Today, I’m glad to be a part of the blog tour of Thurday, 1:17 pm by author Michael Landweber. He has been so wonderful as to provide me with a guest post!
Why I Love To Write
by Michael Landweber
Although I didn’t publish my first novel until I was in my 40s, my love of writing started far earlier, way back when I was in second grade and I introduced the world to Billy Beaver.
The year was 1978 and the world was in need of a hero. I was a scrawny kid living in Madison, WI, bespectacled and more than a little bit nervous about everything. But I was lucky enough to have landed in the middle of an educational experiment called an open classroom where one teacher taught kids from three different grades all mixed together. Looking back, it could have been a disaster, but in the hands of my first, second and third grade teacher, Mrs. Marten (who is still my all-time favorite teacher), it all managed to run smoothly. Part of the appeal for a kid like me, who was more than willing to spend all day reading a book and truly loved homework packets, was that I got to move forward on lessons at my own breakneck pace. The downside for my parents was that they were getting called in for conferences to discuss how to get me to slow down on the classwork and maybe even voluntarily go outside for recess.
One solution to getting me to stop completing every assignment as soon as it was available was to give me a writing journal. I was told to write whatever I wanted in it. And I did, incessantly. In the middle of our giant classroom space was a large incongruous play structure, two towers connected by a bridge. Kids were allowed to do their work in the tower cubbies, ensconced in a quiet space high above the chaos of elementary school life. I basically moved in and set about telling the epic stories of Billy Beaver and his battles against the supernatural forces threatening our universe.
Billy Beaver vs. the Goblin. Billy Beaver vs. the Witch. Billy Beaver vs. the Ghost. I had hit on a successful formula and I was taking it to the bank. I filled page after page in my spiral notebooks. The stories were simple. Bad guys appeared on the scene. Billy Beaver (possibly with a group of friends that were also similarly alliteratively named cute animals) vanquished them.
I’m sure I didn’t think much about the limitations of a beaver fighting supernatural entities. Character development was not a priority. I didn’t care much for the setting – it probably all happened in a swamp. There certainly was not subtext. This wasn’t Animal Farm. I just realized at that young age that I wanted to tell stories and I wanted the good guy to win.
But, looking back, there might have been a subtext that explains why I enjoyed writing fiction so much. It allowed me full control over the narrative. That was something that I didn’t always feel in my young life. There was no good reason for it. I had a great family and a safe place to live. It was just the way I was wired. Things that seemed easy to other kids, like talking to other kids, always seemed complicated to me. I just felt awkward in social interactions of all kinds. And while I loved reading a book, movies and TV shows sometimes made me uncomfortable. I watched them, but I was usually scared that I would see something I didn’t want to see. I needed to know where the story was going before I experienced it. I hated surprises.
Writing stories gave me a chance to be in charge. Those characters did what I wanted them to do. I knew where the story was going because it didn’t go there until I figured it out in my head first. When I was writing, I knew all the right answers. Writing gave me the opportunity to feel confident and in control.
Of course, now that I’m an adult and a little less nervous (though my wife and kids might beg to differ), I realize that writing often forces me to explore questions that make me uncomfortable. My latest book, Thursday 1:17 p.m., is set in a world where time has stopped and the only character still moving has many ethical and moral decisions to make. I have learned to relinquish control to my characters; they frequently tell me where the story is going and don’t cooperate unless I head in that direction. The main character in my new book, nicknamed Duck, definitely makes some choices that I don’t approve of. He is a teenager, after all. But one thing hasn’t changed since elementary school – I still love dreaming up crazy stories in my head and putting them on paper for readers to hopefully enjoy.
That’s the happy ending in the story of Billy Beaver vs. the Unfortunately Neurotic Second Grader. Billy Beaver won.
If you want to read the rest of his guest posts on the other blogs, here are the links:
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