When I finished writing The Reluctant Human I was relieved, elated, and exhausted. Writing a novel is hard work. It took me almost five years of blood, sweat, trial and error, cursing, lots of beer and wine, rewrites, edits, drafts, and a lot of time alone. In volume alone I probably wrote three novels while trying to “figure” out Human. Two of those novels were lines or scenes or ideas that didn’t work: story lines, characters and tones that needed to be cut and thrown on the cutting room floor, figuratively of course. They were really just moved to sit in a file I created for deleted stuff, but it sounds better and more dramatic to say, thrown on the cutting room floor. Hopefully I could find a use for them elsewhere or reinsert if necessary, because parts of me, of my hard work, I was not yet ready to give up on.
But where was the voice in the piece? What was it really about? What was I trying to say Damn It?! Did I want to shock or inspire, depress or anger? Did I want to alienate or upset or write in the broadest way for the most people to like it? My thoughts argued with themselves, you can’t please everyone.
There is a lot to consider when writing a novel. So I decided I would write the book I wanted to read. I would write the book I was looking for in the world. The premise was fairly simple: What happens when we walk away from who we are to become workers only and lose that vibrant calling within? Simple enough but how do I execute it? I worked and worked and worked some more to find the character arch, story and consistency.
Is the book perfect? No. Does it answer some of those answers I hoped to answer? Maybe. Has it inspired some readers and angered others? Yes.
I remember seeing an interview with Alec Baldwin after he won some acting award. The interviewer was gushing over his performance. He looked at her, cut her off, and said, “It’s all failure.” He went on to say nothing is ever as good as we hope it will be the way it is in our minds. But as writers, actors, artists, or architects, we try to get as close to the source and vision as we can. We keep working to hone the craft. As writers, our pens or keyboards are the conduits to express our minds, hearts and souls. It is our purpose for writing at all.
We must do our best at getting it right and yet we’ll probably be very wrong before we get it right or even close to right. Writing is a skill like brain surgery.
Writing is sculpting. Thoughts and ideas for a story start out like a glob of clay, indistinct, yet slowly through time we chisel and chisel and it takes shape, hopefully forming a story similar to what we imagined it to be. Learning the rules and conventions help such as painting within the lines. Then after refinement and hair pulling, I have very little hair left, we can hopefully express ourselves. For me that is the purpose of my life.
It is instinct and necessity why a flower must bloom or a bird must fly. It is their nature. It is our nature to fulfill what yearns to be said and done. In turn we add to the world and help move it forward. That is our song, blossom, and fragrance.