The Accidental Author – Episode Two

In the window above is the next installment of The Accidental Author, some real heartfelt confessions in this one plus an homage to one of the finest authors living today. If you missed episode one, click here.

The Precocious Writer

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I am a big fan of precocious children, you know, that point right before they become judgmental teens. When you can still have a fun, multisyllabic conversation without them interrupting the moment, looking down for a text message.

What happens? How does an engaging, surprisingly aware 7 to 10 year-old, firing off word use and ideas in a seemingly random fashion, with each truly important to them, change with the onset of social puberty? Why do these wonderfully rich observations and conversations children have with inanimate objects or real people, disappear? In a mysterious way that an adult could never understand, these creative impulses are thematically connected to a stream of consciousness that makes total sense to their internal logic.

If you haven’t guessed yet, this blog was written right after Thanksgiving and the temporary immersion into family that comes along with Turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. However, copious amounts and second helpings of Tryptophan cannot diminish the fascination I have with these young minds, situationally aware, yet full of imagination and not inhibited at all. Hence the delightful conversations which if attempted with a texting-teen would take 3 times as long as you pull teeth to get more than one word answers, i.e. “yes, no, what-ever, maybe, I duuno, yeah.”

What do I get out of all this? A method to spark creativity and a model to emulate. The precocious child is the essence of creativity and observation, without filters or the self-consciousness that later in life devolves our ability down to “safe,” tried and true methods of not taking any risks in conversation or our writing.

I was once involved in an effort to foster a better path to creativity and curiosity for young minds. It reversed the normal paradigm of teaching writing (creativity) to elementary school kids. That being; to let their minds go, unfettered by grammar spelling and the traffic cop adherence that stresses form over content. This resulted in more mental exercising, yielding stronger, more elaborate and involved concepts.

This was not just simply a matter of flipping the old way around to see what happened, instead it was based on a study that seemed to indicate that at early ages, mental activity and imagination are forming and active, yet the ability to grasp structure and grammatical laws actually develops later in life. So it is an educational model that better fits the natural expansion of the human brain.

This to me is a great lesson to writers, be as free with your thoughts, observations and conversations as a 7 year old. Resist the grown up internal governors that stop or stem a creative arc before it’s left the barn. Allow imagination to once again rule the roost. Be fearless in the reality that, in the end, they are all imaginary characters anyway, and not bound by physics, logic or flesh and bone. You can always find a “grown up” to clean up the grammar, usage and punctuation later – (and pay them well for it!)

When you shouldn’t write…

I get a lot of people inside government, the scientific community and law enforcement agencies who “tell” me things off the record. You know, “You didn’t hear this from me but…”

Well, last week I got a tip on something, I’ll call it “Installation X,” a really good piece of reality that would make a beautiful plot point and revelation. For me revelation is as important as a tight story. I use “fiction” in my books to plant a few seeds on things that governments and media soft pedal or aggressively ignore into obliteration.

So I get this information that I could center my entire 4th book on. A juicy, real, almost unbelievable fact that I can fictionalize. Except, last week I got a note that asked I forget what I was told. The reason? Apparently, it’s hotter than even the person who shared it with me thought it was.

Professional dilemma: respect my source or go for it? Well, I decided to not only respect my source but also join into the spirit of our national secrets, which is mainly to keep them secret. So I took a deep breath and moved on. This happened with my first book, when I deduced, based on available technology, a technological process that could protect the President. I “made it up” and wrote it into my story. Then a person who was a protector of POTUS asked me to “not go there.” Fair enough. I broomed it for the sake of Presidential security and my acquaintance, and the folks he works with, lives. Easy decision… then.

Two days ago, I met a guy who tells me almost the whole “Installation X” story! Now this guy is a new source. I could go with his version of the events and situation since he so far has not asked me to forget it. (He may not be as in the loop as my original source.) But that would just be a way around what I said I wouldn’t do to my original source and my own feeling of obligation to the men an women who risk their lives carrying out our nation’s security that has to be done in secret.

So no. I am still not going to go near this thing. I will however scour the Internet, go to the library and see if any of this can be open sourced. Meaning if it’s already out there and thus I won’t be jeopardizing a source or my country. Although I hope it’s not.