Monday, May 22, 2006

Soul Patrol!

I was going to blog about Taylor Hicks, but Debbie stole my thunder. So this blog entry will be about writing, not Taylor Hicks. Eventually.

(Soul Patrol!)

Here’s just one of the hundreds of recent articles about Taylor online:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Brad Hicks fondly recalls the time he and wife Linda settled down for dinner at a small Mexican restaurant in Birmingham years ago and spied a curiously familiar face on stage with the band.

That lanky frame and thick mop of hair, the way the young man jerked around as he coaxed sweet melodies from his mouth harp -- the mysterious musician could only be their son, Taylor, who was supposed to be at home.

"Linda looked up and said, 'Well, there's Taylor,' " Brad Hicks reminisced recently from the family's home in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. "When he was 15 or 16 he would sneak into bars and play harmonica."

Of course I start spinning this little glimpse of Taylor’s formative years into a YA novel. But it also makes me wonder about how all of us in creative professions get the bright idea that we can produce as well as consume art. Taylor reportedly declared upon hearing Otis Redding when he was 12 that this would be his life’s work--singing and writing his own soul music, not listening to it. I’ll bet Taylor had role models in his life who sang and wrote rather than just listening.

My role model was my grandmother, from whom I borrowed my pen name (her maiden name was Echols). She wrote stories about growing up during the Depression here in Birmingham. She also painted--not very realistically, I’ll admit, but with the most beautifully mixed colors.

Everyone in my family was proud of my creative grandmother. But I also knew her as a loving elderly lady who let us play in the sandbox with her sterling spoons and could cook nothing well except shrimp salad and dessert. (I inherited her culinary skills...all two of them.) She was a real person, and she produced works of art as well as consuming them. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t.

Think about it. Do you have friends who write you hilarious e-mails? You suggest that they write a novel, and they say, “I could never do that!” But you know they’re as smart and hard-working as you are. What sets you apart?

And finally...

Soul Patrol!


Christy said...

A dear friend of mine has a story inside her that she won't write.

I had no idea she wanted to write until we were at dinner at the RWA conference in Dallas. She came as my support. She's read all of my books and of course, loves them. Uh yes, she may be a bit biased.

Anyway, there we were, sitting at a lovely restaurant in Dallas and she suddenly blurted out that she had a story inside her. Then she proceeded to tell me about it. And it was good. I mean, really good.

My question, of course, was, why don't you write it. Her answer. Oh, I could never do anything like that. And despite all of my pleas, she still refuses to write it.

So what makes me write while she won't? I know she has talent. I know she's a hard worker. And I know she has a story to tell.

I don't know the answer. All I know is that I'm so glad I chose to write the stories inside my head.

I hurt for my friend. I think it would be painful to have a story inside you and not write it. And well, since I like to avoid pain at all cost, I choose to write.

Carla Swafford said...

It's either write or go crazy. Wait...I am crazy. Then why do I write? Well...I would go crazy if I didn't write. Oh, no! It's a vicious cycle and I can't stop! Help me! I know the cure. It's being published and having deadlines! Then I'll get writer's block from the stress and stop writing. Then I would go crazy. What? Not write? Are YOU crazy?

Deborah Matthews said...

Jennifer, So sorry about stealing your thunder.

I really don't know what sets me apart. Like Carla, writing makes me crazy, but yet, I can't quite walk away from it.


Paula said...

My best friend and my long-distance critique partner has an amazing mind for stories. She knows what's important in a story, how to structure it, how to twist a plot and how to build three-dimensional, interesting characters.

But she has no confidence at all about her ability to write those story ideas on paper. She doesn't have that thing in her mind that we writers do that says, "I'm the only person who can tell this story the way it should be told."

I have no idea what that thing is, but I have it and she doesn't. Which works out for me, because I get a critique partner/editor who's fabulous and who isn't too busy writing her own stories to read and edit mine.

But I swear, if she ever discovered that "gotta write or I'll die" gene somewhere deep inside her, she'd be a bestseller.

Kathy said...

Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol!


MaryF said...