“My favorite kind of person is someone who can’t stop talking about books. Writers are fine. But it’s the readers I love.”
“Oh, I stumble. It’s all stumbling, all the time. But what you’re stumbling toward is a tone, an angle, that takes you by surprise. The slightly ‘wrong’ note in a scene is often the note that brings it to life. I keep listening for that note.”
Charles is the author of many books, including the wonderfully titled The Feast of Love. But he is also a gifted and compassionate teacher. What I love about his comment on stumbling is the honesty of it. And the idea that you are stumbling towards something — “a tone, an angle,” that might just lead you to something wonderful and surprising.
So often we ourselves are struggling and stumbling along, we forget that just about everyone else is, too. Just recently, I talked with a novelist friend who had her first success after many years of writing, but then faced a struggle getting her next book published. Even accomplished writers are often quick to admit that they overwrite and have to prune, that they go through many revisions, that they’ve dumped whole chapters that didn’t work, that they despaired before they finally found the voice of a character they feared they’d never breathe life into.
Once when I was venting to another writer about a problem I was having with a writing project she said, “Oh, Karin, you know the easy road is never the right road” or maybe it was, “Oh, Karin, you know that the right road is never the easy road.” Either way, the message is pretty much the same: getting where we want to go isn’t going to be easy — if it were, everyone else would be there already.
So, the next time you stumble in your writing, don’t worry about falling. Just remember to “stumble toward ” something — and perhaps, like Charles Baxter, you, too, will be taken by surprise. Write on!