Saturday, October 28, 2006

Writers Block at 9,000 Feet

By Keith Fisher

I couldn’t bring my computer. Well, I guess I could’ve but I’m one of those who didn’t know you should remove the battery from a laptop while on house current so my battery only lasts about 50 minutes. Because of my daily writing habit I wondered if I would go crazy without my computer.

In a half-hearted attempt at appeasement, I brought a wire bound notebook. I figured I could make notes of the ideas I might have. I also threw in a few books to plan a Priesthood lesson I was scheduled to give.

I was going camping. My brother had planned his hunting trip and I didn’t want him to go alone. It turned out that my dad came too and we spent a large amount of time shooting the bull and solving the world’s problems while my brother was hunting. My brother brought Dad’s camp trailer so I was left alone in mine.

Have you ever tried to concentrate on a plot when someone is sitting next to you? I felt a need to put down my notebook and talk . . . so I did. I didn’t get my writing done.

After we ate the Dutch oven food I cooked and we said good night I went into the trailer and opened my notebook. Nothing happened. I tried to make notes for my lesson but I couldn’t keep my mind on it.

I realized if I had a generator, I could’ve brought my computer. At least I could watch a DVD on it. What do you do when you’re camped at 9,000 feet during your writing time and nothing comes to mind? I couldn’t even play computer games. Did I mention I was alone in a camp trailer? Who could ask for a better set up than that? I was having the weekend that most writers can only dream about and my mind wasn’t co-operating. What would you do? I gave up!

I finally decided to go to bed, thinking I would at least get caught up on all the sleep I’ve been missing. Have you heard about the best-laid plans of mice and men? The air was so dry and I was running the furnace. I woke at midnight with a dry throat and a worry that I would be sick by morning. I boiled some water and leaned over the steam while I made hot chocolate.

When my hot drink was ready, I sat down and looked at my notebook. I thumbed through the notes I made before and they started me thinking about the characters in one of my books. It isn’t the book that I have been currently working on. Suddenly my characters were dictating to me and I was putting it on paper, not my computer screen.

Three cups of hot chocolate and four hours later, I decided that I’d better go to bed. I was happy when my head hit the pillow. I forgot about my sore throat because I was thinking about my characters.

I spent the rest of the weekend writing about those characters, the ones I didn’t intend to write about. I learned that it’s a good idea to have two stories going in case you get blocked up with the one you’re working on. It can get confusing, but characters are like children if you pay attention to one, the other will get jealous and try to take center stage. Then all you need to do is write it down.

I learned something else that I had forgotten: There is something peaceful about quietly putting ink on paper but reading it is another matter. My writing is readable when it is done on my computer. I’m looking forward to Christmas with an Alpha Smart in mind. Then I'll be able to read what I write even if I’m camping when I write it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Across Generations

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever sat down to write something and you know exactly where you plan to go with it? You get into what you’re writing and suddenly a thought comes that’s much better than your original thought? That’s how this blog came to be.

Many years ago, my father and I had an adversarial relationship. Perhaps the word is too extreme but I was a wayward son and he was doing his best to keep from cracking my skull.

Sometime after my senior year in high school, he somehow discovered a better way of dealing with me. It brought us closer and we became best friends. His loving the sinner, not the sin approach made me realize I could be a part of his family even with all my problems.

For many years we had long "bull sessions" where we would talk about hunting and fishing and cars. When I came back to church, we talked about religion. After I got married it turned into gardening and greenhouse techniques with a little hunting and fishing added. In 1986 Dad had an accident on the job where he fell 90 feet, hitting solid objects on the way down. He almost died and I had to come to grips with what I would do if I lost him.

He made it through, but he had to retire from his career as a welder and old age is gradually setting in.

Now his major problem is an eye condition that has left him unable to see well enough to hunt, he can’t tie his own hooks onto his fishing line, he pulls weeds by feel and he asks me to come and weld for him.

As we are fond of saying in the church, the Lord closes a door but opens another. Dad has been given a blessing: He signed up for a service that sends him books on tape and he sends them back when he is through. In the few years since he signed up, he has read more books than I ever have. When I come home from a writer’s conference, I tell him about the new author friends I’ve met and he orders their books.

Now we talk about literature and what I am writing, the plots that I am developing, the problems I am having with a character, and we critique other writer’s books together. Recently we took a car trip and listened to a book he was currently reading. Through all this I have been aware of what was happening and I just wanted to express my gratitude for our evolving lives.

We now have a new way of being best friends. Our "bull sessions" have continued and the sharing means a lot to me. Literature has a place in our society but for me, it keeps me close to my father.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

No! I wanted to keep that one!

By Keith Fisher

I'v'e been out of town and wasn't able to write the blog I wanted to write so I used this one that has been floating on my hard drive for a few weeks. I hope you'll enjoy it and I'll be back next week with the profound one. (At least I hope it will be)

Not too long ago, Big Blue and Mr. Gates took some of the first steps into what we called the information age. I know there were others involved but if they want recognition, they can send me an email. After all, There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Since then, we have progressed. We have reached a point in our sophistication that allows us to tell someone how bored we are at any moment during every day. We can ignore our teachers, even our boss, as we send text messages into cyberspace.

Using email, I can have someone send me a message and I will be able to read it in an instant. I can also delete an unwanted email that I never asked for. Junk emails or "spam" as we lovingly call it today, has gotten out of hand!

During the time of the "dark ages", before email and cell phones. If we were solicited, we could leave the store, throw junk mail away, close the door on salesmen, and never think about it again. We didn’t have to worry about an indecent proposal or read words that we never heard outside of a poorly supervised locker room. There were even laws that governed telemarketing, limiting what could be said on the phone.

In another Blog, Jeffrey R Savage told of a wonderfully funny way of dealing with this problem: look it up at six LDS writers and a frog the link is on you right.

Most internet service providers offer a filter. We can set our filter to limit words and block certain senders. It is a great feature, but have you noticed the sleazy dregs of our society will change the spelling of certain words, and change their ID so they can get their email through the filter.

I would admire that kind of cleverness except one thing: What kind of bonehead really believes that if I take steps to reject their email in one form, I would buy what ever they are selling if they put it another way? Basic sales and marketing aside, I should have the right to be sold on my terms not theirs.

I mention this because I was the recipient of an email that I really wanted to keep but in my mindless haste, I deleted it along with the spam. In my mind I began to conjure up a scenario where a publisher sends me an acceptance email and . . . "Oh no, that was from my publisher!" Or worse, Someone gets your business card or bookmark and reads the "really cool" email address you set up for yourself. The one that is "perfect for you", and sells it to the spammers.

As I said above, there are filters, but should I have to bother? They don’t always work the way we want them too anyway. I want a button . . . a way that I can send a tiny robot that tells the sender that I am not interested. The second time, he zaps the sender with an electrical charge. Every time that sender changes the subject and sends it again, the robot uses more voltage. You could recognize who the spammers were then. They would be the ones that have the frizzy hair and the zap marks on their cheeks.

Many authors use email to announce the release of a new book or news that will affect their readers. Please understand I think this is a good thing. But they always make sure that their fans know they are going to get an email from them. And they never sell email addresses to others. We need to keep this in mind when we are famous authors.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Beauty Can Make You Cry

By Keith Fisher

As writers we frequently talk about how good it feels on those rare moments when we are "in the zone". Those stolen moments recharge our spirit and give us a sense of fulfillment.

We create worlds full of people who overcome the trials and hardships of mortality. They follow their destiny and do it with style and grace. We often look back over something we have written in amazement that it came through our fingertips.

We live in the hope that we can create beauty to touch the hearts of our readers and bring tears of joy. The printed medium has limitations however.

Have you ever wondered what a movie would be like with only the acting and dialog? Even in the days of silent pictures, the movie houses hired piano players to enhance the film. They learned music can build suspense to a climax that can make you jump. It can make you love or hate a character. And even if the movie was terrible, the end music will make you glad it is finally over.

Beyond the movie soundtrack, have you ever found tears in your eyes when you hear a beautiful piece of music? It is during those times when the music touches your spirit and you are given a brief glimpse into the love and peace that will be eternity.

Musicians have it easy. Their audience needs only to hear to be moved.

As writers our job is harder. We have to make our words so compelling our audience will invest
the time to discover the world we have created. Then if we have done it right, our "in the zone" moments will shine and the beauty we have written will touch our readers hearts and make them cry.

In order to do this, we must learn, practice, and experience, polishing our craft so that our fulfillment will show in our writing.