Friday, July 25, 2008

Writing Exercise #3 ( Day 5 )

The author sat in the green room with his wife, nervously glancing at his watch. Barbara smiled at him, reaching out and taking his hand. "Don't worry. It'll be fine."

"I'm not ... worried," the author said. "I'm just antsy. This is taking so much time. I could be writing ... should be writing, really. And I've gotta talk to this yayhoo."

"This yayhoo is Maurice Green, and he's pretty big. You'd know that if you ever watched television. Trust me, you're going to reach a whole lot of housewives with this one."

"I'm not sure I care about reaching housewives," the author said. "I'm doing well for myself."

"Yes, but the publisher said you were doing this show, so you're doing this show." Barbara shook her head. "There's no sense in arguing. You're going on. I mean, you're on in just a few minutes, so freaking out isn't going to change anything."

"Right." The author fell silent. It just didn't help to argue with her. Barbara was much more stubborn than he. Truth be told, he just needed something to focus on while he waited. The wait was killing him. He could feel the desire to head back to the book he was working on burning inside him like a physical need.

"You know," Barbara began. "I've been meaning to talk to you about something..."

The author turned to her and looked up. "Hrm? What about?"

"It's about your writing."

"Oh!" The author smiled. "Actually, I wanted to talk about it, too. This new book is really quite different. I think we're going in a more of a thriller route, this time. But the final act has an interesting twist to it. You see, the antagonist and the main character are playing a game of cat and mouse in a hospital and-"

"No, no," she interrupted. "That's not what I meant."

"What did you mean?" The author stared at her, blinking in surprise. She rarely stopped him when he went on about his work.

"Well, it's been a long time since you've taken a break. I think that maybe you should finish this one up and we should ... I don't know. Go on vacation or something."

The author shrugged. "Maybe. I mean, I keep thinking I should be burning out, but it hasn't happened. It's just one idea after another. But I'll think about it."

"All right." She looked down and thought for a moment. "You know, there is one other thing that's been bothering me."

The author turned to face her, smiling. "Go ahead, I can take it."


The door to the green room opened and a production assistance stuck his head in. "We're ready for you."

The author turned and nodded. "Of course." Then he turned to look to Barbara. "You were saying?"

She looked up at him, and her face carried inscrutable emotions with it. She shook her head. "Never mind. It can wait."

The author nodded as he stood. "Very well then. Wish me luck."

"You'll do fine, you don't need it." She smiled and watched as he left the room to head to the stage.

* * * * *

The author walked on to applause. He sat in the chair next to the host, who was an older man who carried himself with a smug authority. The author didn't care much for him, but he was popular and commanded a vast sway with a demographic that didn't typically flock to his books. If the publishers wanted him to perform for more sales, he would do it. It was part of the job.

"Welcome to the show!"

"It's good to be here," the author said. He carried with him a good stage presence, and he knew it. When he was in front of a crowd, he could turn on the charm and the wit. He made an imposing figure, with his offhand manner and his clean look.

"You've written, what? A hundred books by now?"

The author laughed. "No, afraid not. I'm working up to it, but so far I'm only at thirty five."

"That's still quite a collection. You've just recently turned fifty. How do you keep up with that kind of work load? You've even gained speed in the past decade. I know I'm not nearly as fast as I was when I was thirty. Or even when I was fifty. What's your secret?"

"Well, I've come to rely more and more on instinct. Writing is funny like that. At first you try to control everything, and struggle when it doesn't work out. But you tell enough stories and you know how they work and everything just kind of flows out of you naturally. It's streamlined the process a lot."

"You know, most critics say that American authors tend to peak in their fifties. And everything else after that is usually an attempt to replicate their highest success. Do you think you're ready to peak?"

"I don't think so. I really think I'm just getting started."

"Whoa! Big words, there."

"Perhaps. But I don't really have a type of book that defines me. They're all very different, and I regularly switch genres. So even if I did hit a big success somewhere, I have all these other places where I'm still working. I think most authors focus too much on ground they've already covered. I'm interested in blazing ahead."

"Big words indeed."

"As you like. Nobody seems to complain too much, really."

"Well, that's really my next point. Your books have met with great success both in terms of commercial sales and critical acclaim. That makes you something of a rarity in the field. How do you manage to walk the line between entertaining stories and 'high art'?"

"Magic," the author said, with a smile. The audience laughed, as it always did. "But really, I don't do anything special. I write what I like. I'm very old fashioned about it. I don't know if that helps or not, but people seem to respond to it. I'm not trying to appeal to an audience or anything."

"Speaking of old fashioned, a lot of writers are embracing new technology like word processors or even personal computers, if they have the money for one. Yet I hear you're using the same typewriter you started out with in the late fifties. Is that part of your magic?"

The author shifted in his seat, trying not to read too much into the question. "Call it superstition, or call me stubborn. But I have an old portable Remington, and it's seen me through all my novels. I don't see any reason to fix what isn't broken. Sure, maybe those word processors are easier, but writing isn't an easy job. When you have to fix everything the old fashioned way, you pay a lot more attention to what you're writing. I don't think technology really makes writing any better. It just helps people who otherwise wouldn't be bothered. Read into that what you will."

"But it is part of the equation of how you work?"

"Certainly. I wouldn't dream of using anything else. Even if typewriter ribbon is getting harder to find."

"So, this magic of yours... What happens if somewhere down the road, despite all your boasts, you do peak or run out of things to say? What's the plan then?"

The author laughed. "I'm a writer, Maurice. Writer's write. Even if I ran out of magic and my typewriter fell apart and I couldn't think of a thing to say, I'd still write. It's in my blood."

"How would you do it, then, if everything fell apart and the public turned against you?"

The author shrugged as if that was the easiest question in the world. "The same way anybody does it, I suppose--one word at a time."

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