Physicists and other such brainiacs who spend their days pondering space-time agree that the possibility of alternate realities in parallel universes is valid. Every choice we make, or fail to make, results in a step down a particular path, in turn determining which choices will be presented to us in the future – eliminating some, adding others. If you think of it as a giant flow chart, you get the idea: pick this path and these are your choices, pick this other path and your choices change. Theory says that the outcomes of all possible actions exist simultaneously in parallel universes. So, in effect, it really doesn’t matter if you eat the chocolate cake or not – somewhere you do.
I was considering this today as I read a portion of a manuscript given to me by an acquaintance. In one of these parallel universes, I am the modern equivalent of Meg March, sitting in my attic gable, pounding out the Great American Novel. That Me chose to devote herself to her writing, and is a wildly successful author. In a parallel universe. Which isn’t this one. ANYWAY, reading this story made me rethink the craft of writing. What does it take to be a good writer, and why are some people more gifted with that thing than others?
I met the aspiring Author whose work I am reading because of a license plate. I know that sounds odd, but I have always been a fan of quirky license plates, and trying to figure out what message someone is sharing with their personalized plates. I am speaking of the ones that go beyond “my initials, their initials and a number.” In North Carolina, you can mix letters and numbers within one field, and there was a car I saw, usually about twice a week, that had the license plate “ESC4p3”. I always thought that was cool. Here in Illinois, the letters and numbers have to be grouped separately, so there is no escape for me here, but I do see people who have gotten creative enough to get their message out there. Such is the case with the Author. His license plate looks like a jumble of letters and one number, but when read phonetically is actually an obscure French word from Medieval times (don’t ask how I know this, I just do). When the opportunity arose, I asked him – a total stranger at that point – why in the world he would put this word on his license plate. He was dumbfounded that I not only knew the word, but also its meaning, and so began our conversation. It turns out that the word is directly linked to his writing, which opened the door to the present situation.
The Author is working on a collection of short stories that all revolve around a central location. While I have only been introduced to two characters, the storyline was intriguing enough that, by the time I got to the end of the excerpt, I had an interest into what happens next to these people. That is good storytelling. Unfortunately, from a technical aspect, the writing needs a little help. I am sure that the Author is on the right track. He definitely shows promise. What he lacks is a good editor (and NO, I am not interested in the job). But with a little direction and encouragement, I can see his book in print. I would even be willing to pay retail (less, of course, my Barnes & Noble 10% discount). But again, this begs the question, how does one get to this point?
I have been told by various people that I am a good writer. Most of them have a vested interest in supporting my aspirations because I cook for them, drive them to activities or do their laundry. At the same time, I know at least one of them has a policy of complete and total “Brutal Honesty,” so if it sucked, he would tell me. So maybe I’m not that bad. I just wish I had the luxury of being able to devote my time to fostering that creative force and squeezing those creative juices from my brain that form those things worth reading. I was recently reminded that the brain is a muscle, and like the rest of the body, needs to be exercised regularly. Of course, one need only look at me to know that exercise is not my forte. But still, I am willing to try. The most common advice given by Famous Published Authors is to write every day. And after all, some of the most prolific writers aren’t writing the Great American Novel. They are writing for Harlequin.