Our youngest son spent the holidays with us. It was a welcome respite from the remote communications we’ve been practicing for the duration of the pandemic.
He’s been leading a fairly solitary life downstate, spending a lot of time reading and honing his cooking skills. His employer is strict about pandemic protocols, and in his particular job he has zero contact with the public, little contact with co-workers and is required to wear what — in my amateur understanding — amounts to a hazmat suit.
We were careful to practice social distancing when he was home. Despite the physical precautions, it was wonderful to spend time with him.
He and I share an interest in writing. While my career has been steeped in journalism, he aims to spend his lifetime making movies.
The pandemic has delayed his career progress. He earned a degree in video production, has crewed on several projects, and has his own page on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. But COVID-19 pulled the curtains on a lot of film production activity. To get by until things again open up, the young man landed on his feet with a good job that pays the bills.
His mind, though, remains solidly in the filmmaking world. He’s constantly jotting down ideas about plots, characters, settings, situations and action.
I was delighted during the holidays to chat with him — from six feet away — about our thoughts on writing fiction.
I’ve made my living writing nonfiction. But there’s a long tradition of journalists becoming authors, and the idea has crossed my mind.
Daily immersion in interviews with all kinds of people in all sorts of situations allows journalists a glimpse into a wider world. We see people at their best and at their worst, in moments of joy, frustration and sorrow. We bear witness to people who behave in ways that warm our hearts, shock us and make us ponder the human condition.
Journalists observe and report. That triggers the imaginations of some journalists and makes them want to write novels. The occasional rare talent makes it big — Carl Hiassen, for example, or Mark Twain. Plenty of other journalists who make the career jump to novelist achieve less than success. But the emotional pull to attempt the leap can be magnetic.
My son and I over the holidays had several chats about writing. He shared ideas he’s been developing for films. I shared ideas about novels that have been bouncing around inside my head.
We found common ground — and plenty of territory on which we agreed to disagree. Our conversations were exercises in exploring each others’ thoughts about character behavior, story arc, plot elements.
He and I are coming at the creative process from different perspectives.
He’s just beginning his journey in adult life. I’m past my prime. He’s young and excited to explore the whole world. I’m old, but still excited to explore interesting parts of the world. He wants to see everything everywhere. I’ve bounced around a bit and have learned what I want to focus on during my remaining time.
He’s confidently striding knee deep through a sea of ideas for the big screen. I’m wallowing waist deep in a swamp of ideas for the printed page.
I suspect his youthful enthusiasm will carry him far. My middle-aged enthusiasm may eventually result in a novel, or it may not — and either outcome is OK with me. I’m just happy to enjoy the creative process.
Spending time with my son revved up my author juices. But today a nonfiction deadline looms, so the novel will need to wait for another day.