Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Best and Worst of Writing. Or, Why Am I Up At 3:45 a.m.?!?

This week's guest post is from Benjamin X. Wretlind, author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors (2011), Sketches from the Spanish Mustang (2012) and the upcomingA Difficult Mirror, as well as Regarding Dead Things on the Side of the Road, a collection of short stories. He is also the owner of the blog Drippings from the Mind of Me.

I asked Ben to give us his thoughts on the best and the worst he has ever done—as a writer. It could be about content, process or marketing his books. Ben?

Not too long ago, I read a post by Michael K. Rose, author of Sullivan’s War and Inner Lives. In the post Michael describes “A Morning in the Life of a Writer,” a tongue-in-cheek play-by-play of his writing process. There is distraction mixed with determination mixed with tea and Twitter. While humorous, the post made me think about two specific aspects of writing: what is good about it and what is bad about it.

In my world—which may or may not be filled with llamas dancing in Skittle-sprinkled fields and so what if it is?—writing has been a cathartic exercise. While I write to expose seeds of thought to the sun and see what grows, I also write with a hope that I will succeed. What we define as success is different (as I mentioned in one of my recent blog posts and will expand upon in another), but we all have a goal in mind. Is our success the completion of a story? Is it a landslide of money? Is our success the release of our art to the world, art that will be judged, praised or ignored? Whatever it is that defines your success, mine is two-fold: completion and metamorphosis.

This is the “good.” By setting a bar, I have created a challenge. Since I love challenges, simply attempting to write a story is a good thing. It’s what I really love about writing. I’ve never been afraid to expose my art to the world. I relish feedback, whether good or bad. I seek validation, even if I hate the word validation. I want to know I can start, work on and then complete a story. Knowing I can water that seed of an idea into a full-grown plant is a good thing.

I also love metamorphasis, change, the installation of thought. What I’m talking about is the notion that my art can make a person think. When I see a review that starts with “I’ve been thinking about this story for a few days...” I know I’ve made an impact in someone’s life. Does the depth of impact matter? No. It could be as simple as “the dust eels stuck with me for a day” or as striking as “I have a different outlook on how we stereotype and I feel like I should do something about it.” If we can pass on our seed of an idea to the reader, they can grow it themselves into whatever magical plant they come up with. We installed a thought. We changed them. Metamorphosis occurred and no one had to turn into an insect because of it.

Isn’t writing awesome?

Yes, well, there are some things that just suck corn flakes out of a vacuum cleaner, aren’t there—things like marketing, research, social interaction, finding a quiet place to write, etc.?I won’t dwell on them, but let me just say this: there’s a reason I get up at 3:45 in the morning. It’s not because I leave for work at 5 a.m. It’s not because I’m a morning person or because I like watching the sun rise and the way it paints Pikes Peak in hues of gold and orange and yellow and purple. It’s not even because I get my best ideas right after being jolted awake from a dream by some alarm clock.


The reason I get up at 3:45 every morning is this: I have five kids. When do you think it’s most quiet in the house? You want to germinate the seed of idea? Don’t do it when kids are stomping around looking for those corn flakes.


  1. Wow, five kids is a lot. Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading it, Ben. Scott, I enjoy what you're doing with this blog. It feels nice and settled.

  2. Rising to write in the pre-kiddie dawn is a well-established and honorable practice in the profession. More power to you!

  3. Oh my, 3:45 in the morning? I'm just falling asleep about that time. Though with five kids that truly would be the best time to write. Anyway, Scott, I like your blog. As for Ben, I'm always interested in what you have to say.