Perception and Priority

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by Travis Richardson

 

 

The end of the year is nigh! Yesterday was winter solstice, the darkest part of the winter. My wife and I saw the sunset from my in-laws’ Vegas timeshare.

Winter solstice sunset in south Las Vegas.

Winter solstice sunset in south Las Vegas.

 

There’s something about the desert – endless sand and scrub brush – that doesn’t seem very Christmassy. In America we’ve been conditioned through decades of marketing to expect snow-covered hamlets with wreaths hanging on every front door and a warm glowing fire crackling within each home. Christmases like that do exist and I’ve been fortunate to have a few white Christmases in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t happen for everybody. It doesn’t mean other people are doing Christmas wrong, it is just different.

The same can be said about the stereotypical image of a writer hunkered down at a manual typewriter, cigarette hanging from the corner of one mouth, a bottle of booze nearby and crumpled up paper on the floor. This antiquated image may have been replaced by the newer stereotype of a hyper-caffeinated keyboard puncher gazing at their laptop in a Starbucks while sipping a grande mochaccino latte with an extra shot of espresso. Again, this image is true for some of us, but not all. Many writers have day jobs, families, and other commitments that make either stereotype hard to maintain even if you’re trying to achieve the image.

While there are no fixed rules, I think it is safe to say that the substance you write trumps any image you can convey of being a serious writer. Of course there are exceptions, especially when I think of art. It should be the work that matters, however it is achieved (in underwear at the kitchen counter, a notebook at a truckstop, during a lunch break at work, etc.). Marketing may come around later, but having a quality product that people want to read should be your paramount priority. Just as Christmas is not about being in the perfect Hallmark location, it is about being with family and friends, sharing quality time with them.

How do you feel about the perception of being a writer versus the reality?

Wishing you a merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy New Year!

 

 

 

Travis Richardson is fortunate to have been nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity short story awards for “Incident on the 405,” featured in MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in several online zines and anthologies. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime LA newsletter, reviews Chekhov shorts at www.chekhovshorts.com and sometimes shoots a short movie. His latest novella is KEEPING THE RECORD. www.tsrichardson.com

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PS. Travis’ last published short story of the year, “A Village Called Eden,” appeared yesterday in the pulp genre anthology Dark Corners, Vol. 1, Issue 2.

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9 Responses to Perception and Priority

  1. katewyland says:

    Oddly, neither of your images resonate with me. Perhaps it’s because I worked as a writer – technical manuals and articles – for enough years that it became rather mundane. Some venues and times work better for me than others. Used to love writing on my yellow pads first thing in the morning. Now I fit it in on my computer whenever works best. Have friends who love to do the coffee shop thing, but I seem to need more quiet when I’m trying to be creative.
    Fun post. Great picture.

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  2. Doris says:

    The idea of a “White Christmas” has never worked since I moved to Colorado. If anything the weathermen will try to say there is a possibility, but always have to back off, which is fine with me. I also think the ‘writer’ is as varied as our thoughts. The story is the thing.

    I shall have to share this. Doris

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  3. Neva Bodin says:

    Your post made me smile. We do have stereotypical images of writers and artists, both things I strive to be. I love proofing my writing in a coffee house. I can tune out the extraneous noise better than the many tasks (washing, cooking, sweeping, organizing) that call out to me in the home. And while typewriters make me feel nostalgic, I am so glad they are passe and I have my laptop! And true, Christmas is about the story, the why of Christmas, which transcends my need for snow etc.

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  4. I have just been watching the news and they are interviewing the man who was behind the Oscar Meyer Weiner ads. The ads he wrote that were produced and drilled into every television watcher’s head is that Oscar Meyer Weiners are the best. So we became conditioned to believe that, especially when shopping and your children are all clamoring for that particular brand. Perception is all in the way we see things but there is always a lot of pressure vying for our attention. When I moved to Florida years ago I was sad when Christmas rolled around, no snow, no snowmen, and definitely not what I was used to. When I began to really look at what was around me and enjoy the beautiful tropical decorations intermixed with our traditional ornaments and displays I realized Christmas is Christmas wherever you are, it just takes a bit of getting used to the change. Thanks for an informative post!

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  5. Nancy Jardine says:

    Travis- I grew up with Victorian English snowy Christmas scenes, stereotypically from advertising of the day- even though Christmas Day wasn’t a holiday in Scotland back in the 1950s and 1960s. But Scotland having the variations of weather that we do have, often meant we DID have snow on 25th Dec. and when we do have snow on Christmas Day it ‘seems’ to matter more to us (power of suggestion? ). Christmas is more Christmassy whether or not we are religiously inclined. Writers can be very much ‘in the moment’ people and can vie for immediate attention by writing what is ‘hot and current’. Many are very successful for a ‘blip’ moment but few, I think, write in such a way that they are considered to transcend the years and become artists whose work is long lasting and read over the decades.
    (ps I had a Christmas break a few years ago in Malta in the Mediterannean, which was hot for December, and I found the experience quite weird. Feeling out of place sunning on the beach and swimming in warm seas was so contrary to what I was used to …And that has to be CONDITIONING! 😉 )

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  6. Wranglers says:

    Nice photos Travis! Merry Christmas. Mike Staton is in your neck of the woods right now. We spent one Christmas in Yuma and 80 degrees did not seem like Christmas, but I think it was mostly because we didn’t have any family there. I do love snow Christmas or not. LOL, but I also love tropic. Cher’ley

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  7. Wranglers says:

    BTW, it’s usually cold here this time of year and today it will be 60+. Cher’ley

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  8. I’ve said for years I could decorate a Saguaro cactus just as easily as a pine tree, and I hope to be able to do that one day! Love the imagery in your post, Travis, and I am looking forward to hunching over my keyboard this holiday season and working on the books I have in various stages of copy array. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you!

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  9. sstamm625 says:

    I think the image of the writer can get very romanticized, whereas the reality is much more mundane–frequently, as you say, with a day job and other commitments and then fitting in the writing time. But the dedication to the work–however that work looks for us–is necessary to bring life to the creations we envision. And I’d agree that the creating (and then the polishing) is what really counts.

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