Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Silly Is as Silly Does - An Author’s Take on the Writing Process

by Ken Dixon
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I used to be really silly.  And, to be honest, I still am.
That's why I gravitate toward humor writing.
At the advanced age of (muffled sound), I think I should be far more serious.  Apparently, I have managed somehow not to grow up.
You can't just skate through life finding "funny" wherever you look, can you?  You need to "knuckle down", right?  I was supposed to do that in order to "get anywhere".  Well, here I am.  I ended up somewhere, in spite of myself.  But that other place might have been more interesting and and quite a bit more lucrative.  I'll never know, because it's too late now - and that's as good an excuse as any to keep doing what I'm doing (whatever that is).
My first effort as an author taught me something.  I always thought I could never write fiction.  Creating plots and characters just isn't something I'm inclined to do.  It brings to mind organization and planning - laying things out, making notes and getting prepared.  I suppose I could learn to work that way.  But there are so many others who do it so well.  Why should I even try?  There's no danger of us running out of stories.  And, of course, now that films are all remakes of what made money last time, there's even less demand.  So what was the point of going at it haphazardly, as if by some miracle something worthwhile would come together?
Well, that's exactly what I did.  And, much to my surprise, it worked.
How does a neophyte writer sit at a keyboard, start with a blank page and no concept of the finished story and end up a few weeks later with a book?  Six chapters in, I had to make a list of names to keep track of who these strange individuals were and what they had done so far.  During the process, whatever I wrote each day was a total surprise.  And I was making myself laugh. When it was time to publish the manuscript, I was more comfortable using a pseudonym because I felt as though I didn't own it.  The story had come so easily to me that it was like accepting a delivery for a neighbor.
Then, I wrote another one.
The second effort was a comedic look at the forming of a church.  It's a subject about which I knew next to nothing.  But out came the narrative anyway, complete with people who had been fully-formed in my imagination.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
Self-analytical to a fault, I've never been able to understand how a person who "can't" write fiction and is even disinclined to learn the right way to do so can produce a couple of books that are clearly fiction by anyone's definition.  I'll readily admit that my mind is easily boggled, but this makes no sense at all.  And it calls into question many long-held assumptions.
Are there other fields into which I can step with confidence, knowing I can just "wing it" and be successful?  Probably not.  And don't worry; I'm not going to try.  But maybe I should have had more confidence and attempted those things I was sure I couldn't do instead of waiting so long and finding out by accident.
One of my flaws (and, in the interest of time, I shall not list them all) has been my unwillingness to persevere at anything I don't do well.  The average dedicated writer, I believe, will learn from his or her early mistakes and failures and go on to produce competent - and possibly great - work.  I, by contrast, will have long ago moved on to some other pursuit for which I hope I have some innate ability.
If the word "lazy" comes to mind, I plead guilty.  It's hardly a formula for success, but I have arrived at this point with a skewed philosophy one associates with slackers and ne'er-do-wells.  I'm not proud of that fact, but there you are.
Practice makes perfect.  Half-hearted practice or none at all makes "good enough".  It's lucky for the world at large that I am in charge of nothing and can do no damage whatsoever.
Oh, I'll keep writing.  But if it didn't come easily to me, I doubt that we'd be having this discussion.  I would be doing something entirely different - and probably not very well.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I see writing as both an art and a craft.  For reasons I don't understand, I'm able to use written language effectively in all sorts of situations and meet the requirements presented to me.  At the same time, I've produced a couple of books from whole cloth in a genre of which I have no working knowledge.  The latter is what I define as art:  talent outside the realm of study and training.  It's not something for which one can take credit.
Despite the silliness, the lackadaisical attitude and an aversion to working hard, artistic ability comes to this author by taking over and creating in spite of him.  That's the real story here.
Sometimes we can be mere conduits for tales that need to be told.  It's not necessary for us to fathom the process.  We just need to get out of the way.  Quiet the "I can't" voices, and you may find they were the only thing stopping you.
I'm no expert.  This is just one of the all-too-many things about which I know very little.  But sometimes life just smacks me upside the head and I manage to learn a lesson.

Now, I know that if I were moved to do so I could open a new file on my computer and wait for inspiration.  An idea would come, and I would be off and running with no clue as to where I'm going or how I will get there.  That's not "how it's done", but it's how I do it - and that's okay.  The result may be quite silly, or it may have some merit.  Either way, it works for me.

Ken's books Back to Woolstock and From this Seed can be found on amazon.com


  1. What some people consider silly, others consider inspiration. Whatever it takes to avoid writer's block is all right by me.

  2. Sometimes the writing comes easily for me. Now most of the time, however. Every writer has to find his way and they can be quite different.

  3. What a great story! There are many aspiring writer out there that need to read this. Maybe they too will decide to take up a pen and turn it into a sword afterwards.