Born and raised in the greatest and most beautiful State in the US – that is Indiana – Dr. DM Schwartz (MD, MBA) enjoys the scientific, cerebral challenges of organic chemistry, pharmacology and modern medicine and the creative tasks of pure imagination involved in writing.
Listen to a dozen authors talk about their writing process and you’ll likely hear twelve very different philosophies. Writing, for me, is like having some benign form of schizophrenia. Your characters chatter away in your head and you can hear their voices. If you sit down and listen, they’ll tell you great stories. All you have to do is take careful notes.
The hard part is staying out of your character’s way. Sure, you can poke and prod a bit. Ask questions. Even make suggestions. But the moment you start speaking over them or worse, speaking for them, your story goes off the rails.
You characters will tell you what happened, when and where. You can embellish a bit. Add details for flourish. That’s where your imagination comes in. What was the air like that day? Was the house pristine? Sterile? A real ramshackle dump? Trust your characters to provide the skeleton. You flesh things in.
That’s not to say you can trust your characters. You can’t. They’re horribly biased and even unstable people. The lie. They cheat. They gloss over their own flaws and justify their filthy deeds. You have to be aware that each of them believes the story is all about them and they are the hero.
It’s a great process that I enjoy very much. I can lose track of time and spend hours chatting with these voices and taking my notes. Hopefully, as a Reader, you feel it’s been worthwhile.
Why all the 1970’s clothing? That’s exactly what my wife wants to know. Why are there a thousand vintage shirts, ties, leisure suits, leather pants and a baby blue tuxedo carefully curated in their basement?
I blame my parents, who inflicted nothing but love and attention on me. The earliest memories from my formative years were full of joy, wonder, security and polyester. Miles of polyester.
We weren’t exactly poor, but plenty of our neighbors were. With few possessions and no margin for indulgences, every toy and T-shirt had outsized importance in my hyper-acute and ceaseless imagination. My father became a kindly giant and my mother a benevolent empress. I adored everything they did, said and wore.
And so the vintage clothes are a warm reminder of youth. An old security blanket in super groovy form. A portal to a simpler time. An outward expression of the inner sense that the 1970’s set wire to a creative drive that still keeps me up at night even now.
If you’re going to take writing seriously, I recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing.” It’s more inspirational than informative (though there is plenty of info). I agree with Mr. King when he wrote that you can’t teach someone how to be a good writer. Like dribbling a basketball or working with animals or playing the piano (things I’m terrible at), writing is an innate skill that can be honed and improved, maybe even perfected (here I’ll cite Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” though it has its detractors).
The key to writing (well, one key) is to hone and improve your unique voice. Never write like someone else. Never copy a style. Yes, all artists steal, including writers. You don’t steal a finished Picasso and hang it on your wall. No. You steal little dabs of paint. You steal a certain paintbrush. You steal the canvas that has the right tone. Then you go and paint your own masterpiece.
But hey, why listen to me? I love writing and I’m confident my works can hang with the best, but I certainly don’t have the numbers to back it up. Well, not yet. If you’re here reading this then we’re on the journey together. Writer and Reader. Thanks for coming along.
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