The eerie, yet compelling, music of Kitaro fills my ears from headphones purchased at Wal-Mart, music played on a computer bought at Best Buy, while I sit in a rocking chair procured from who-knows-where years ago. My eight-foot counter came from Home Depot and acts as my desk and work space.
Why do I talk about these things? I suppose it comes from the reality that I don’t particularly care where something comes from, how little I paid for it, or how strange it looks so long as it functions in the job I’ve assigned it.
A straight counter top, held up by six long table legs screwed into its underside, is as viable as a desk as it would be to top base cabinets in a kitchen. It cleans up easily and gives ample work room. Uniform file boxes, filled with items not in use, stacked to a convenient height and covered with a tablecloth, functions very well as a table. If I’m going to stack them up anyway, I might as well be able to use them for something.
I think most of us think along these lines at one time or another. I simply prefer thinking like this all the time. And being a writer only encourages the practice.
Why do I say that? Well, examine our daily work for the answer.
We create stories. In other words, we’re cooks disguised as builders. As writers we stake our reputations on our ability to utilize disparate ideas, words, etc. for the purpose of telling stories or relating information. That’s our job in a proverbial nutshell.
Except for the verification of information used within said stories and articles, we don’t care where we got our ideas. We don’t care where they’d been used before for something else. I’m not referring to plagiarism here. I’m talking about taking a bit of information or sparked idea gotten from reading a newspaper, magazine, or another book and putting together our own idea using that information.
An example here is Matthew Bennett’s break-out bestseller for expectant mothers, “The Maternal Journal.” He certainly couldn’t use personal experience for his book since he was male. He could take information found elsewhere, add opinions and insights from obstetric specialists as well as experienced mothers, and tie it all together into an easy-to-follow pregnancy guide. Of course, smart marketing helped sell the book, but the idea was built on a personal question and information gathered from elsewhere.
Writing is hard work within the murky, ever-shifting tides of the publishing industry. There are no clear-cut answers since many of the deciding factors about who’s published and who’s not stems from an editor’s gut reaction upon reading the manuscript.
Yet, above all else, writing is taking tiny particles of dream(s), putting them in a blender half-full with words, adding dashes of character-driven action, a nebulous theme that peaks out at the reader at unexpected points in the story, teasingly rambunctious characters who play with the reader’s mind, and pressing the pulse button until all ingredients are smooth and ready for the palate.
The end result depends on the cook, not on the origins of each ingredient. Like the workability of my office with its countertop, computer, headphones, and workspace, the story has arrived on the reading table because of how I use the makings I can find and how I combine them for that purpose.
How do you cook your stories and serve them up? Care to share? Feel free to tell me how you find your ideas, combine your ingredients, or market your wares. I’m always interested in learning another’s techniques.