Tag Archives: Loretto Tennessee

Writing = habit?

Is writing simply a habit? I’ve written before in this very space that I’m an addictive kinda guy…and addictions are those things that we continue to do. We often even say we do things because of “force of habit.” Further, I once had a preacher continue to remind the congregation that it takes 30 days of repetition to form a habit (he was trying to get on a healthy kick by exercising and was counting the days)…so, is writing little more than a habit?

Writers find that just about anyone they’ll listen to talk about writing will tell them to get a regular place and a regular time. We’re talking repetition, here. When I tell my sports teams and my kids that if they want to improve at something they must do it over and over again…ie., practice, I’m talking about repetition. Repetition is good. Does repetition mean habit?

Those in-the-know will also tell us writer-types to get a regular place in which we do our writing. If you write well while sitting in the front porch swing built by great-grandpa, then do it…but do it every day, at the same time. When I was working on my first novel, we were in Loretto, Tenn. at the time and I got into the habit of sitting in my front porch swing each morning and reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the time there got me good and warmed up to write.

Until it became winter, that is. Then it was just cold.

And my repetition stopped. I was extremely irritated, too.

When we try to teach students how to study better, we tell them we want them to improve their study “habits.” Wouldn’t we rather say study “skills?” Don’t we think of habits as those good and bad things we can’t stop doing? Like the bad habit of chewing with your mouth open…or the good habit of letting people onto the highway in heavy traffic. So, if “studying” is a bad habit, what student wants that? And if it is a good habit…well, what student wants that either? Most students would rather have the good habit of watching tv!

So, if we write regularly at pretty much the same time and place, does that make the writing simply a habit? At what point does habit become…something more? And once a habit has “graduated,” what does it become?

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Where do I write?

A lot is said about the hows and whys of writing. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the how-to books on writing as there seem to be multitudes of people offering advice and about half of them have a book to sell. Most of them you’ve never even heard of (well, “I” haven’t anyway). Some of them can even “guarantee” you success. To quote my wife, “Fssshaw!”

Yeah. Right.

Like any writer, though, I do enjoy reading various hows. What I mean is that the writing process is done in so many different ways, I’m not sure that they could all be included in just one book. Several books claim to be that book, but they aren’t. What I look for in a book like that is the author. If some unknown (and more likely, unpublished except for that work) author is trying to tell me how to write a bestseller, then I just have to laugh and move on. However, when someone like Orson Scott Card writes a book about plot or character development, I’m interested as the man has a proven track record of doing both those things really well. While it may not work for me, I like to know how he (and others) go about the creative process.

But new writers should be wary of all the books and clubs and groups out there. In trying to make a shift from comic books to prose fiction, I’m noticing a lot of material targeting specifically at new writers. Quite frankly, some of it is both insulting and embarrassing…and some of it seems created only to generate money and not to help the fledgling writers. I attended one conference that was loaded with books on “how-to” this and that. In between many of the sessions, attendees got a sales pitch. I found that a bit used-car-salesman-like. So new writers should just be careful and be aware.

But one thing I’ve not seen a lot of is where to write. I know I’ve had a wide variety of writing places. The earliest “steady” places I can remember start at the library at the University of Southern Mississippi where I got my degree in creative writing. The university didn’t have computers for students back then, and I’d take a pencil and notepad and find a quite place and just write away. I’d then go back to my room and type in what I’d written.

After graduation, I was fortunate enough that my roommates created an “office” area so that we could work. I did all my writing there. Same thing for when I first got married: I always managed to have a nice little office space.

When I got hired at Malibu, though, my home office disappeared because I had an office with the company. It wasn’t until 2005, when we moved to Loretto, TN that I was able to get a home office again. I was very productive there, surrounded by my books and computers (yes, I had 2 then; a MAC and a PC).

NOW, however, I share a room with the kids and their homework desks. Most of my books are packed away and while I’ve got my trusty earthquake desk, there seems to be a multitude of distractions.

And that, I think, is the answer for writers. It really doesn’t matter where you write, as long as there is a minimum of distractions. Writers want a place to sit down and write without distractions. That’s not always easy to get…but it’s a goal to have.

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My life’s other career

Music has always been a pretty big part of my life. As a youngster, I wanted to be a rock star along the lines of KISS, Queen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin…well, you get the idea. I’d had a little piano—just enough to know the notes but not enough to really play them—and that was it. My Jr. High buddies (Wynndel Stanton, Mike Harris, Kendall Jones) and I wanted to put together a band and so we decided which instruments we’d play and set out to learn them. I was to be the drummer.

So, as a seventh grader, I went to the school band director and told him that I wanted to learn to play drums. No, I didn’t have any drumming experience—that’s why I wanted to learn. But, he said no. I got mad and went home and spent the next year self-teaching myself. To this day I still can’t read drum music, but I can play it if I hear it—I play all by ear.

As happens in school, folks move, etc…our band would also see our other good friends serve stints (Grey Overstreet, Forrest Welker and Scott Cook—Scott had a really cool synthesizer!) with us and we actually learned out to play. We played for the school when I was in 9th grade, and then won the school talent contest when I was in 11th—we won by doing “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. I also provided lead vocals for that one! Ha

After high school, I bought a new drum set, the band split up and then I recorded with a small Christian artist out of Terry, Mississippi. I had the chance to play with a really great bass player—Tim Heape. It was fun. Regrettably, I can only now locate one of the songs we recorded…and that’s on cassette.

I didn’t play much after that until a guy I worked with at Camelot Music (Jeff Albritton) got the idea to put something together. We tried, but could never really get anything going—seems college was getting in the way of most folks we knew. We did, however, manage to get the opportunity to jam with Stevie Blaze, a guitarist who went on to record several albums with the band Lillian Axe.

The drums went into storage when I moved to Hattiesburg to attend USM…and there they stayed until around 2000. Oh sure, I pulled them out now and again to play them some, but I didn’t really play them much until I was recruited by a local Civil War Reenactment group to be a drummer. Now that was interesting! I’d always played sitting down before… trying to play while marching was like trying to hit a moving target.

I eventually caught on and became the Battalion drummer. It was fun.

When we joined FBC Loretto, TN., my now-good-friend and music minister there wanted to put together a praise band. I volunteered quickly and in no time flat was playing the drums as part of the regular service both morning and night. I know that some in the congregation had mixed feelings about the drums, but it was an incredible worship experience for me.

The drums, alas, are now back on a shelf, waiting for the next opportunity.

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