Saturday, February 28, 2015

Goodreads question #5: What is the best thing about being a writer?

Victor D. Lopez Freedom. We can write about the world as it is, or as we would like it to be. We can choose to describe, catalog, and explain the rules of an orderly universe or scatter them to the wind and reorder the world in any internally consistent system that our minds can devise where magic works, aliens live among us, ghosts interact with the living, faster than light travel is possible, and justice prevails. Best of all, we can share our vision with the world and connect with like-minded strangers who are willing to come along for the ride. We can entertain, frighten, stimulate, enlighten, and move readers with our words as they share for a time our version of reality and expand our vision with their own imagination, breathing life to the characters we create, providing depth, color, texture well beyond our words in a collaboration of our joined imaginations.

Freedom. Joy. The ability to transcend the limitations of the body and the frailty and short-lived nature of the flesh. The privilege to touch others and bring them into our imaginary worlds. That is what is best about being a writer for me. I will never be a best selling author. My writing, at least my fiction and poetry, will never bring me the tangible rewards that could justify the time and effort I devote to my craft. The intangible rewards, however, are truly priceless.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Goodreads question # 4: How do you deal with writer's block?

Victor D. Lopez Writer's block has never been a significant issue for me, but like all writers there are times when words simply won't flow. If I stare at a blank screen or reread previous pages in an attempt to force the issue, it only results in frustration. So I get up. make myself a cup of coffee or tea, grab a piece of fruit, or even turn on the news, answer emails or browse the web for a little while. Taking my conscious mind off writing allows me to mentally reboot. Ten minutes later, or perhaps an hour or two, I'm able to get back to work and almost always enter once more into a state of "flow" where the world disappears and I can write with few interruptions until the next bump in the road (or bleary eyes) forces me to step back again.

I have the good fortune to choose what I write about. Writing fiction or poetry (when I can spare the time) is always simply a joy. I completed my last published short story (Mars: genesis 2.0) while in Spain last summer in the wee hours of the morning on my father in law-s kitchen on a cheap tablet with an even cheaper, too-small keyboard/case over a three day period. No problem there other than sleep interfering with the process.

My non-fiction, which is overwhelmingly where I live as a writer, is different. My research agenda currently has about a dozen different topics in various stages of research. The paper I'm currently researching and writing consists of a 12-page table with about 260 footnotes and that's just general background--the paper itself will be built on the foundation of that research but has a long way to go before it is completed. Months of research that is painstaking and, frankly, sometimes quite dull, no matter how important the subject, are required just to get me to the point where I can begin writing the paper, taking many coffee breaks and rounds of grazing while working on the task. But no matter how tedious, difficult and painstaking the process may be for any given project, the end product always makes the process worthwhile. If nobody read what I write, I would still soldier on. Nothing else compares with the satisfaction of creating something that did not exist before, be it fiction or non-fiction. The world is renewed, re-envisioned, remade anew through that process for both writer and reader. Nothing beats that!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Goodreads Question #3: How do you get inspired to write?

Victor D. Lopez I find inspiration from everyday life, dreams, books, movies, the news (often the source of my darkest fiction and poetry), friends, science . . . from everywhere. I almost never sit and think about a new idea for a book, poem, or, for that matter, blog post. Inspiration is all around us if we are open to it. The person sitting across from us on the subway has a real story to her life, but also my imagined story based on how she looks, what she is wearing, her expression, her bearing, how others around her react, and so on. Every homeless person pushing a cart through brownish snow in a dark alleyway on Christmas Eve has a story--his real story, yes, but also the imagined back story as I walk by. He is poetry in motion, though not of the facile sugar coated kind; he is a protagonist in an unwritten novel whose past and future will reveal themselves to us and to our readers if we give him wings and let him fly. The inebriated alcoholic at Noon on a Tuesday who offers a stranger a swig of wine from a bottle in a stained brown paper bag has a story, as does the man who takes the bag, drinks from the bottle and hands it back to him with a smile (a true observation--the man who took the offered drink was a close friend of mine and remains so, though he is a continent away today). If we keep an open mind and a receptive heart inspiration is never a problem. Finding the time to give life to the inspiration all around us is the challenge for me, and I suspect for most of us who have demanding day jobs and personal responsibilities that never leave us with enough time to pursue our passion.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Goodreads question #2: What are you currently working on?

Victor D. Lopez I'm conducting research in preparation for a scholarly article that examines the usury laws in all 50 states in order to determine whether they provide sufficient protection against unscrupulous lenders or whether it may be time for some federal regulation of high-interest consumers loans such as payday loans. I hope to begin writing the actual paper in December once my research is completed and hope to present a draft copy of the paper at an academic conference next spring or summer and submit it for publication in appropriate law reviews and/or refereed journals. I've recently committed to a major revision and update of one of my current textbooks, Business Law and the Legal Environment of Business (Textbook Media Press 2010), which will be released in its third edition early in 2015. That is a major project for me over the next 10 months along with my regular research agenda that now includes some dozen legal topics in various preliminary stages of research.

This morning I woke from a dream that will likely result in a new short story for the next edition of my short story collection. A few themes are also percolating for new poems but I am not yet emotionally ready to approach these.

Goodreads question: What's your advice for aspiring writers?

Goodreads asked Victor D. Lopez:

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Victor D. Lopez Read widely but write in your own voice. Learn from your favorite authors but never try to walk in their shoes. Let your readers see the world through your own eyes and hear the music of your own voice.

Learn to take constructive criticism well; it will make you a better writer. Learn to ignore destructive criticism; it is intended to hurt, not help, and reflects poorly only on the character, motives and antisocial nature of the critic. But learn also to be mindful that harsh criticism is sometimes warranted and dismissing it will only prevent you from improving your craft.

Expect rejection letters and resist the impulse to dismiss them off hand. Some editors will take the time to make helpful comments if they see merit in your writing; it is a kindness on their part to offer advice, constructive criticism or encouragement. They have better things to do than to comment on rejected works. Appreciate these comments and take them as a compliment--someone cared enough to give you expert advice that, if heeded, might help you make a sale when you revise and resubmit the manuscript elsewhere. (But first, write a thank you note to the editor that offered advice or helpful comments.)

Stand your ground when you feel strongly about your writing. Nothing that has ever been written by anyone has garnered universal appeal. If you have something worthy of being said, you will strike a responsive chord with some readers. You will also likely strike a dissonant chord with others. You need only read the reviews of top writers in Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere to see that this is the case for all writers if they are popular enough to garner thousands of reviews--just look at the one-star reviews that they were given by those who bought their books along side the glowing five star reviews.

You can't please everyone--no one can. First and foremost, make sure you please yourself while maintaining a healthy, honest critical eye on your own writing--the rest will follow in time.