And I do write that way. I smile at the content of other people’s stories and novels and films, because everything is so far removed from the things that matter in life. It’s fun for me, in that context, to do just the opposite, to take huge, immense, enormous Greek stories and condense them down to a single conversation. Screenwriters, in particular, can tell you how much back-story I burn up with every Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story.
Here’s the part that’s most fun for me: What I’m doing is easy. The philosophical issues are settled art for me, at least for now, so making the link from a ship’s captain to fatherhood, defending the law of agency without ever mentioning it by name, is duck soup. But the rest of the work is, too, building a big story from little stories, with each one of those stories standing easily on its own, birthing characters I admire enough to want to see them again, crafting little turns of phrase that hook their way into your mind and linger there, gnawing away at you. This level of clarity comes and goes, but I’ve been at the top of my game for three years, and everything comes easily to me now.
But I owe a trick to Desdemona, too. She was an English Coon Hound bitch we used to have, the most ruggedly-individualistic dog I have ever known. Like all hounds, she lived by the nose, but she was smart enough to let the smells come to her, instead of always trying to hunt them down. She would stand rigidly still in our back yard with her nose facing west and let the breezes bring the world to her.
I work Desdemona’s way. I always have. I write perfect draft, as much as I can, and I get there by never forcing anything; I just wait for the words to come to me fully-formed and fully-armed. And I wait for the stories, and the arguments undergirding the stories, in the same way. I don’t write anything before I know the whole story, and I always write the ending first. I tweak, tweak, tweak endlessly once I’m done, hundreds of word changes in the first few days of the life of a story, but all the ways writers have found of making themselves crazy while getting nothing done — I don’t do those things.
The payoff for all that waiting? The stories just pour out of me, a thousand words an hour, sometimes half-again faster. Everything I’ve written that I love was done that way — a child of the mind that tore its way out of my body in a crazed, sweat-soaked frenzy. When I wait for an idea, when I give it the time and nourishment it needs, I can make things that should last for five hundred years.
The stories I’m calling The Naso Diaries stand at about twenty-thousand words as I write this, half or a little less of the first book of these yarns. I think they’re really coming along. If you’re desperate for yet-another-chase-scene, seek elsewhere. But more or less despite himself, Willie is putting together a thoroughgoing defense of ideas of love, most especially storge, the never-mentioned fourth love of the Greeks, the durable love of families.
From the PHP file linked below (which means that this post will change dynamically as I add new stories to the collection), you can sample from the Naso Diaries I’ve written so far.
The Naso Diaries – These stories will be collected into a book in due course. See them here now and watch them evolve…
- Remembering everyday heroes in a world at war with heroism.
- Taster’s Choice, for the richest kind of love-making in your marriage.
- Making men out of boys by breaking all the rules.
- Love and loyalty: Why I want for my dog to die in Sun City.
- Telling long stories about other people’s nightmares — for Father’s Day.
- Lies all the way down: Ventilating Uncle Willie’s Father’s Day funk.
- “When you chase a kitten away, she never comes back to you.”
- Dig this shit: “The opposite of anarchy is warfare, and the war is on at Duffeeland Dog Park.”
- Doing The Union Shuffle: Black humor is never funny. It’s just funnier than extermination.
- Love me, hate me, I don’t mind. I can work with anything except indifference.
- Living the dream of an everyday perfect love…
- Singing the death of my Nasogirl at a Sun City garden party.
- The perfect life and beautiful death of a gangly little mermaid.
I hate everything about the publishing business starting with the word ‘submit.’ I detest the idea of begging for attention. Even so: If you know someone these stories could enlighten, ennoble, inflame or horrify, be a friend to everyone involved and share them.