Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Morrow To Our Waking Souls

L.G.C. Smith

I’m the kind of writer who…

.. experiences every story I write as a pilgrimage. I write to learn about other times, places, cultures, and ideas. I write to know myself and other people, other ways of being in the world, and perhaps, ultimately, to learn what, if anything, might lie beyond the confines of our mortal lives.

Each book, each story is a journey into the unknown. I have a goal in mind – a completed tale—that can seem as far distant as Jerusalem was to an Anglo-Saxon monk at the turn of the last millennium, as impossible to imagine as traveling to the Andromeda Galaxy is today.

The journey starts with a place and time: The Plains of Hatti in 1150 BC. A ring fort near Crenver in Cornwall, 397 AD. A battlefield near Chester in 616. The Black Hills in 1881. A defunct rocket base in Cumbria in 2012. My early steps are rooted in a particular landscape. I seek the history, geology, flora and fauna, the people who’ve lived there, their languages and cultures, the names of their farms or buildings, photos, local newspapers, anything and everything I can lay my hands because this information will sustain my characters and plot as I move forward.

Even though most of this information will never make into my books, I couldn’t write without it. Research makes the path I follow on my journey. I lay it down before me block by block, from first to last. It becomes a sacred text, leading me forward, challenging me, comforting me, teaching me.

As I inch my way along the road, I listen for names. Through them I will call my characters and learn their hearts. The tales and songs they sing tell me of their passions and cares, their strengths and secrets. When I know what they most dread, and what they most desire, I have my plot.

I write slowly now, though I used to zip through pages. Both are good. I hold to whatever works. I write every day. Sometimes with joy, sometimes in despair. I read and study every day. Essential, these center me, and keep me moving when I don’t know what to write. Throughout my day, I see and hear my characters in my mind. They become companions on the road.

I am the kind of writer who writes with my whole being. All I am I bring to my stories. Every day I try to build my resources. Writing skill. Compassion. Strength. Courage. Discipline. I try to face my fears and be honest with myself and in what I write. I learn to live with my failures, of which there are many, and to notice my successes without discounting them.

Finally, I try not to take myself, or my writing too seriously. Chaucer knew well the value of wit and insouciance in pilgrims. For me, burdened as I am with far more earnest sincerity than seems strictly necessary, this can be a challenge. That’s all part of the pilgrimage.

I am the kind of writer who can’t imagine a more satisfying journey.

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