Tag: Heinlein

500 Words From Heinlein

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

I lie. Not all 500 of these words come to you from the pen of Robert A. Heinlein. But most of them will. Mostly because, after several years, I once again picked up (or, in this case, began listening to) The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, a seminal book of my early teen years and the one that pushed me towards this writing business in which I engage.

… I have this one nasty habit. Makes me hard to live with. I write …

At the moment, writing is not my primary profession. But it’s always there. In the back of my mind, a prodding need persists. I’m a storyteller. I have to tell stories. It’s a basic imperative, like my need to eat and breathe and gallivant as urbanely, responsibly, and respectfully as possible. Those things cost, and writing, at least in the stage I linger at, does not pay.

… writing is a legal way of avoiding work without actually stealing and one that doesn’t take any talent or training.

I’m in a perpetual state of “I’m working on it,” with a few projects. I am, hopefully, in a place where I can carve out more time to do it. And none too soon, because it’s really started to bug me.

… writing is antisocial. It’s as solitary as masturbation. Disturb a writer when he is in the throes of creation and he is likely to turn and bite right to the bone … and not even know that he’s doing it. As writers’ wives and husbands often learn to their horror …

I of course am not so ignorant as to blame my writing for the skeletons hanging in my closet. My mental illness and prior emotional instability were the impetus for several bad decisions, but as any storyteller would tell you, a good character becomes aware of their shortcomings, and seeks to overcome them. So it is with me. And yet, if writing is a shortcoming, I do not seek to overcome it.

In a household with more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears …

If nothing else, writing is a way for me to express my emotions in a safe environment. The lines of journals become a padded room. And as plotlines and characters take shape and grow over the course of my writing, parts of myself and my experiences and emotions flow into them. I have professional therapists — and a battery of medications and vitamins — but my pen, perhaps, is the best tool for how I continue to get better.

Besides…

There is no way to stop. Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary … because it hurts less to write than it does not to write.

Indeed.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

From the Vault: Why I Write

I know a couple people on the lookout for writing advice, and in lieu of coming up with anything new and grasping for profound language, I’m just going to tell them (and remind myself) of why I write. This was originally posted two years ago. Enjoy!


If you ask a writer for advice, quite a few of them will simply tell you to read. I’m reading the second novel in A Song of Ice and Fire and I may start the new year with a fresh read of Lord of the Rings. I also read articles on Fark and the Escapist. I know I’ve said it’s important for writers to pitch and keep pitching, and as much as I have ideas for articles, I don’t know if I have just the right mix of time and acumen to give the Escapist exactly what they’re looking for.

I write fiction. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was young.

As a writer, reading also is a means for us to recharge. After A Clash of Kings I plan on reading The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for the first time. Not only am I a fan of Heinlein, he’s the reason I started writing fiction in the first place and decided it was what would drive me in life.

Courtesy Ace Publishing

I’ve written on Heinlein several times, and even reviewed the one film adaptation of Starship Troopers. But the book that affected me the most deeply was The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I had a copy of my fathers’ that I read a few times, and I wish I knew where it was. That’s a book that needs to be read again.

For the most part, it’s part hard science-fiction, part rumination on the nature of myth. As the story goes on, the sci-fi bits fade into the background as the ruminations grow. The concept of every myth being true, the erasure of characters and the part those characters play even when they’re aware of being part of a myth grabbed hold of my twelve-year-old brain and didn’t let go. But it was this, at the very end, that completely overwhelmed me.

“Who was writing our story? Was he going to let us live? Anyone who would kill a baby kitten is cruel, mean cruel. Whoever you are, I hate you. I despise you!”

Now, a lot of the novel is admittedly forgettable. I want to read it again to see if that’s because I was young and had even less retention than I do now, or if there’s just a lot of filler in there. But the concept, the idea that worlds created by the writer of fiction are, in some way shape or form, real – that stuck with me. I put the book down and knew, on a deep level, I wanted to write stories like that for the rest of my life.

I’ve lost sight of that goal, for varying reasons to varying degrees, multiple times over the last two decades. It’s been there, in the back of my mind, sometimes growling at my ignoring it and sometimes screaming at me to get my shit together. I’m at a point where I can’t not have a day job, but I’ve wasted enough time not writing. I need to work a steady job to keep myself and my family fed, housed and clothed, but I also need to keep writing. Hence the Free Fiction, the blogging and the stubborn refusal to return to a car-based commute. I can’t write and drive at the same time.

I write to create these new worlds and populate them with characters that other people can understand, relate to and maybe even sympathize with. I write to not necessarily change lives but to provide a means of escape. I write because, in the end, it makes me come alive like nothing else ever has. When I’m creating stories, I’m in a mental place that can be difficult for me to reach under other circumstances. It’s a place where my energy is being focused in a way that both invigorates and calms me. And it’s possible that the results of this creativity will be something other people can enjoy, something that helps them forget about their troubles and lay their burdens down, if just for a little while.

I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but it bears repeating, if only as a reminder to myself.

Why I Write

If you ask a writer for advice, quite a few of them will simply tell you to read. I’m reading the second novel in A Song of Ice and Fire and I may start the new year with a fresh read of Lord of the Rings. I also read articles on Fark and the Escapist. I know I’ve said it’s important for writers to pitch and keep pitching, and as much as I have ideas for articles, I don’t know if I have just the right mix of time and acumen to give the Escapist exactly what they’re looking for.

I write fiction. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was young.

As a writer, reading also is a means for us to recharge. After A Clash of Kings I plan on reading The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for the first time. Not only am I a fan of Heinlein, he’s the reason I started writing fiction in the first place and decided it was what would drive me in life.

Courtesy Ace Publishing

I’ve written on Heinlein several times, and even reviewed the one film adaptation of Starship Troopers. But the book that affected me the most deeply was The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I had a copy of my fathers’ that I read a few times, and I wish I knew where it was. That’s a book that needs to be read again.

For the most part, it’s part hard science-fiction, part rumination on the nature of myth. As the story goes on, the sci-fi bits fade into the background as the ruminations grow. The concept of every myth being true, the erasure of characters and the part those characters play even when they’re aware of being part of a myth grabbed hold of my twelve-year-old brain and didn’t let go. But it was this, at the very end, that completely overwhelmed me.

“Who was writing our story? Was he going to let us live? Anyone who would kill a baby kitten is cruel, mean cruel. Whoever you are, I hate you. I despise you!”

Now, a lot of the novel is admittedly forgettable. I want to read it again to see if that’s because I was young and had even less retention than I do now, or if there’s just a lot of filler in there. But the concept, the idea that worlds created by the writer of fiction are, in some way shape or form, real – that stuck with me. I put the book down and knew, on a deep level, I wanted to write stories like that for the rest of my life.

I’ve lost sight of that goal, for varying reasons to varying degrees, multiple times over the last two decades. It’s been there, in the back of my mind, sometimes growling at my ignoring it and sometimes screaming at me to get my shit together. I’m at a point where I can’t not have a day job, but I’ve wasted enough time not writing. I need to work a steady job to keep myself and my family fed, housed and clothed, but I also need to keep writing. Hence the Free Fiction, the blogging and the stubborn refusal to return to a car-based commute. I can’t write and drive at the same time.

I write to create these new worlds and populate them with characters that other people can understand, relate to and maybe even sympathize with. I write to not necessarily change lives but to provide a means of escape. I write because, in the end, it makes me come alive like nothing else ever has. When I’m creating stories, I’m in a mental place that can be difficult for me to reach under other circumstances. It’s a place where my energy is being focused in a way that both invigorates and calms me. And it’s possible that the results of this creativity will be something other people can enjoy, something that helps them forget about their troubles and lay their burdens down, if just for a little while.

I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but it bears repeating, if only as a reminder to myself.

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