviewer, but writing what's inside us.

    Thanks for the thoughts. (=

  2. So much good advice in this post. I love 'most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be.' I shall try to remember this, and push just a little bit more.

    Congratulations on reaching over 1000 friends Roland, you deserve it :-)

  3. I succeed best at number four - I do the best with what I've got, which may not be much, may not be great, but it is genuinely me, my style, and the best I can do.

  4. I wonder if I can get Mr. Faulkner to guest post on my blog...

    I read all the Faulkner I can get my hands on and then read a bunch of Stephen King to get Faulkner out of my systerm.

    What stands out for me is #2
    "The character does what his nature dictates."

    So how can one possibly map out a character until they're into the story and said character starts acting out his nature?

    And I LOVE "writers don't have time to read reviews". Writers are busy writing.

    So lets get to it.

    You sure do have a lot of followers Mr. Roland. That's very good. Congratulations. I'm just a little bit behind you:)

  5. I expecially love the lines about being writing and the concept of studying writing like an apprentice. Well done.

  6. Writer's don't have time to listen to the critics, so very, very true. A wise and timely post, especially for me. Thank you. I can't tell you how much I needed this!

  7. ok really a great piece on the philosophy of writing...lots of great wisdom in this...but Don't be 'a writer'. Be spot can you call yourself a writer if you dont eh? thanks for popping in today!

  8. Jo :
    First, thank you for your constant friendship. Second, thank you for the lovely book, THE ANATOMY OF PEACE. A fascinating book so far.

    Sarah :
    I keep losing followers, but the ghost of William Faulkner refuses to accept blame! LOL. Your friendship makes me feel special. Thanks.

    Alex :
    David used #4 and slew Goliath! Just like you're slaying resistance in blogdom and book sales! Continued good fortune, my friend, Roland

    Yvonne :
    Just Roland to my friends! I love both William Faulkner and Stephen King (btw - your eerie poem on your post would delight him I am sure!)

    I come up with my characters first, mapping out their backstory and their personalities. So the story just seems to flow then. Thanks for visiting. Roland

    Tonja :
    Ernest Hemingway wrote all we writers start out apprentices, yet never learn enough to be called masters. Our journeys are just beginning. Epic, right? LOL.

    Suze :
    The ghost of William Faulkner just cleared his voice loudly. He wrote this post. 90% of the words are truly things he did, indeed, wrote. I just arranged them into what I hoped was a coherent, moving whole. Samuel McCord just cleared his throat. Ah, his words were his. :-)

    Thanks for visiting and caring enough to ask. Do come back, Roland

    Heather :
    You just made my afternoon. Compare yourself to yourself. See if you've grown. Then, read the masters. Learn how they achieved those elements that impress you. Critics? Disbelieve the good reviews. Disregard the negative.

    Read teaching texts by King, Dwight Swain, and others to learn what they feel are good ways to tackle fiction. Dean Koontz wrote an excellent, but sadly out of print, text on writing genre fiction.

    But critics? They always have an agenda (most of them not to your best interest.)

    May your day and new week be healing! Roland

  9. Brian :
    You have a great blog. I wish you nothing but greater and greater success! We are what we do -- not what we say. You have a fascinating blog, Roland

  10. "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."
    I can visualize a swimmer in the water. If he wants to breathe he can't be looking backward, only forward towards the goal.
    Thanks for an excellent read!

  11. Karen Elizabeth Brown :
    I'm very happy that you enjoyed the visual imagery of William Faulkner's ghost. Mark Twain also expressed similar thoughts. Do come back. You have a great blog, Roland

  12. Yvonne :
    Oh, William Faulkner's ghost said he would be glad to guest on your blog, but he would have to drag me along. LOL. Roland

  13. A very wise post :) A good kick in the butt, and I kinda need that right now to be "writing" not a writer.


  14. It was a good post, Roland -- full of sound and fury but much to be gleaned. :)

    Have a stellar week.

  15. Donna :
    Sometimes we all need a nudge from one of the masters to remind us what awakened the desire in us to create great prose. The ghost of Ernest Hemingway is always growling to me about some lack he sees in my writing. Humility is not one of his faults! I live MIDNIGHT IN PARIS!! Thanks for commenting. It means a lot.

    Suze :
    The ghost of William Faulkner chuckled at your in-joke in your comment. He always was a ladies' man. His ghost may drift over your way. Keep your eyes alert! LOL. Roland