Sunday, September 25, 2016

REMINISCING: A Writing Life

If any of you have been paying attention, you’ve noticed that the updates on Niagara’s Watercooler have been a little bit more intermittent than normal. That’s completely my fault. Sometimes life happens, and sometimes I just don’t have “it.” By “it” I mean those moments when I sit down to the computer to write and the ideas just come. This block happens once in awhile but it always ends with a flourish of extra writing.

All writers get writer’s block. It’s how we get through it that determines whether we become successful or not. Obviously, by looking at my writing career, I have not had the best track record with overcoming it. Anyway, this one seems to be flowing fairly easily, and is interesting, if only to me.


I’ve been a reader since kindergarten. I could read when I first went to school, and I haven’t stopped since. The one thing with most readers is at some point, we want to write the next, great, American novel. I’ve dabbled with writing since elementary school. It really took off in high school after “The Doors” came out. Who wouldn’t want to be the next rock poet like Jim Morrison? All the girls loved Val Kilmer in that movie. That could be the fast track to the dating life.


I started writing a lot of poetry. Almost all of it is terrible. There’s something that afflicts high school and early college writers where they think they’re far smarter than they really are. My poetry is definitely infected with that issue. So is my early writing. It took a lot of constructive criticism to finally find my voice in my writing.


My friend, Dan, wrote a novel in high school. He allowed me to read it, and it lit a spark in me that fired up the writing bug. I had to write my own novel. I wrote a novel. By write, I mean I actually wrote it in two notebooks in longhand. I didn’t have a computer or a typewriter at that time. Reading back through it over the last few months, it is very much a juvenile start to my writing life. It is full of cliche and simply arrogant writing.


I did a lot of writing through those last couple years of high school and into my college years. I always wanted to write a novel, and while the one from high school didn’t work out, I kept on writing. I have a lot of outlines and ideas for stories in my notebooks. My serious procrastination problems mean that those outlines and ideas are mostly still sitting there waiting for my attention.


I have a couple of projects ongoing right now. I am working on a history of the Lockport Fire Department. It’s taken me eight years to get to this point so far, but I guarantee that it will be the most comprehensive history of the department ever written. I’ve been through thousands of newspapers from the birth of the Village of Lockport, all the way through the end of 2014. Collating all that data and working it into readable narrative has been very time consuming and mentally taxing. Never fear, the end is near, and the book will be ready for you to read very soon.


Additionally, I have a new novel that I’ve been writing for the past couple months. I came up with the very first line and the very last line in a single instant while on one of my daily walks. The meat of the story, everything in between came to me in a dream one night. Up until the last two weeks or so, I have been writing the story as much as possible. There have been points that I could not get the words onto the page quick enough. So, stay tuned. There will be a novel to accompany the fire department history.


Several years ago, my friends, Scott, George, and I, wrote a play. It is hilarious. Even months after writing it, I found myself laughing at certain parts of it. Several of my friends had the honor of participating in the read-through. All of them commented on how funny it was. Someday, I’d like to see it on stage. It would be perfect for the Taylor Theater stage. All we need is some money and time to put the finishing touches on it and get it ready for public consumption.


I’ve been working on short stories with a couple of friends. It is a roundtable type of writing. One of us starts a story, passes it onto the next person to continue, who in turn gives it to the next person. Then it comes back to the original writer. We do a couple passes with it and then the first writer finishes it off. After that story is done, the next writer originates a story and we go through the whole process again until we have enough stories for an e-book.


We’ve already done one of these. We just have to get it edited and polish it up a bit before submitting it for publication. That should be a fairly short process. Sometimes the procrastination gene comes to the forefront in all three of us doing the writing.


Writing is a lot of fun for me. I like creating different worlds and different people. Most of the joy is being able to do just that. The other part of the joy of writing is seeing other people enjoy what you’ve written. For some, I would guess that is the bigger joy. I truly love the creation part of the process. I’m sure that if I actually get lots and lots of people to read and enjoy my work, the other part of the joy would probably have a greater part of the overall.


I was lucky when it came to loving to read and write. My family did not discourage me in either endeavor. I’m sure they would have preferred less books hanging around the house, but they never deterred me from those thrills in my life.


If any of you have the desire to write, don’t let other people try to stop you. Don’t let them tell you no one reads books anymore. It is simply not true. More books have been published in the last year than in any other year on record. Someone has to be reading all those books. It’s people like you and I who keep these publications coming. Don’t ever stop.


At the same time, if you’re going to write, you have to be prepared to accept criticism. The best criticism is constructive and is meant to help you become a better writer. More common today seems to be the all-out denigration of your work when someone doesn’t like it. You’re not going to change these people’s minds. Don’t even try. They derive pleasure from the agony of others. They’re not worth your time.


However, an constructive criticism should be listened to, evaluated, and determined whether it fits into your writing persona. It’s important to listen to these other voices, because, ultimately, they’re for whom you’re writing. Your writing is like your baby. It’s hard to accept its shortcomings. It’s hard to hear why people don’t like it or think how it could be better. How could it be better than your perfect vision?


Hopefully some of you will write. And maybe someday, I’ll be reading your masterpiece. I can’t wait. I enjoy reading local authors. In the meantime, I will be making more time to finish off the two major projects I have ongoing -- the LFD history, and my newest novel idea. It is my intention to have both ready sometime around the first of the year. I’ve been working very hard on it. Neither are easy tasks. The reward will be seeing that box being delivered and opening it to see a book with my name on the cover. Soon.


Until then, good luck with your endeavors. I must get back to writing and organizing. Two centuries of history is difficult to pull together and organize.

Craig Bacon needs to find a way to work on a computer without being distracted by the rest of the world.

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