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28 March 2012

The best is all behind us


In the previous Page Turner (please tell me you read it), the issue at the heart of what I addressed in that scintillating essay was fear. At least, I posited fear as being the reason for the name Romeo disappearing from modern-day use.

But that was just some random idea that came to me last week, not related to anything having to do with my life. I have never been tempted to name one of my kids Romeo, not even one of my boys.


My theme this week is fear again, and I'm going to refer to two books that epitomize fear to me. If you think I'm going to mention Stephen King next, you're wrong. Well, actually, you would be right since I just mentioned him, but I am not going to use any of his books to make my point. Instead, I will reference To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind.

Where is the horror, you ask?

Harper Lee penned Mockingbird. Margaret Mitchell wrote the one about wind. And you know what? Those two writers have more in common than just being female. Did you know they both only wrote one book? You probably did. It's really not that big a secret.

I've always wondered how in the crap they did that. Both excellent writers, obviously. I have to cop to the fact that I've never read Gone with the Wind. But it's a classic, so it must be really, really good, right? And To Kill a Mockingbird is just amazing. Profoundly wonderful isn't adequate as praise. I love that book.

I'm a writer, so I feel like I understand the concept of being a writer. Sure there are different ways of writing. Someone might hold to the paper and pencil method. Some the computer screen and keyboard. Others might forego the use of digits altogether other than to hold a recorder in hand as they traipse along a wooded path. I could point to different genres, even fiction versus nonfiction. There are almost as many types of writing as there are writers. But I would think these all have one thing in common.

A writer writes.

A writer can't help but write.

A writer isn't complete unless he or she is writing every day.

So how do you write one book and then never write another?

Fear again.

At least, that's my opinion. Especially after the last book I wrote. This last book, when I typed the final five words, I sat back in my chair and mouthed the word Wow. Everything fit together like it was Fate. I knew I had just finished something that was as perfect as my ability as a writer could muster. You will see it on bookshelves in a couple of years. I am pretty confident of that.

And that's where the fear comes in. I don't have any illusions that the book will be compared to what Lee and Mitchell did, but it could be the best I produce. It's possible. And that gave me insight into the possible quandary Lee and Mitchell found themselves in - what do you do when your first book is so good it makes a mark on a generation? I suppose the answer for some is that you climb into a hole.

Not for me. I'm two-thirds done with my next book, and I'm pretty sure it's not as good as the last. Not in the first draft, at least. Once I'm finished, well, we'll have to see after I've set it aside for a few months.

But this all got me thinking. You just can't live in fear. Hope is the answer for so many things. Margaret Mitchell is dead so there's not much to be done there, but Harper Lee is still alive. Even though she's a woman, and even though she's in her 80s, I still think she should, well - man up.