What’s the Main Task of a Storyteller?

March 27, 2015

punta canaThe Reserve Beach in Punta Cana © R.L. Herron

I recently came back from Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic (I know … tough duty, but someone’s got to do it).

My bride and I met our eldest son and his family there for a week. I enjoyed seeing them all and relished the opportunity it gave me to recharge my batteries. Now, back to business.

In my last post you heard me grouse again about my writer’s block. It’s safe to say most of that has passed. But I’m still struggling to get my latest novel written and edited by the end of May.

Why? Because I want to submit it to this year’s Readers Favorite contest for review.

Why Do I Bother?
I watched the movie “Birdman” here at home on Tuesday with my wife and youngest son.

Michael Keaton plays a former movie star/action-hero (Birdman) named Riggin Thomas, who opted out of the franchise and hasn’t had much movie success since.

The Thomas character has supposedly adapted the Raymond Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” for Broadway; writing and directing the play in the hopes it will revitalize his career.

One of my favorite scenes featured Edward Norton, who plays an actor named Michael Shiner, a not-so-very-likable-character. In this scene he defends Thomas to Tabitha Dickinsen (played by Lindsay Duncan), a smarmy theater critic he sees sitting in a bar.

“He’s taking a chance. He’s willing to lose everything for this. What are you willing to lose?”

I think Tabitha, a character name undoubtedly chosen for its witch-like associations, serves a twin narrative purpose.

The first is to serve as a convenient antagonist. Her character has apparently decided in advance to give the play a lousy review, so she embodies evil incarnate.

The second is to highlight the purpose real critics have served for as long as there has been a creative process: the need for validation. It’s something the Michael Keaton character desperately needs to preserve his own creative sanity.

It makes me wonder why any of us bother to create art, when we know there are people who will line up to tell us what we’re doing wrong. Does, as the movie suggests, fame or recognition play a role in the process?

Taking that a step further, do I write for the contest entry? Is that why I’m finding myself in a time crunch? It’s not like I’m making much money at it.

Why Do We Write?
George Orwell once said we write out of the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, and to be remembered after death.”

While this might not be the most unselfish of motivations, it’s certainly a natural one.

Humans, for the most part, have a built-in need to make a mark on the world. We want to bring new things to life, to mold things into the image we have in our imaginations.

That makes the answers to the question … Why Do You Write? … as varied as the people asking it.

A writer expresses the rambling of his imagination, but he tries to do it in a way that lets you see it, too. This has always been the main task of storytellers and it’s why, every time we write, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind.

And, yes, we do it for the acknowledgement of the critics. It’s how we know we’re alive.


My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Why Do I Have to Write Today?

March 5, 2015

mountain climb

It never seems to fail. Just when I think things are going well, the ideas stop. My thousand-words-a-day mantra becomes Why do I have to write today? Even the podcast I’m working on has stalled. It feels like I’m climbing a mountain.

Writer’s block again.

I’m 32,000 words into my next novel, Street Light … the final book in my trilogy … and once again I’m stumped.

Where are these characters going?

At the moment, I can’t answer that. I know where I want them to end up, but how are they going to get there?

I also have the questions for my podcast so many Gentle Readers submitted about the craft of writing, and I know how I’m going to answer them. But I can’t seem to get started.

The Creative Spark
I’ve read a lot of advice about how to spark creativity … and I’ve written about it here.

However, everyone’s creativity takes a different form, so advice that works varies from person to person. Creativity often involves play, digression, experimentation and failed attempts.

It doesn’t always look productive.

I’ve discovered that creativity can be a strange, elusive creature. Sometimes it’s a river flowing so fast I can’t keep up with it. At other times it feels like the river’s caked and parched, all dried up with life-giving water nowhere to be found.

That’s when I take time to explore, try to meet new people (or old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, like I did last week), or read a book by an author I enjoy. Sometimes I just listen to music I like (for me, that’s Bob Seger or Creedence, thank you).

If you’re anything like me, you’re often set on a specific way of doing things and that’s not always good for creativity. Creativity is all about those new, unexplored ideas … and you can’t explore new ideas if your mind is closed by impossibilities.

I find doing something just a little different can set off a creative spark and generate fresh ideas I hadn’t thought about before.

Follow My Interests
Instead of focusing on what I “ought” to be doing, I allow myself to wander. Sometimes by buying an odd book, poking around the internet, or exploring an unusual place.

I’ve always been an avid reader. Some authors claim they can’t read while they’re writing, but I don’t try to curb my reading impulses. Right now I’m discovering everything that new friend Brad Meltzer has ever written about political intrigue. I find good writing is inspiring, all by itself.

I’ve found, too, that reading their stories aloud to my grandchildren (or having them read to me) inspires me, sets a good example and just might inspire them, too … which is a very good thing.

Besides my stories, one of the main outlets I have for my creative impulses is this blog. This is where I collect many of my favorite quotations, intriguing passages from books I’ve read, stories I’ve heard from friends and questions that plague me.

I used to worry that writing on my blog would drain me of ideas. But I’ve found the more I create, the more I want to create.

Enjoy Failure
G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Besides putting a smile on my face, discovering this catchphrase made a huge difference in my approach to creativity. Telling myself I can enjoy the “fun of failure” made me much more light-hearted (although my lovely bride wouldn’t always agree).

I just let ideas flow. You can do this, too. Don´t try to censor yourself or worry about editing, no matter how silly the ideas may be. It’s important to keep an atmosphere of openness when trying to generate ideas.

It’s the same philosophy I use when I write. Get the ideas down. Fast. I can sort them later and determine which ones are best.

Relax and Play
If there’s any one thing I would always recommend to overcome writer’s block, it’s to go out and do something with friends or family. Don’t dwell on writing. Just relax and have a lot of fun.

Doing this for an evening, a day, or a week, can recharge not only your creativity but also your motivation and general sense of well-being. You will find this is actually a great use of your time. Your creative juices will flow again … plus you’ll also get to enjoy those wonderful friends and family members.

I’m off now, taking my own advice. I’ll let you know if it works.


My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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