Monday, March 13, 2017

A Writer’s Focus

Normally, good writers are not eclectic. Each focuses his/her oeuvre on a single idea, a subject that ignites his/her passion, a theme he/she chases with beautiful variation through a lifetime of work.

For example, Hemingway was captivated with the idea of how to face death. After he witnessed his father’s suicide, it became his central premise, in writing and in life. He examined death in war, in sport, on safari, until he finally took his own life.

Charles Dickens, whose father was imprisoned for debt, wrote of the lonely child searching for the lost father in almost all his great works: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations.

Not that I’m in the same league as Hemingway and Dickens, but I also have a central theme that keeps popping up over and over—a gay protagonist who gets crushed by an unkind world, who picks himself up, and crawls through hell in order to pursue his dream, and ends up finding something even more treasured than he first imagined. 

Looking back on my history, I can pinpoint where this theme came from. When I was just coming into manhood, my father had a cancer operation that left him bedridden and weak as a newborn. His doctors told him he had only months to live. He fought back, day by day, recovering his strength an iota at a time. He beat the cancer, and eventually returned to work. He lived for another sixteen years. Because of his illness, he was forced to give up drinking. He attended AA, and became a supporter of the Twelve Step Method. His last several years he spent mentoring recovering alcoholics, which brought him enormous gratification. He lost everything, fought back, which led to a new calling, and that eventually led to a meaningful life. His battle has been my inspiration all these years.

Like so many other writers, I have found a subject and it sustains me over the long journey of the writer.

Genre should be a constant source of reinspiration. Every time I reread my manuscript, I get excited about it, because it is my kind of story, drawn from the thing in my past that most inspires me.

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