My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing

Over the past few years I’ve learned what it would take to climb a mountain in the Himalayas. I’ve studied supply lists for crossing the Pacific as a single sailor. I’ve wrapped my arms around high-frequency trading, come to understand the damage caused by oil exploration in the Niger Delta, and learned the history of U.S. immigration laws. It has been one hell of an adult education program.

My degree, if you will, is the six novels I’ve authored. I’ve discovered that the information living in my brain because of them is one of the seven reasons I write books.

Couldn’t you go research all these things and more, and not bother with the writing part, you might ask? It would be a fine question. Of course I could, but I probably wouldn’t. I’m curious about so many things, but my ability to get myself to sit down and learn about them instead of goofing off is pretty limited. Unless I’m doing it for one of my books. Then I will spend hours on it.

I’ve recently returned to participating in writers’ group, and that has started this reflecting on why I write. At a recent meeting, one writer was trying to describe the subject matter of Philip Roth’s books. “Anything he got a wild hair up his ass about,” she said.  I had to laugh, not only because it was apt, but because she had described one of the chief joys of writing.

You get to pick something you care about, anything that interests you, and then go learn enough to begin to weave a story. You don’t know where your imagination or your research will take you, but between the two of them you can bet it will be somewhere fascinating.

I haven’t only learned from research. The very act of producing books has forced me to to become more acquainted with software, graphics, and photo licensing. I’ve had to brush up my grammar. Do you know when to use “a while” and when to use “awhile”?  I do, now.

Writing has also forced me to stay more current with idioms and kept me more politically correct. No one says “on the QT” anymore, but “on the DL” is still used. Really? It is better to call a mentally challenged child cognitively impaired? Okay. Glad I know.

My ad hoc education program hasn’t been restricted to me, either. Others have been kind enough to seek out information for me in their own fields, leaving friends and relatives familiar with Mayan numbers and civil war battles. (Yes, my husband really did attend a re-enactment to help me with a book.)

Much of my education has come from the intriguing people I’ve been exposed to because of my writing. There is a lady in Denmark who shared her vacation photos from Iceland with me, to make d4 more realistic. Four wonderful women from India helped me with information and cultural sensitivity as I wrote c3. One went a step further, working with me to create a Sanskrit word needed for the story. I had taken a stab at it, using internet translation, and she laughed at my result. She took the problem to her father, a scholar who speaks Sanskrit, and “Jvalalaya, the Abode of Light” was born.

As I work to overcome the inertia and start a new series of books, the thrill of learning draws me forward. I have a giant “to read” pile already, much of it on artificial intelligence, which will play a large role in the world I am building. Anticipation of creating this world has me headed off in two very different directions this summer, attending two fabulous yet odd events I would have passed on without the added impetus of “this will really help me with the next novel.”

Yes, sometimes writing gets me up out of my chair to take in the world.

Of course, this still doesn’t explain what drives me to keep on with all the other time-consuming pieces of putting together a book. For that, I’m going to need to take a hard look at the other five reasons I spend most of my free time creating novels.

(Read more about why I write at The Number One Reason I Write Books, Nothing cool about modest ambitions  and I write because it’s cheaper than therapy.)

Looking ahead

Foundation2There is another excellent thing about the month of January. December is filled with “year in review” thoughts as we all reflect a little on what went well, and not so well, in the past year. January, on the other hand, is all about moving forward. Better habits, new loves and new likes. If we’re lucky, this moving on includes forgiving everyone, including ourselves, for transgressions real and imagined.

My husband, an Irish American, is engrossed in reading a comprehensive history of Ireland. This is kind of my fault, because Ireland will be a prominent part of my novel d4, due to be published in the fall of 2014. I am about a quarter of the way into writing it, and I was hoping to use a few tidbits from his research in my story. What the research has accomplished instead is to reignite his fury at the mistreatment that the Irish endured at the hands of the British.

hippiepeace1“An awful lot of people have been horribly mistreated in this world,” I say. “Not like this. Not for this long.” he corrects me. I disagree, but say no more. I have ancestors on both sides of this equation. I feel for the abused. I do not condone the abuse. I too hurt for horrible wrongs inflicted in Cambodia, Rwanda, Ireland, Kiribati and Belize. Tales of suffering needlessly at the hands of others fill our collective history, and that is a very sad thing.

Light Within 3But I also firmly believe that individuals, societies and countries need to forgive, let go, and move on. Perpetuating a legacy of revenge and hatred, particularly against the descendant of those who wronged our ancestors, only adds to the sum total of hate and misery in the world. It accomplishes nothing more. This  is partly why I wrote z2, and why d4 will pick up this theme again.

January is all about moving forward. It’s an important concept, even when we don’t know exactly where it is we are going.

(Please like the Facebook pages of Foundation for a Better Life,  Hippie Peace Freaks and The Light Within and thanks to them for sharing the witty and wise displays shown here.)

For some fun with New Year’s resolutions please visit my x0 blog here. For my genuine new year’s wish for you, please visit my y1 blog here.