Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

06 February 2015

Writing A Book? Not me, no!

People often suggest that I write a book.  They think I know stuff or something that should be shared.  I disagree.  Not only has my career been pretty unremarkable, but I’m not really that good a writer.  And that is no false modesty.  I know how to string words together…but I’m not so good at the imagery; I’m just not that creative.  I'm okay with the mechanics of writing.  I could be a pretty decent book editor.

On the other hand, my friend, poet and fellow cabdriver, Terry – he is actually writing a book!  It’s a fun process to watch.

Terry is an incredible guy.  He’s about my age and twice divorced.  Like me, he should exercise more and has already spent decades pursuing a career in his field – in his case the automotive service industry.  When cutbacks forced him out he bought a taxi.  Now he’s his own boss, and loves it.  So we have a lot in common.  He is also a very spiritual, church-going man whose faith and convictions are strong.  He takes the Bible a little too literally for me, but that’s a small quibble, I suppose. 

Terry’s book is tentatively titled, “Broken Earth.”  It is a historical novel set at the very end of The Civil War, using real places and events.  A Yankee, Thomas who is an emissary of President Lincoln meets up with John, a Confederate soldier left for dead under a pile of bodies after a vicious battle – one of the last of the war. 

The two young men who normally would be enemies for reasons they did not fully comprehend meet up and hit it off.  They form an unlikely alliance as Thomas heads north to deliver a message to the president.  They arrive in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865 and check-in to the National Hotel where they bump into an actor named John Booth who happens to be appearing in a play later that night.  Booth gives them two tickets…

Terry has written over 100 pages so far.  He has expanded the story greatly in the manner of his literary heroes, Louis L’amour and Larry McMurtry.  Obviously, Terry loves those old west sagas.  And when I read his words they reflect the same style of writing, with the same level of character development and scene-setting as the established pros.  I’m interested to see where the story will go.  Terry hints that his characters will cross paths with Evangeline, she of Longfellow’s famous poem.

Terry has most of this already planned-out.  When he talks to me about the direction the book will take it is as if the characters are real people; he knows them that well.  And indeed, to him they are alive.

That’s the difference between Terry and me.  I can write about inanimate objects like helicopters, airplanes, cars and motorcycles.  I could write a pretty decent technical manual!  But I’m just not that good with people – either in person or in print, real or imagined.  I’m not that good at capturing moods, creating characters and their dialogue, and describing scenes that are easily visualized.  Those abilities are the mark of a real writer.  And Terry seems to have the knack, that gift of communication that transcends time and language.  I admit that I’m more than a little envious. 

Terry thinks I’ve “got a book” in me and constantly urges me to start writing it – just start!  But honest to God I don’t think I do.  I have no story burning inside of me waiting to be told.  They say that if you sat a monkey down at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time he’d eventually come up with “War and Peace.”  And those are the same odds as me writing a whole book.  I’m better at little blogposts and magazine articles.

I call myself a raconteur but I’m not, not really.  Not compared to guys like Terry, and Hal, and “other” Bob, and Debby who are really good writers who see things from a writer’s point of view and can easily translate that into words.  Me, I’m just a damn monkey flinging feces at a blank page in the misguided hope it results in something Tolstoyish.  I may never be him, just as I may never be Eric Clapton no matter how long I play and practice my guitar.  And I’m okay with that.

I will let you know how Terry’s book turns out.


Bob said...

I think I would like to read Terry's book. Thanks loads for the nice compliment - means a great deal coming from you.

I say that because over the past few years I have read your accounts of motorcycle riding, flying planes (or helicopters), drying cherries and now, driving a taxi. I have done none of these things but when I have read your narratives, I have felt as if I'm right there with you and almost had those experiences myself.

In my humble opinion, you're a storyteller. Maybe you don't have a book in you (although maybe you do) but by god you can tell a story. And that, my friend, is a gift.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I agree with Bob, now if that's not confusing enough I enjoy your short stories of life.
You have made me laugh and cry, maybe you are not a novel writer or a concert guitarist but you are a hell of a story teller and the world needs them. Your future shortest term impeached president Russell

Hal Johnson said...

Bob, I love ya man, but I must humbly suggest that you're full of shit. Your experiences as the son of a Marine aviator, a disk jockey, an air tour operator, an operations manager and EMS pilot off of an island in Honduras.

Oh yeah, what an *unremarkable* life and career.

By contrast, *I* have an unremarkable career. I went into the Army. I hired on with PHI. And now, I play music now and then.

You're a good writer. Your piece on what you love about flying is one of the best I've ever read. Maybe you're not the best at relating the interpersonal stuff, but you're funny, you write with economy, and you have a very strong sense of voice. Every writer has his or her strengths and weaknesses. That's what beta readers, and perhaps editors are for.

Hal Johnson said...

"Your experiences as the son of a Marine aviator, a disk jockey, an air tour operator, an operations manager and EMS pilot off of an island in Honduras."

Plus, I don't recall seeing you unintentionally leaving a fragment.

Sheesh. Hal might need a remedial writing course.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Hal: "Every writer has his or her strengths and weaknesses. That's what beta readers, and perhaps editors are for."

And there ya go! I *do* occasionally leave unintended fragments around. Fortunately I have a good editor ;)

But seriously, thank you for the kind words. But it is only because I read the words of really good writers that I am inspired to be better.