Writing: A magnificent Obsession without End

Scene with Gregory Peck from the movie,The  Guns of Navarone
Scene with Gregory Peck from the movie,The Guns of Navarone

THE OBSESSION struck me at an early age.

My life was basically divided into two categories.

I was reading a book.

Or I was looking for a new book and sometimes and old book to read.

I picked cotton for a penny a pound and saved enough money to buy books.

I borrowed books.

Thank God for libraries.

One night I finished The Guns of Navarone by Alistair Maclean.

A suicide mission.

Impossible odds.

No one expected to survive.

No one dared to quit.

I closed the pages, looked up at the ceiling, and thought:

I want to write like that.

I read Shane by Jack Schaefer.

A story of violence.

And love.

A stranger hoping to escape the sins of his past.

A stranger who would never outrun his past.

He did what he had to do.

Those who had to die died.

And then he rode away.

The stranger broke the heart of a woman married to a good man.

He left a young boy begging him not to leave.

I read it once.

Then again.

And I told myself:

I want to write like that.

I lived the pages of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.

The world was ending.

Radiation was spreading across and around the globe.

People were dying.

Soon there would be no one left.

I didn’t even know why I should attend class.

It was a waste of time.

We were all doomed anyway.

And, when my senses cleared, I thought:

I want to write like that.

The years passed.

The obsession remained.

After sixty-seven books – both fiction and nonfiction – after hundreds of newspaper articles and thousands of magazine stories, after three screenplays and almost a thousand blogs, I am gripped by the same thoughts I had then.

I close my eyes and remember the storylines and plotlines and characters who gripped the pages of The Guns of Navarone, Shane, and On the Beach.

Nothing has changed.

The thoughts I had then I have now.

I want to write like that.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Writing is a curse and an addiction that traps us and won’t let go.

    • The Guns of Navarone and On the Beach (and one of my favorites, Nevil Shute’s Trustee from the Toolroom) are some of the best things I’ve ever read.

      I guess I must have wanted to learn to write like that, too. I can reopen one of them, get sucked in, and forget that I went to watch their technique develop.

      To this day I can’t figure out which pov The Handmaid’s Tale is told in – because I forget to pay attention to such trivia.

      The best writers – all different – are invisible.

      Not so the narrators – those have a distinct voice. Think Lolita.

      How to be standing on stage in front of millions, under bright lights – and have no one see you. That’s the aim.

      • Caleb Pirtle

        A fascinating way to look at this writing game, Alicia. You make a lot of sense.

  • Roger Summers

    Long live the thoughts.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thoughts are like caterpillars until you put wings on them and turn them into butterflies.

  • I’m right there with you, Caleb. The thing I wonder about is whether any of those books would make the cut today, i.e., be embraced by backers with enough resources to push them to the top of the bestseller lists. I doubt it. But it all comes down to those books that get stuck in our heads. For me it was Hemingway. I thought, and I guess I still think, that a book should be like that.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      That’s the greatest tragedy in the indie publishing world of today. There are books, I’m sure, that are every bit as good as The Guns of Navarone, Shane, and On the Beach but will never be discovered, destined to fade into obscurity.

      • Darlene Jones

        I hate to say it, but I think you’re right about good books fading into obscurity given the way things are going. PS I can’t imagine a life without books.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          I’m convinced that if we didn’t have books, somebody like Darlene Jones would wake up one day and write one.

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