"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Richard Schwartz: Thoughts on Writing

I wrote the following in the hope that others might be encouraged to try writing, by explaining what writing is like for me. ~Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz

Thoughts on Writing:

by Richard Schwartz

Although my chronological age is 62, I am a newborn in the area of writing. Up until now, my career has been in an area of electronic device development that, unless you are in the electronics engineering field, you wouldn't have heard about firmware engineering.

My work was methodical and performed precise step by precise step. It involved a huge amount of mathematics. Writing fiction is about as far from that type of work as night is from day.

About 9 months ago, a friend suggested that I check out a website that had memories of soldiers who had served in Vietnam. I loved reading the articles contributed to the website. I decided to write an article for the website and thus began my writing career.

It remains to be seen if this career will produce dollar one but I thought it might be fun for some of CJ's readers to learn what writing is like for me and, hopefully, inspire others to try their hand at something that I find brings lots of joy into my life.

My novel follows three generations of a family in the Pacific Northwest. Except for the locations, it is pure fiction. At least 15% of my time is spent on research. Reading about some location or people tends to paint a mental picture of what I want to describe for the characters in the novel. I have one section of my novel that takes place in the early 1900's. I'll be developing that section late next week.

I've just discovered a book on pioneers in the Northwest that will provide background for that section of the novel. That also involves a couple who were born around 1850. so having a history of the Northwest will help outline who they are.

Today I'm starting to outline a family member who has emotional problems. Right now I think it will end in a suicide or suicide attempt or both. When I start writing about a character, they seem to take on a life of their own. I really don't know where they'll take my imagination.

An example of this would be when I decided to start a chapter with one of the main adult characters interacting with a child. I needed her to be a window character and intended to write one paragraph with her and that would be the end of her involvement in my novel. As soon as I started writing her, a flood of ideas poured into my head for her and now she's one of the main characters in the novel. Shortly after introducing her, an important and joy filled wedding takes place.

While I was agonizing over how I would write the wedding, I started hearing Sarah, the 5 year old, telling the story as if she were talking to her cousin, Ethan. So the entire wedding takes place from the viewpoint of a joy filled 5 year old girl.

Wondering where my imagination will take my novel next is kind of like watching a cloud. I don't have control over what it looks like or where its going. It may rain or snow or sleet or just pass by to reveal endless sunshine. Sometimes I struggle for hours to put a simple idea on paper and sometimes I can't seem to type fast enough to get all the ideas on paper that my imagination is supplying for me.

And never mind what time it is or where I am. The ideas just start pouring out. I've excused myself at dinners with family to sneak off and write down some ideas. I've gotten up at 2:00 in the morning and run down to my office with the intention of writing a couple of brief notes and then end up sitting at my keyboard for the next 6 hours busily typing away. That brings up another oddity. I lose track of time when I'm writing. That's NEVER happened to me before.

Yesterday around noon I told Carolynn that we could go out for a fast food lunch in 5 minutes. Five hours later, she came into my office laughing at me and asking if I was ready yet.

I've read that some writers' characters speak to them. Mine don't speak to me but I can hear them speaking to each other. Each character has a different voice. I don't assign them a voice but when I start writing about them I start hearing their voices as they talk to their fellow characters.

Oddly enough this is where the real fun comes in. As an absolute (now former?) techno geek, I am astonished that the part of writing I enjoy the most is creating language in little 2 dimensional symbols that describes the world and feelings I wish to convey to the reader. Its also (at least for me) the most challenging. I have to be honest. Writing is the most fun I have ever had besides activities with my children and family.

The best description of this is that for 62 years, I went to work every day. Although I spend 6 -12 hours writing nearly every day, it just isn't work. Does life get any better than that?

Having a great partner who understands the uneven creative process and providing a great sounding board for my ideas helps more than I can say. I had a chapter-long story completed that was based on an actual experience of mine when I was in 7th grade. Carolynn told me that no one would believe the story. I reiterated that this actually happened to me.

“I'm sure that this happened to you but none of your characters are as strange as you are so unless someone knows you, this is not realistic,” she told me. I rewrote the chapter as happening during the characters' college years and suddenly it was believable.

The question I am asked the most when I tell people I'm writing a novel is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The honest answer is that I don't have a clue where they come from. The second question I get is “Who is you favorite fiction author?” The answer is Mark Twain - but when people ask me that, sometimes I think they're really asking who inspires my writing.

I really don't have an author who inspires my writing. Maybe you've figured out by now that my characters inspire my writing as I write them. I know when my novel will end (death of a certain character) but I really don't know how I'll get there.  See? Carolynn is right. I really AM strange!

My thanks to Vietnam buddy, Craig Latham, and author, C.J. Heck, who guided me into this literary adventure.

"Per correr migliori acque alza le vele ormai la navicella del mio ingegno che lascia dietro a sé mar sì crudele."

[For better waters that are heading with the wind, My ship of genius now shakes out her sail, And leaves the ocean of despair behind].  Opening lines of Dante's Il Purgatorio - Dorothy L. Sayers Translation

Richard A. Schwartz
27708 246th Ave SE
Maple Valley, Wa. 98038

***Thank you so much, Richard.  Another well-written article -- you've captured the very essence of writing, and I can hardly wait to get a copy of your novel!  Best wishes.  ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

1 comment:

  1. Rick,
    What can I say except.....Excellent.........


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