Monday, January 31, 2011

Part of the Battle - Guest Post by John Regan

Today we take a blessed break from the pointless ramblings of the guy who usually posts here to enjoy a few words from John Regan, an aspiring writer and incurable Red Sox fan.
I became acquainted with John only recently, and it didn’t take long to take a liking to his work. Anyone who writes for a living – John works as an editor for a telecommunications company in Washington State – and then goes home to craft a short story or work on a book or post to a nostalgia-rich blog has got to have passion for the art. In John’s case, this passion translates into subject matter that, well, matters. Take a look at an excerpt from the book he is working on, about former collegiate wrestler and current motivational speaker Rich Jensen, or pick an entry from one of his two blogs and dive in. You’ll see what I mean.

For his guest post here John offers a few words on his love of language and writing while touching on their concomitant labors. I deeply appreciate John’s stopping by, and look forward to seeing his name on book covers and bookshelves as he works to conquer the beasts that, in writing as in any endeavor, roam the forests between aspiration and success. Take it away Mr. Regan…

Part of the Battle

By John Regan

Many writers worry about writer’s block and its inherent retardations on the creative process. The prudent writer surmises that if they can only defeat this demon and get the message on e-papyrus, the rest will simply fall in place. Getting the words down is only part of the battle—the rest of the job consists of sales, marketing, showmanship, and networking and then getting up the next day and doing it all over again. These are all things writers and creative types deplore; creative darlings should not have to sing for their supper. However, writing is only part art.

I have several writer friends who have enjoyed various levels of writing success and publication and the one common theme I have learned from each is that it is hard work and most of the work takes place after the words are written. For every Stephen King and John Grisham who have mastered the execution of the novel and have perfunctory posses waiting on their every word and ready to fork over $24.99 for the latest work, there are a million scribes blowing the bagpipes to It’s a long way to the top, if you want to write and working feverishly to court, dazzle, and maintain each and every reader.

And this raises the most essential question of all: why write?

The sole reason I put my words to paper and make an effort at such a painstaking endeavor is that I love words. I have always loved words. I have not always loved reading and in the last ten years have made up for many years of very little reading. However, I have always loved words. My love affair with words began in Miss Moran’s English class in Junior High. We had a vocabulary book titled Wordly Wise, which I still remember to this day and its trademark owl on the cover. Wordly Wise made vocabulary sexy and was from where my schoolboy crush on the written word reared its erudite head.

In addition to Wordly Wise tasks, Miss Moran introduced us to ten new vocabulary words each week and made learning them as fun as playing tackle football on thick grass in early October. On Friday, we were able to act out vocabulary words for the class and kids would shout them out. I distinctively remember when three kids were attempting to stomp (mainly in fake, professional wrestling style) a mud hole in a fourth classmate trying to bring the word “pulverize” to its vibrant fruition and the teacher stopping the stompers in their muddy tracks. From that day forward, the acting out words activity continued but as long as there was no violence, be it real or perceived.

Still, I cannot hear pulverize and not think of that Friday afternoon. Other words Miss Moran introduced me at that tender age include lexicographer, lepidopterist, erstwhile, and bucolic. Because I ingested these literary nuggets so early in life, they have stayed with me.

The conventional wisdom is that you have to read copiously and relentlessly for any hopes of being successful as a writer. I know people who are never without a book and are terrible writers and some that read here and there and are great writers. However, I am not rejecting the conventional wisdom. I wish I had read more when I was young. It would mean fewer trips to the dictionary to confirm whether I was indeed using the right word, using that right word correctly, and using that right word correctly and in its proper context. Reading, via the gift of experience, imparts these things to the writer free of charge.

I write because I love words. While I am reading more since the purchase of my Kindle DX, reading is still brain exercise for me. It is sometimes enjoyable and rewarding but it is and always will be work rather than pleasure. Perhaps there are readers who read solely for pleasure, but that is not me.

I read to learn the tools of the trade and get better at what I do love doing: writing. However, I know I cannot simply write without reading—it is like eating food without exercise to burn it off. I need to read to recharge my writing batteries—not to copy, or borrow, or steal but to learn.

All write and no read makes Jack a dull bard.

In addition to reading to fuel the writing, follow-up is what sells and moves the writing. I have not completed anything long enough to perform this follow-up, but I know it awaits me once I get there.