The compelling, music of Kitaro fills my ears, while I sit in an unstable desk chair procured from a former tenant, of another apartment, years ago. My hand-me-down desk and a found, handmade shelf unit act as my work space. These are the ingredients of my office.
Why do I talk about these things? I suppose it’s because I don’t particularly care where something comes from, how little I paid for it, or how strange it looks, so long as it functions in the job I’ve assigned it.
I had an eight-foot counter top. I traded for the desk when we switched apartments. Uniform file boxes, filled with items not in use, stacked to a convenient height and covered with a tablecloth, functions very well as a table. If I’m going to stack them anyway, they might as well serve a purpose.
I think most of us think along these lines sooner or later. I simply prefer thinking like this all the time. Being a writer only encourages the practice.
We create stories. In other words, we’re cooks, disguised as builders. We stake our reputations on our ability to utilize disparate ideas, words, etc. for the purpose of telling stories or relating information. That’s our job in a proverbial nutshell.
Except for verifying information used in said stories and articles, we don’t care where we get our ideas. The same idea could have been used before for something else, dozens of times. I’m not referring to plagiarism here. I’m talking about taking a bit of information or sparked idea gotten from reading a newspaper, magazine, or another book and putting together our own unique scenario using that information.
An example here is Matthew Bennett’s break-out bestseller for expectant mothers, “The Maternal Journal.” He certainly couldn’t use personal experience for his book, for obvious reasons. He could take information found elsewhere, add opinions and insights from obstetric specialists, as well as experienced mothers, and tie it all together into an easy-to-follow pregnancy guide. Of course, smart marketing helped sell the book, but the idea was built on a personal question and information gathered from elsewhere to answer it.
Above all else, writing begins with tiny particles of dreams; put together in a blender half-full of words; adding splashes of character-driven action; a nebulous theme that peeks out at the reader at unexpected points in the story; teasingly rambunctious characters who play with the reader’s mind; and pressing the pulse button until all ingredients are smooth and ready for the palate.
The end result depends on the cook, not on the origins of each ingredient. Like the workability of my office—with its quirky desk, computer, headphones, and workspace—the story has arrived on the reading table because of how I use the makings I can find and how I combine them for that purpose.
Writing is hard work in the murky, ever-shifting tides of the publishing industry. There are no clear-cut answers. Many of the deciding factors about who’s published and who’s not stems from an editor’s gut reaction upon reading the manuscript.
Like all writers, we each have our cookbooks and our kitchen equipment. A good toolbox helps, too. The age/ source of an ingredient or building material isn’t as important as the purpose for which it’s used. Good writing doesn’t depend on how good the computer is, or how fancy the office looks. The expert chef can make use of simple ingredients to make a fantastic dinner.
How do you cook your stories and serve them up? Care to share? Feel free to tell about how you find your ideas, combine your ingredients, or market your wares. I’m always interested in learning another’s techniques.