As an author, I know the journey can come with twists and turns punctuated by straight lines.
My recent conversation with Dallas author Robert Lebovitz confirmed this as we shared our writing processes and experiences.
Though our backgrounds wildly differ, we both started writing novels in our mature years.
My past had been one of art, film, music, and odd jobs, interrupted by writing stints.
Bob had been rooted in engineering, eventually becoming an academic associate professor of neurobiology with forays into artistic photography.
Now a youthful 85, Lebovitz started his first novel 10 years after his 2000 retirement.
After struggling with four “serious” novels in my 40s, I finally gave in and found my natural niche in comic novels at 47, happily finishing four books in two years.
“I thought I couldn’t make a living being a writer in my 20s, so I continued with my Ph.D. work,” Lebovitz recalled. “I spend a lot of time outlining, then putting in the moment to moment action isn’t difficult.”
His first effort is also his latest release (though he has other published books and plays). It took over a decade to perfect To Be, a speculative novel based on reality, or “plausible fiction,” as he puts it, dealing with encroaching agism in modern society.
I also deal in plausible fiction, especially in my latest work, albeit more humorously. My sixth book, Songs In The Key of H: Tales of Irony & Insinuation, is a collection of short stories illuminating subjects of recent concern — aging, death, technology, hive-mind thinking — with a healthy helping of irony and absurdism.
Bob is an all-day writer; I’m best in the morning and work in bursts, editing in the afternoon. We’re both avid note-takers and outliners. His latest book took around 25 drafts. Mine required about six. I do a lot of editing in my head before I write. But we both agree on stopping when we hit a block. As he puts it, “I know from my days of computer programming, if you can’t figure out what’s wrong with the loop, leave it. Tomorrow, you’ll figure it out in five seconds.”
We both utilize creative visualization. “I write like I’m imagining a movie,” Lebovitz said — a tactic I employ, having a background in film. We mentally see each character, place, and situation before writing. I even sketch drawings of faces at times. And while I am perhaps a painter of words, Bob is a sculptor, observing, “I see what’s in there, and I keep pecking away at it until it gets into the form I’m happy with.”
Our recent writings deal in part with contemporary confusion in perception and action (or lack thereof). “It’s hard to know what’s real anymore,” as Lebovitz said, “and people and groups are making use of that.”
“I enjoy the process,” he added, chuckling. “I’m not so much goal-driven.”
I, too, write much more for the love of writing and self-expression than “for the money,” goodness knows.