Come May 2nd
You Will See A Haunting Tale of This Truth
in the HERO LOST Anthology
Roland is sleeping,
his head settled on his folded arms as he sprawls in front of his electronic journal ...
laptop he calls it.
I wanted to check in on him.
We ghosts have a fondness for him. He listens.
You'd be surprised how few undead or living do that.
Most spirits and living souls just wait impatiently for you to take in a breath so they can jump in with their concerns.
Samuel Clemens couldn't wait to inform me how Roland had gone wrong with his last post.
Old Sam seemed sure he knew how he'd gone wrong.
And as usual that old tale-spinner was both right and wrong.
Like Roland, I taught creative writing in a university.
I had been so sure I had a firm grasp of reality and how to portray it.
Death showed me that only the dead see clearly.
So I do know where Roland went wrong, where so many of us writers go wrong:
People do not read to see what you think or to learn about you.
They read to learn about themselves, to come into contact with who they truly are.
They read that which speaks of their own hopes, their own dreams, and their own fears.
If a tale resonates with the haunting music of their unhealed wounds and silent insecurities,
they will be drawn to it as if to a magnet.
Only that story which tells of a heart in conflict with itself is truly literature.
That is why you must read, my friends.
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.
Don't be 'a writer'.
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) I learned in the university as did Roland:
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.
The land of Longmire and McCord: