Check out my new YouTube video, Interview with Howard Feigenbaum, produced by fellow author Jim Hitt. In this video I discuss my decision to become a writer and offer advice for those who wish to become writers.
photo of shredding agave – Manta, Ecuador
The job doesn’t matter. It’s how the character performs the work that tells a tale.
I love professional waiters. They make the dining experience worthwhile. Knowledge of food and drink is important. Knowledge of people is even more important. For me, excellence deserves respect. Mediocrity does not. We all have our opinions about how people behave. I think most of us would usually agree on issues of good and bad. When words describe the behavior, we can share the vision.
I had the pleasure of visiting Montecristi, Ecuador, the home of the Panama hat. The manufacturing process is low tech. Leaves of the agave plant are shredded to get the fibers for weaving the hats. The quality of the fibers determines the quality of the hat. The people who made the hat I bought were proud of their product. I think of the hat’s beauty every time I wear it. And, in the third volume in the Benny Golfarb series, when I relate the adventure in Ecuador, the hat and the native people in the mountains above Manta, will shape the writing.
Everyone has to be somewhere. Is that too obvious? Not to me as a writer. I feel an obligation to help the reader imagine the setting. The geography affects the ease or difficulty of movement. The flora, fauna and weather contribute to a sense of environment.
The Andes shape the use of South American countries. They are a barrier running down the interior of the nation. If you are wealthy, the range is something to be flown over. If you are not-so-rich, the bus trip can take days, or longer if landslides block the road. The isolation of the Incas and other native groups helped them evade the Spanish conquest. Native cultures still flourish at high altitudes. In Benny Goldfarb, Private “I”, the protagonists travel into the interior of Colombia. The detail of the story almost demanded the inclusion of a native group. In this case, the Paez tribe provides another point of view in Colombian society.
Writing is like painting. There has to be something there to hold your attention, something that makes you stay and look. Not everyone likes Picasso, and not everyone likes Rembrandt. My guess is that neither Picasso nor Rembrandt cared what people thought, or they would have had to take a poll before finishing a painting. So it is with writing. It’s better not to care about what appeals to potential readers. Just go with what you like. Kindred souls will find your work—eventually.
Should you write what you think will sell in the current marketplace, or do you write about what interests you? For me, enthusiasm for the subject is a basic ingredient. That can only come from personal interest or inspiration. After all, your creativity is your contribution to the art. This blog is a continuing essay about the way I see writing.