Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hank Did it, You Can Too

By Keith Fisher

Do you remember Hank Williams? I’m not talking about Jr. I’m talking about the original? Hank was a country music singer/songwriter in the nineteen fifties. He sang with a kind of whining tone that was popular in the type of music he played.

He wrote some good lyrics that are still used by musicians today, but its how those lyrics came to be written that I want to write about.

There is a story about the song, Kaw-Liga that expresses my point. Now as I understand it, and you’ll have to check on my accuracy, Hank was staying with friends, associates, and drinking buddies in a cabin in the hills. Hank had been keeping pretty much to himself and in a reflective mood.

After a day or two, they ran out of liquor and took a car to get some. On the way back home, Hank was riding in the front seat of the car. He said that the woods surrounding the cabin did something to him. That the feel of the place got him thinking and he suddenly hit the dashboard and followed with the rhythmic drum-beat that is prevalent throughout the song. He started singing his lyrics and borrowed a pen and paper to write them down.

You can take many of the other songs written by him, and tell the story of his life. All of his hurt, Joy and fears are expressed in his lyrics. Of course, he didn’t write some of the songs he sang, but he lived the words.

The point here is Hank listened to his heart and wrote what he found there. He used life’s ups and downs and made music many people could, and do, relate to. We as writers can take a lesson from that.

As many of you know, I have been spending a lot of time lately in the hospital sitting with my dying father. While walking down the hall of ICU one-day I had to stop, listen and breathe in the air around me. This was a scene I had tried to describe in one of my stories once. I didn’t get it wrong but there were certain details I had missed. The rhythmic beep, beep, beep of a monitor, the sound of a respirator as it breathes for the patient, the smell of the antiseptic dispensed from the containers lining the walls.

I wrote it down, and I’ll use it in a story someday. About three weeks ago, I sat in an armchair in the public library, waiting for my daughter to choose her books. People of all walks of life passed by. Some were in a hurry, some not. Some of them were dragging kids along. Others stopped to peruse the books on sale tables. I watched them all, made my judgements and cataloged them in my mind as characters in future books.

In another story, I'll take my current experiences, draw from my feelings and lay it out for a reader to feel. Like Hank, my life can be told in what I write. Many people tell me they would love to be a writer but they wouldn’t know what to write about. I’m going to start telling them to look around, pay attention, feel the moment, and use your senses. Then tell others about it. The craft of writing can be learned as you go but if you really want to write, start listening and pay attention.

Good luck in your writing---see you next week.


Annette Lyon said...

Such a great post, and so true. No experience is ever lost on a writer, because it can all be used some day. I love that you wrote down the hospital experience. So sorry about your father.

Scarlet Knight said...

The nice thing about being a writer is that we get to stop and notice the world around us, when normally we won't.

Sorry to hear about your father.

I must agree, my best writing comes from my own experiences. Thanks for the reminder. =)

LexiconLuvr said...

My heart is with you and your father. I hope for you that you'll have a sweet measure of peace in these moments with him.

Thank you for your beautiful posts. I look forward to each and every one. The drum-beat of your words matches the steady thrum of my heart.

All my best

Ali Cross said...

That is awesome advice Keith.

Sometimes I remember to do that, but most of the time I'm just hurrying through life and then I sit down at the computer and try to recapture what I barely noticed in real life.

I'm going to try to do better. Thanks!