It was a chilly Saturday night it the midst of January. I just removed my suit jacket from a hanger dangling on a hook in the backseat. I turned only to be startled by a gentleman patiently waiting to ask me for a handout.
“Don’t be afraid, I know I’m a black man.” This was the first thing he said to me.
The man’s statement cut through me much harder than the winter wind that was starting to pick up. I live in the northeast and don’t see myself as a racist. While my initial reaction was one of surprise, it wasn’t his skin tone that caused me to jump, it was the presence of a person standing behind me. Even having to explain this seems odd.
“I’m sorry if I offended you.” These were my first words.
A puzzled looked came over him. He explained that the weather looked like it was changing and he needed just a few dollars to get home He continued by saying that he thought I was afraid because he was black. I must have had the puzzled look. He told me that my first reaction was one he knew well.
I noticed that he was holding a coffee cup from a national chain. He caught my gaze, then described how he just started his second week working for the chain and wouldn’t get paid until the middle of the following week. “Would you like to go back in with me to see I’m not lying.” The man’s need to prove his trustworthiness was palpable.
There was an obvious honesty in his voice, but what concerned me more was the almost visible scars of racism he has endured. I don’t profess to be any type of authority on the matter, but I can notice the pain someone else might be feeling.
My wife had already gone into the restaurant to meet with the people we were joining. I found it more important to have this conversation. I asked the man. “Why do feel the need to defend who you are against the fears of others?” I can see the naiveté of the question, but I’m on a path.
“Sir, you don’t walk on the street at night much, do you?” He let out a laugh
“That’s not my point. If you have to explain that your race doesn’t make you a danger, maybe you shouldn’t be talking to those people.” My words went unanswered.
“Until I got this job, I had to ask for money a lot. Tonight, I’m just in a pinch and don’t want to be caught in the cold, again.”
“I’m not trying to hold you up. I’m angry for you and at those who have lost any empathy they used to have for anyone but themselves.” I explained to him that my frustration wasn't about race. It's about what human nature has become. I told him that I thought that we have all become hardened and isolated. I continued that I can remember when people stopped on the street to say hi or have a conversation. I thought to myself, now we walk pasted one another with our head stuck in some type of electronic elixir intent on being entertained.
He called me a funny man and wondered if I was a teacher or maybe a philosopher. I said yes to both. I handed the man five dollars in singles, that’s all I had in my pocket. He tried to give me back three. This made me laugh.
The man and I shook hands as we said goodbye. We live in a world where physical attributes far outweigh the decency of human kindness. We stood in that brisk air for only a short moment in time, yet we had a lifetime of conversations. I sat at dinner unable to shake the event that took place on the street only minutes earlier. I didn’t feel sorry; instead, I felt passionate. I know that I’m a better person for having been startled by a man who didn’t want to walk home in the cold. I want to stop in and see him at his job, but I fear he’ll think I’m checking up. I wish the unknown man well.
We all dream of being able to write a book, blog or how about a play? Life is always getting in the way.
“I have too much work to do, the kids need to be driven to practice, I’m too tired, or I just don’t know what to write about.”
What transpires next is a recount of the process of writing my first novel. It’s meant as a helpful tool. There are specific guidelines to use as a new author or even a seasoned one. I’ll cover just some of the basic lessons I’ve learned.
First, a bit of background on me you may want to know. I was a podiatrist, I am an energy healer, and I have been and always will be an author. You may be asking why this is important. Well, while I was doing all the things in my life to function, I constantly heard the call to write. Like almost everyone else, I had a billion things that needed to be checked off before I could write. So I thought. My wife, Laura, reminds people (and me) that the universe always gives you what you ask for. It may not look the way you asked for it, but you will get it. If you don’t see it at first, the universe will tap you on the shoulder to show it to you again. If you still don’t see it, then the universe may hit you with a bat to make you see it. I received the bat. The details are not the point here. If you feel the urge to write then make the time. It’s important.
First Lesson: How to make the time.
I suggest setting a writing schedule. Most of us have a smartphone with a calendar where we can mark out certain days and times to write. If you are serious about becoming a writer, then treat it like the career you love. Make time for it. Make the appointment to write.
Second Lesion: Write about what you know.
Stay in your wheelhouse. A doctor might write a novel about a medical situation. A policeman might write a story about a criminal on the loose. You get the idea. It is much more difficult to write outside of your knowledge. It can be done, but it will take a great deal more time and work to learn what you’re writing about. If you’re a first-time novelist, I not suggesting this path.
Third Lesson: Create a loose skeleton of the characters, the plot and the ending.
I use the words “loose skeleton” so you can allow yourself to change the story at it grows. BE FLEXIBLE. You may want to write small chapter outlines to help. One of the most important aspects for me was separately creating a backstory on every character. The more detailed the backstory, the more depth your characters will have. This will make them more lifelike and more believable. A great way to do this is to carry a pocket-sized notebook or use your smartphone to take notes on interesting people you meet during the day. You can combine attributes from different people to create a multi-dimensional character. The development of characters and plots is explained well in Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey." (third edition). The link is to a pdf. I suggest purchasing the book.
Fourth Lesson: Do the research
Just because you’re staying in your wheelhouse doesn’t mean you know everything about what you’re writing about. You want your characters to be plausible and your situations to be realistic unless you’re intentionally writing a novel that way. Writing does entail research. Readers generally like to learn something new. If your story is to be believable, it has to be based on some fact. You can be creative and extend the truth or bend it, but you have to know what you are extending or bending. Take the time to find out.
Fifth Lesson: Keep your own style
Writing is an extension of who you are. It’s not mimicking famous authors or being something other than you. Keeping true to your style will keep you writing and make the words flow much more natural. What does all this mean? It means that writing is a unique process that each person develops to match their thinking and even speaking. Those readers who enjoy what you write will follow you because they like your work and your style of writing. Changing your style from one body of work to another can be as detrimental as changing in mid-novel. Writing, not from a grammatical standpoint, but from a stylistic point is personal and helps you in getting the reader into the world your depicting.
I hope sharing these lessons that I have learned, and am still refining in my writing career, are helpful to you. Writing is a process. Be enthusiastic and confident but don’t be arrogant. It will show in your writing. I would love to hear your questions and comments.
"In a world of video games, fake new and never-ending scandals we need to find a release."
Words are a doorway to worlds that we can only imagine. We are built to express ourselves; whether it's through music, art or written word, it's the way we create, the way we share our talents.
Our brains have two hemispheres, the right for logic and the left for creativity. We cannot function with only one or the other, so why try? I ask you to embrace the logical side when it's needed and let the creative side free when the urge calls.
We all have words rumbling around in our minds just waiting to be expressed in one way or another. Take the chance and let them out. A tiny bit of courage can lead to an endless possibilities.
For many years, I was living in a right-brained world. I was uncertain about my creativity and how to share it - until it burst out of me! Now, writing is my passion. It's why I get up every morning. It's what I dream about at night. Written words manifest into people, places, and ideas to take us on a fantastic journey where entire worlds emerge to be shared with others.
I find it new and exciting to see what fellow writers have penned to share with us. Their sentences form endless chapters of imagination. Whether you're writing a poem, short story, or novel, you are unleashing a creative adventure. Be brave. Write often. Share widely.
"Writing is the flow of life through words on a page. We all have this talent to share." Luca DiMatteo