Text: Solveig Hansen, 2018
Libraries and bookstores! Shelves upon shelves and books all over the place, full of stories that take you here and there and back again. Some people allow themselves to get lost between the shelves. Others know exactly what they want and head straight for the crime or romance or sci-fi section — or to books on how to make a stellar birdhouse or knit a pair of striped socks. Such a variety of genres, yet the books have one thing in common: Someone wrote them, word for word. With pencil or pen on paper in an English manor, on a portable Royal typewriter somewhere in Spain or Italy, or on a 2018 laptop in the coffee shop just around the corner.
Fact: Someone has to write the stories.
Heroes and villains, bitches and their sons, coffee-drinking, donut-eating police detectives, stargazers, starfighters, lovers and leavers, lost cats, fairies, and pink princesses. If you want to read about them, someone has to write their stories. The task falls on the writers, the creatures of words who spend their days kicking around phrases until they fall into their rightful places. Sometimes they succeed in scaring the living daylight out of you or make you smile or weep or long for romance. Sometimes your reaction is a mere shrug. Sometimes you nod in agreement and say, “That’s exactly how it had to end.” But you don’t always get a happy ending.
Writing, editing, re-writing. Writing is often a painstaking and long process, as seen in the movie Genius. “Look at all these books,” author Thomas Wolfe comments as he enters editor Maxwell Perkins’ office the first time. “Do you ever stop to consider the pure man-sweat that went into each and every line? Little testaments of faith, screamed out in the dark night, in the cold, dark night when the wind’s blowing alpine, in the vain hope that someone will read and hear and understand.”
The writer’s mind is constantly working. Think about it when you see a person seemingly talking to himself. He might be a writer debating with his characters. It’s normal. No cause for alarm. Or, if someone peeps into your shopping cart at the grocery store, it might be a writer in observation mode. Maybe she is inspired by your long shopping list and on her way to the milk shelves, a story starts spinning in her head. Maybe she imagines that you’ll be hosting a dinner for your in-laws and have prepared an exact list of ingredients for the three courses you plan to serve. Not exactly a Martha Stewart in the kitchen, you have bitten off way more than you can chew, and things go not so smoothly. Actually, things cannot run smoothly, otherwise there is no conflict, no story and the reader will be bored to death.
Some writers do their best creative work early in the morning, while others prefer the midnight hours when the world slows down and goes quiet. Think about it the next time you notice the lights in the top window of an otherwise dark building at 3 a.m. You might be looking at the cave of a writer rushing to finish a story. Maybe about R, who standing outside his childhood home decides it’s revenge time, all on page 187. On the next page, agitated and with a black look in his eyes, he crosses the point-of-no-return line.
How about a story about an author as seen through the eyes of a reader? Maybe you want to write it?
I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.
— Mark Twain