There seems to be two schools of thought when one contemplates writing an author's bio. The more traditional wisdom suggests that one be concise, direct, and brief. Include relevant details and something interesting about yourself. (Yes, I am writing this myself so perhaps auto-bio would be more precise.)
On the other side of the coin are those who say stop being dry and boring. Write something that your reader may actually find interesting.
I will go the unconventional route.
If there is one overriding theme in my life, I think my grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Lemenchick best summed it up in my report card.
Jeff lacks focus. He always seems to be daydreaming.
I cannot fault her on the assessment she had me pegged. My mind was forever wandering to what was happening at the neighboring desk or outside, or much further beyond. This character flaw followed me through my life.
I went to music school (turns out I have absolutely no aptitude for music at all), I studied physics in university, worked in a recording studio and found a job as a high rise window cleaner in downtown Toronto for several years.
None of those things satisfied me. Secretly I wanted to create stories; I wanted to be a writer. However, what kind of man pursues such a risky notion when he is expected to find a stable and responsible career? So I found a regular job and earned a paycheck...and daydreamed.
About two years ago, I was getting ready to turn in for the night. It was late and I had to be up early for work the next morning. After I clicked the television off, I found myself just staring at the blank screen.
Dreaming about writing is safe and easy, one never has to take a chance. Once you begin to put the words down, the spell is broken and you set yourself on the road to criticism. But at that moment, on that night I could feel the need so strong I had to do something.
To my mind, what is the difference between thinking of writing and doing so and never sharing your story? There is none. Once you release your work into the world, the door opens for everyone to say, ‘this is not good’.
I could either spend years thinking about creating a story of my own and never knowing if I could, or I could sit down, begin to type, and see if I had it in me to create something. I made a decision. I sat down, that very night, and began to write. For five months, I typed as often as I could, using up every spare moment I could find.
I'm just as susceptible to vanity as any man. Every page deeper I wrote, images of fame, fortune, and acclaim grew in my mind. I pictured topping charts, breaking sales records, movies, and Broadway plays spawning from my art. Who wouldn't love my work?
Then I finished and sat back to admire my 485 page masterpiece.
It was awful.
The grammar was a mess, the spelling atrocious. The language was loose and inconstant. My story spun from one idea to another with only loose connections. And, for all of that, I felt that the entire exercise had been a complete success. Not the book itself though. I still think there's a good story buried there but it will require a total re-write to flesh it out. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to find out but for now I have so many other ideas to explore.
My goal had been to see if I had a story in me, something unique and interesting to say and see it through to the end. By that measure, I met my goal.
It was a wonderful learning experience. During the writing, I researched style, flow, grammar, and a host of tools I would need. Much of what I learned was enormously helpful and some was not but I learned.
Then I began my second book, then my third. I think my technique improved to the point where my stories are interesting and readable, but I will leave that to the reader to decide. Eventually I stumbled on Henry Pride.
I say stumbled on him because he popped into my mind one day while driving home. His face appeared in my mind and I knew I had to write Henry Pride. I put aside what I was working on at the time and spent all of my energy developing Henry. What he looked like, how he sounded, thought, felt, and how he would behave. When I understood him, I turned him loose, followed behind him, and wrote down what he did. I felt like nothing more than Henry's biographer. I had no idea where the story would take me and often would be surprised at what happened.
It was during Henry Pride that a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King's book, On Writing: A memoir of the craft, a very good book by the way. The one thing that stuck with me was his second commandment of writing.
Write every day.
It doesn't matter what you write about, as long as you work at it regularly. Explore different ways of expressing yourself, characters, and description. I took his advice and now I write every day. Sometimes only a few hundred words, others I have several thousand in me. Not because I think of success but because I can't imagine not doing so daily anymore.
Writing has brought back that little grade four student who was always staring out the window but now, I have focus. I write because I need to, it's who I am. If my stories become popular that would be welcomed but I will continue regardless, even if only a few read them.
Henry Pride is actually my third completed book but my first to be offered for you to read. I do hope you enjoy it and thank you in advance if you take the time to read about Henry.
My second book, Simon Fink will be published later in 2013.
One other quote has always stuck with me over the years...
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
― Ernest Hemingway
If an author such as Hemingway struggled to find the words, I can live with my own difficulties. I will continue searching for my single pages, even though my wastebasket overflows.