Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Guest Author: John Vorhaus

Guest author John Vorhaus has visited here before. The guy's prolific, with six novels to his name and a plethora of other books besides. Here, a sample of John's eloquence:

The Search for Purpose is the Purpose

Having just finished writing my latest novel, Poole’s Paradise, an Imperfect Search for Purpose, I now find that writing a novel can be like carving a sculpture. You start with too much and keep chipping away – “squeezing out the stupid” as I called it – until what’s left can be called an artistic, as opposed to literary, work. See, the big difference between writers and artists is that writers expect to get edited. We let agents and editors stand in judgment of our work, and make changes according to their notes. Artists don’t get notes. They sculpt until the sculpting is done, then they put down their tools. I understand that writing and art are not the same – not the same process, not always the same intent – but I think that writers would be better off if they trusted their vision more. Poole’s Paradise, ferociously sculpted and rigorously self-edited, has taught me to trust mine.

Because here’s the thing: When you decide that no one will make your choices but you, you take on a responsibility to be clear-eyed and very demanding of your own work. I hated Poole’s Paradise for 14 of the 15 months it took to write, but I kept getting rid of what didn’t work and ultimately came to love what was left. I found the sculpture inside the stone, then I put down my tools.

And picked up other ones. Now I’m marketing the work, and I hate that part of the process like a cat hates baths. But what are you going to do? Since I write “artisanal novels,” it’s hard to get heard above the din of social media, and it’s up to no one but me to put energy into making that happen. Frankly, I’d rather be writing, but the reality for most novelists in our time is that we have to do it ourselves.

So then, one might wonder, why do it all? The answer is “legacy,” an issue of no small concern to every writer I know. We only have these few frail years of our lifespans in which to make our mark, and we have no way of knowing which part of our mark will last. My plan is to download as much as I can from the ephemeral vessel of my brain into the slightly less ephemeral vessels of the page or the e-page, for the simple reason that if my thoughts die inside my brain, they do no one any damn good. If it sounds like I’m thinking about “higher purpose,” I guess I am. I believe that each of us is a steward to our DNA, and that our job in this life is to honor that stewardship as we see fit. Sharing my wisdom in ways that help people’s lives rise is how I fulfil my stewardship. This makes me in no way special – everyone has wisdom and everyone can share it if they choose.

So here’s the wisdom of Poole’s Paradise as I understand it: Purpose comes when it comes. If you feel like you haven’t found yours, that’s totally okay, because while you’re searching for purpose, the search for purpose is your purpose. If you find that idea resonant, I think you’ll really enjoy Poole’s Paradise. And if you do, then I can put down my tools proudly and say, “My work here is done.”


LOLfromPasa said...

I enjoyed reading every word of this post, Petrea. I'm left with new thoughts (compliments of Mr Vorhaus and his splendid writing) that I never had before and the desire to reorganize my days ahead so that I have more time to read. Thank you!

Petrea Burchard said...

I've read the over and over again, Lauren. I've been acquainted with John for some time now and I confess, I haven't read his books! That changes now. I think I'll love "Poole's Paradise."

William Kendall said...

A good post, John, Petrea, thanks for hosting him.

Indeed, marketing is one of those aspects of writing that you'd find it hard to track down someone who likes doing it.

Petrea Burchard said...

William, I don't like blaring my works to the world on the internet, though it's a necessity at least some of the time. But I do like readings and signings because I get to meet people. I know writers aren't supposed to be "people people," but I am a people person. Weird, huh?

Bellis said...

John, you've intrigued me, and the cover really draws me in. I'd love to know more about the plot. Is it fictional? A mystery? Historical? I've given up on quite a few books lately, those that didn't grip me right away,so I like to know what to expect.

Petrea Burchard said...

Bellis, there's a brief description on the book's Amazon page. I hope John will check in and fill in the blanks for you.

Anonymous said...

There is a purpose to every purpose, has to be I guess?!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Ha! actually artists do get edited but I agree, never met a cat that likes a bath.

Good luck with your novel Mr Vorhaus.