Today I have a wonderful treat for you. The awesome and virtuous Jeff Wheeler, father of the Muirwood epic fantasy series, has visited my blog. Jeff is a truly inspiring human, a champion of goodness, and a brilliant storyteller. And I’m honored to have him here. Please check out his blog to learn more about this hugely successful writer.
Writing is a Solitary Ritual
By Jeff Wheeler
My parents often repeated the proverb that “Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.” I’m not sure if writing is a gene that is part of my DNA or a mental illness, but whatever the case may be, my teenage daughter has started down the journey of being a writer. Watching her crave feedback from friends and family members brings back a lot of memories.
What I don’t have the heart to tell her (for fear of snuffing out the spark) is that writing is very much a solitary ritual. I’ve spent many hours, sometimes driving in my car, sometimes staring out the window, living in the worlds inside my head. As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient. I’m still writing Book 3 of Mirrowen. You’ll get a turn someday. Maybe after the next Muirwood trilogy is finished.
Then there is the act of writing itself. Sometimes I’m in a hotel room on a business trip. Sometimes it’s on a plane. Most of the time, it’s in my den at home, door closed, white-noise machine hushing in the background to drown out the ambient sounds that invariably distract my concentration. When I’m in the “flow” of the moment, it’s like I’m breathing words onto the page as if an unseen muse sat behind my chair whispering the next line and then the next. Though I’m totally alone yet I feel that I’m inside the world I’m creating.
As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient.
Then, of course, there is the lonely editing process. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, I pore over the manuscript, using my instincts to snip a word here or substitute one there. I do very little re-writing afterwards. Even when the comments from my editors arrive, it’s a lonely path, sifting through the proper use of English grammar that still, to this day, baffles me. I’m forever grateful for the English majors whose job it is to know the difference between who’s, whose, and whom.
Then there is the patient (or not so patient) waiting of months from the time the book is finished, edited, arranged, narrated, before my readers even get to see the first words. By then, I’m knee-deep in my next creation, teasing out the conclusion of a trilogy or crafting the plot of a new one.
This sense of aloneness was put into a new light for me. I was recently at a week-long management workshop in Portland, Oregon. Some of the guest speakers included a senior manager at my company who climbed to the top of Mt Everest. He described reaching the summit and seeing a black sky, because he was up beyond the atmosphere. It was like touching a void. Another tale came from a a woman who talked about running the switchbacks of the Grand Canyon. While these feats are done in teams and often with fellow-travelers, the journey is inherently a lonely one. These are experiences that happen not just to the body, but also inside the mind. It reminded me of my experience as a writer and how much of it is mentally pushing myself forward.
There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book.
The other day, I swapped e-mails with another writer—a peer who jousts with me on the Amazon rankings. He had just finished the final book of his series. There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book. It was a poignant moment, a shared sense of the solitary rituals we writers experience.
As I watch my daughter intently scribbling more words in her composition book, I have to smile. She’s just starting her journey and living inside her head.
Jeff Wheeler is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write. His books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Wheeler/e/B004SBCEK6
More information about how he became a writer is found on his website: