5 Thoughts: Why (and How) We Write


HANGING BY OUR COMPUTER IS a sheet of paper I look to for inspiration. Sometimes it inspires me, sometimes it depresses me, but always it gets me back on the horse. It’s called “Why (and How) We Write.” If you too find it useful, please hang it by your computer.

1. Do it for the buzz.
– Stephen King

2. Finish what you start. Keep submitting until it sells.
— Robert Heinlein

3. a) Fanaticize yourself
b) Fanaticize something greater than yourself
c) “Sheer delight in what you are doing.”
– Robert Anton Wilson

4. a) Arrange events in linear order
b) Now arrange them in narrative order.
c) Write the story.
d) Revise the story.
– H. P. Lovecraft

5. “Most of the characteristics which make for success in writing are precisely those which we are all taught to repress … the firm belief that you are an important person, that you are a lot smarter than most people, and that your ideas are so damned important that everybody should listen to you.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, reprise

Shameless Plug, Drainwise

ALL I REALLY HAD IN mind was helping out my colleagues — I didn’t know I’d also be helping myself.

I’m referring to today’s North Bay Bohemian article titled “There to Be There: Police chaplains ride the thin blue line of compassion.” Aside from this blog and an occasional email, it’s the first thing I’ve written since I got sick back in November, and the fact that my friends (and, more importantly in this case, the subject) are pleased with the results is both gratifying and mystifying. The gratitude is probably obvious, but the mystifying-ness may require an explanation.

Newswriting has always been an effort for me, partly because I was trained in the journalistic arts by some very ethical, dedicated and talented people (i. e., Ed LaFrance, Darryl Curtis, David Wesley Page, Bill Hoban and, chiefly, the late Mr. Robert Lynch). It’s a sort of exquisite agony to know that whatever I write will be read by people who want to know what’s going on; the internal monologue usually goes something like this: “Did he really say that? What was her inflection? Have I checked the facts enough? Why isn’t this quote more quoty? Did I really catch the essence? Do I know enough about this to sound authoritative? Is there more to this than I’m aware? How do I know I know?”

If I’m making this sound hard, it is. If I’m making it sound hideous, then I haven’t fully explained the absolute, timeless, all-encompassing, immediate, pulse-pounding thrill and joy which underlies it all. Because truly, there’s nothing in the world I’d rather do — sometimes I think there’s nothing else in the world that I even know how to do. And after nine months of semi-isolation and attendant self-doubt, it’s nice to know I can still do Neal Things.

In any case, the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service means a great deal to me. Poor health forced me out of last year’s academy, and while at this point I don’t know if I’ll be able to enter this year I want to help however I can. I hope the article fulfills that need, and I hope you enjoy it too!

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(See Also: Robert Anton Wilson / HP Lovecraft / Writing / 5 Thoughts / Text As Life)

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