Today I have Karl Friedrich, author of Wings, visiting The Life and Lies! Learn more about Wings at the bottom of this post, and check out the giveaway!
Taking “The Big Deal” out of writing
My thoughts on how to sit down and do it
I joined the human race in 1946 – a baby boomer. And I grew up in a household that had already grown old and tired before I came along.
My parents were products of the Depression. Practical experience taught them to expect bad luck. As they aged and the economy prospered after the war, they remained stuck in the past. I have no doubt that my mother was fully prepared to find a downside to winning a million dollars, should that have happened; and that my grandmother would have chastised her for dreaming up such a gift, had Mother foolishly shared her thoughts. Abbreviation of expectation and communication was the norm in my family, and success outside the world of the blue collar was the domain of the other guy.
Being a somewhat dutiful son, I joined the program. I pretty much didn’t read until I was in the third grade and I managed to just scrape-by or to flunk classes that didn’t interest me. So my announcement in the sixth grade that I was going to someday be a writer was greeted in the familial unit with blank stares and some annoyance.
True to my training, I turned writing into an ordeal that would have hobbled Hercules. When I was in college and working on a local newspaper, I’d smoke half a pack of cigarettes trying to get ready to write. Later stints at magazines and public relations agencies were only marginally less painful. It wasn’t until many years later, while working at an advertising agency, that I kicked the smoking habit as well as my inability to sit down and simply go to work. Finally, when well into creating Wings A Novel Of World War II Flygirls, I found that I could as easily flip the writing switch as I could scribble on a napkin. That’s not to say that what I wrote was always good, or that it didn’t have to be rewritten again and again. Those are separate issues. What I’m saying is that I’d learned to lose the drama and get to the task.
I probably spent an hour writing the first few paragraphs of this piece. That’s not impressive production by any stretch of the imagination. But it was an hour of writing without anxiety. I’m sure I paused numerous times, though never for long. I don’t remember getting stuck or trying to decide what to write next. I was dropping and adding words and moving and rearranging sentences and expanding and consolidating thoughts. Mostly, I was making and correcting mistakes…and I wasn’t caring that I was making mistakes, because I knew that the act of writing is mostly about working the garbage until it becomes a banquet. That’s my secret to being able to sit down and write. I don’t care that the writing probably won’t be good when I start. So I don’t set myself up with impossible expectations. I expect to create a mess. In a piece like this one, I also imagine that I’m talking to a friend. Almost anyone can do that. Words flow when you’re explaining something to a friend.
A big part of good writing is having the experience to make the right choices: what to leave in, what to cut out, how to use fewer words to express yourself. Science discovered years ago that the “wiring” in human brains changes as the brain learns. This is especially true of brains that practice artistic endeavors like playing a musical instrument or writing. Perhaps this is physiological evidence of what we call experience.
But the only way to get the experience is to get started. If that’s your problem, remember what I learned. It’s OK to start with garbage; because given enough tillage, beautiful things will grow.
Based on the true World War II stories of America’s first female military pilots, this historic novel follows the story of a young woman from a dirt-poor farm family. Sally Ketchum has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly and to dare to love. But when Tex dies in a freak accident, Sally must make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program at a special school known as Avenger, where she learns to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest planes. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer who seems to offer her everything she could want. Despite her obvious mastery of flying, many members of the military are unable to accept that a “skirt” has any place in a cockpit. Soon Sally finds herself struggling against a high-powered Washington lawyer that wants to close down Avenger once and for all.
Thanks Karl! To win a copy of Wings, leave a comment with your email address!
USA only, ends October 20.