So you can read my books

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


William Faulkner, ghost, here.

Alex Cavanaugh has established this fine tradition:

Writers supporting one another as do the stones in an arch bridge -

Roland is off bringing rare blood to the ailing, so I am here to stand in his stead:

Why do I title my support article, THE SILK ROAD?

The Silk Road (from German: Seidenstraße) or Silk Route

 is a modern term referring to a historical network of interlinking trade routes

across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia

 with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa.

 Extending 4,000 miles, the Silk Road got its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade along it, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of China, India, Persia, Europe and Arabia.

Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other goods were traded, and various technologies, religions and philosophies,

as well as the bubonic plague (the "Black Death"), also traveled along the Silk Routes.

The path you take in the quest for your novel is the Silk Road for you.  It is both a short path and a long one:

from the head to the heart to the fingers.

But most writers run afoul of a roadblock from the head to the heart. 

Or if they traverse that perilous plain, they will find only staleness at the end of their fingers.

My advice for that?

Get it down.
Take chances.

It may be bad, but it is the only way you can do anything good. 

The Silk Road to your novel will demand bravery of you.

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.  

It will lead you places you never expected to go, bringing you wisdom or the death of your dreams,

depending on the choices you make, the people with whom you converse.

We writers are a lonely group as Roland pointed out yesterday. 

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

We are drawn to those who understand the fire in our souls ... even though sometimes we deny that attraction.

In the '20's, two cities called out to yearning writers: Paris and New Orleans.

I told myself I was going to New Orleans to get a job on a ship going to Europe.  I was lying to myself.  Why, we lie so much to ourselves, we could do it for a living.

I wanted to be with people with the same problems and interests as my own,

who would not laugh as I told of what I was trying to accomplish with my prose as so many of the Philistines did back then.

To succeed on the original Silk Road, you had to learn the languages of the nations along that route.

Your own Silk Road will demand you learn the languages of those of whom you write.

It helps if you like people, for you will listen beneath their words

to the aches and longings that they cannot or dare not bring into the light of conversation.

I spent a lot of time with my uncle. And every 4 years, he would have to barn-storm to get re-elected as judge.  I did not nor do I care about politics.  But I cared about the lined faces I saw in my uncle's audiences.

Theirs were not regional problems. A man from there had the same struggles as do we all:

the struggle against his own heart, against the hearts of his fellows

And the struggle to stay the course of the truths by which we must all live.


That is a much mocked word in this relative world of today.

"Oh," people say, "what makes something a truth for you does not work for me."

Really?  Courage, honor, compassion, pity.  Not for you?

We do not practice those to be good

but practicing them has allowed us not to pass away as with the Mastodon despite our fragility. 

One is honest, not to be good, but that is how we get along with one another, to know where we stand in regards to those around us. 

Without compassion, the weak would not endure to grow strong enough to stand on their own.

Love like truth is beyond reason. You don’t love because:

you love despite;

not for the virtues, but despite the faults. 

To get anywhere along your Silk Road of writing you need a compass.  Here is the one I used:

Unless your characters are in trouble,

it is your novel that is in trouble.

And not just trouble alone.  The struggle to endure must rivet the reader. Why is a reader riveted?

Because he has grown to care about the protagonist due to some resonance that character strikes within the heart of the reader.

Not that the protagonist must be a saint, for who relates to perfection? 

Indeed, maybe the hero has no morality at all, only an integrity to stay true to what he believes to be facts of human behavior. 

But your hero will do what a man or woman will naturally do, not what man should do, but what he will do ... maybe what he can't help but do.

Labor to bring your page to life:

The aim of every writer is to arrest motion, which is life, by the artificial means of prose and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. 

As a writer, always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.

Try to be better than yourself.

I do not expect you to remember what I say here, only to perhaps be hit like a tuning fork by something that spoke directly to you.   

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. 

If you take nothing else from this lesson of mine, take this:

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.  


  1. Yes. What Faulkner said. Just write from the heart. Glad to hear election time is over, too.

  2. Bravo! Such a brilliant, inspiring post. Thank you for your words, for reminding me that I must dare something in order to succeed. That I am alone in my own dream, but that I am connected to my fellow dreamers. :)

  3. Wonderful post Mr. Faulkner, your words hit like a tuning fork :)

  4. The writer's journey as a trek on the silk road made me smile. Creative and deep. And I totally agree with you about the need for struggle, both in our characters' lives and our own.

  5. D.G.:
    Whew! I was so tired of political furor. Somehow it seems the little people always get chewed up by the Big Picture no matter which party gets elected.

    Faulkner beams that you agreed with him. He said to his students at the University of Virginia that one must forget about striving for a "style" and simply write from the heart, then style would take care of itself.

    Yes, we are in be-twixt state, both alone in our dreaming and connected to the other dreamers we reach out to.

    The ghost of Faulkner thanks you for being so kind about his words.

    To dare our dream is to risk failure, but not to try is to insure it, right?

    If we stick together, we'll make it down our Silk Road. How are the mice over there in Norway?

    It seemed to the ghost of Faulkner as an apt metaphor. I agree with you with resistence, we would not build the strength necessary for the journey each of us must make. :-)

  6. Here's to Faulkner and the Silk Road. Great ideas here and lovely music. Thanks.

  7. Beautifully put. Mr. Faulkner definitely understood the heart of a writer. Thanks, Roland.

  8. Faulkner's ghost is pretty smart. I love the ending advice. I need to stop worrying about reviews.

  9. Better than myself - working on it.
    That path will take you to places you never imagined, but you won't get there unless you move.
    And sorry it's taken me so long to get here today, Roland!

  10. C. Lee:
    Love your ALIGATORS OVERHEAD book trailer. Isn't Kitaro's music evocative?

    Faulkner was not only a great writer but a great teacher as well. His wisdom makes me look good.

    I once read a review and wondered if the person had actually finished the first chapter. Gore Vidal said most reviewers seldom read the whole book they dissect. Ouch!

    You're only human. Me? I'm in mortal combat with bedbugs that have overtaken the entire apartment complex in which I live. I will probably lose my bed and brand new (and expensive quilts and comforters)

    Nothing like waking to bites with bedbugs swarming all over your face. Ugh!!!

    Sigh. Have a great rest of week, Roland

  11. Another awesome post from a ghost. I like this line, "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."

  12. Shell Flower:
    You might like my GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY, where ghosts of famous writers teach us how to write better. Thanks for liking this post! :-)

  13. Who relates to perfection? Certainly not me.

    I love this: "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."

    Enjoyed the post. :)

  14. Candy:
    I think each of us is more apt to be drawn to someone who we can relate to ... which for me isn't perfection!! Thanks for the kind words.

  15. I love the last quote about writers don't have time to read the reviews. I think that might be a hard one for me to learn, I'm such a validation freak. I'm trying, though. :)

  16. Lara:
    Gore Vidal, a famous essayist and historian and social critic, said he had learned that most reviewers for major magazines and newspapers did not fully read the books they review -- some did not read the book at all. After he learned that, he paid no mind to them.