Stand in the middle of the room

I don’t always write. But, when I do, it’s glorious.

I was the Secretary for a non-profit writing group in my state. During our annual conference, we held a banquet to award winners of the writing contest, and to present our keynote speaker. This past year, the speaker was Lee Maynard.

Lee is an award winning author from my home state of West Virginia. I have read one of Lee’s books, Crum, and was very impressed with his work. His writing is like Salinger, mixed with heavy doses of Appalachian heritige.  Let’s just say there is a sex scene that involves buttermilk. ‘Nuff said. And, the man himself is like “the love child of The Most Interesting Man in the World and Hemingway,” which was how our President  introduced him after saying he was “sexier than Sean Connery.” Anyway…

His speech really spoke to me and many of the writers in the room. I’ll paraphrase what he said.

His father had been an investigator, and raised his son to follow in his footsteps until he left it to write. He told his son that whenever he first goes into a room, to move to the left of the door, keeping all points of entry, and all corners within sight, so no one could come up behind him.

Lee said this was excellent advice for an investigator, but not for a writer. He said, as a writer it was necessary to walk to the middle of the room, to grab your writing in your fist, hold it high up in the air and shout, “This is mine. I did this,” and then wait for the hits to come.

This is mine! Whee! Wait. Is this mine? Was that yours? Oh. Sorry.

That is what a writer does. If you only write stories as a hobby, and only for yourself, your are not a writer. You merely write. To be a writer is to be in the profession of writing, to write for the purpose of having it be read. And to do that, you must stand in the middle of the room with your writing held high and take the shots. And, I’ll add a little to that. You must stand in the middle of the room, naked. You must expose your breast to the world and take the bullet that it sends your way. Because, let’s face it. As writers, you had better be ready for people to hate your work. Just keep on writing.

Does this count? I’m not a writer, but I don’t think anyone will complain.

I have just one more part of his speech that I’d like to relay to you. He began the speech with, “How did I get here?” He is that most noble of writers who doesn’t see themselves as anything special, as nothing more than a writer of tales. He has no taste for fame or followers, but he is passionate and dedicated to his craft. Writing was his truth, and through that pursuit of truth he found that other people liked his writing too. But, he always wonders, how he got there.

Lee is a great man and a wonderful writer, and the lessons he imparted to me over that three days was invaluable. It was like hanging out with a legend from times past, like the ghost of Hemingway.

Check him out here, reading a piece of his as his friend Pops Walker accompanies him on guitar.

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3 thoughts on “Stand in the middle of the room

  1. Hey, Gem, there’s a naked cartoon chick on your post.

    Very, cool. It does take a lot of character to get your writing beat on. Its not unlike having your child smacked by a stranger in some ways. I handle it pretty well, I think, though I may grumble and every now and then punch a hole in the wall (not really, but I feel like it sometimes). But I want to get better–so, its what I got to do.

    • I’m with you on that Dan. Both the naked chick and taking punches.

      I love critiques that dig deep, and that are brutally honest.

      And, I think it is important to actively seek out opportunities to have your work read, or to read it aloud. Get out there and just expose yourself, so to speak. We don’t need jail time here (though, that would be great writing material…).

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