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The BIG Secret

Many people talk to me and ask me things like, "Alan, with your incredibly busy life, how did you fit in all the time for your incredible success?" or "How do you manage time for all those Hollywood interviews, questions from movie directors and still fight off all of the book contract offers?"…it is often around that point, as I am about to explore the great bounds of my literary success, that one of my babies tends to wake me up. I never get to see the rest of the dream…

So, maybe success has not come knocking at my door just yet. Maybe success has not even looked up my address in order to think about at least knowing where I even am. It's getting to me, it's just very, very busy…it'll be around….

The road to success is a long and winding one, there is no doubt about that; it will branch, it will divide, it will double back, it will twist and circle, it will often do things worthy of an Escher drawing…

If one were to describe the true path to success, one would be both completely correct but also somewhat unpopular. People prefer more friendly images….

Not quite the fairy-tale image we had imagined as neither kids nor even the one we thought of in our early adulthood but there it is. The truth is boring, the truth is a frustration, and the truth could sometimes use a change of clothes and be transported to a nicer locale and spiffed up a bit. People don't like the everyday truth of their regular lives. That is why we exist. The writers and creators; we invest other worlds and situations where people can lose themselves from reality for a time. We are, to coin a term, the true escape artists, for we are in the business of creating mental escapes for other people.

I have a colleague who states that we writers actually are professional liars and I do see his point somewhat. We do invent and we do write fiction which means "made up" but do we actually lie? I disagree here, we do not lie, and we tell the truth in a new way, one which is more palpable. We're set-dressers; we fancy the truth up in allegory and metaphor until the people accept it with a tear or a smile. If you want to look at it literally, all art could be considered a lie because only the original inspiration would be the actual truth. Everything else is just methods of making the same truth more enjoyable, more pleasurable, and more exciting. Giving them fantasy. Not the genre though, the purer concept. Fantasy; dream…reality as we wish it was or could be. My goal as a writer is to pick readers up from page one and to take a journey with them. A journey which will have something to teach us both. It really doesn't matter how big a rebel writer you are, how much you want to challenge establishment and shake the roots of literature; we all have the same goal - we want to teach. We want people to understand. We want them to learn. So we invent worlds, situations, people, and things, mythologies and so on in order to tell our story and teach our lesson.

Now let's take a momentary pause for a lesson of my own for you, my legions of readers. Writing Tip: What is Your Lesson?

We always have a lesson.

If we write without a direction or a goal, what are we writing for? Be you - to use the popular parlance of NaWriMo - a pantser or a planner, you always have a plan, whether it's in your head or on paper. You know - if you are what I prefer to call an impulsive writer, like me - where you pretty much want your main characters to end up and which ones you want to end up there. The ways between may be a little fuzzy right now but already have the reader's ultimate destination pretty much planned out, right? What awaits both the reader and your characters there is the conclusion of your lesson. The resolution. If you don't know what your lesson is or think you have lost sight of it, it is time to sit down, put the pen or keyboard down and think. If you encounter writer's block here is my advice; remember your lesson. If you recall what you want to teach your reader and how, you'll find a way through the labyrinth. You see your lesson is your compass, your direction, your map. Your compass and map which helps keep your story on track so it doesn't wander and get lost. So if you are suffering writer's block and are lost, ask yourself "what is my lesson?" and the way will present itself to you.

So, I digress, quite a lot actually, just ask my family…with that neat segway, we return! How do I do it? People genuinely ask me this question or others like it, often. They neglect to mention my coming fame and how many thousands of copies of my book I am going to sell (or when they are actually going to but some like they promised…) but they exhibit curiosity at least, which is nice.

Let me break it down for you.