I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Travis Daniel Bow to Layered Pages to talk about his writing. Travis is the author of Thane and its sequel, King’s Table. He grew up in Reno, NV (where he raised pigs for FFA), earned degrees from Oklahoma Christian University (where he broke his collarbone in a misguided Parkour attempt) and Stanford (where he and his bike were hit by a car), and now does research and development work for Nikon. He has eight published short stories, four pending patents, one wonderful son, one beautiful wife, and one loving God.
Travis, why do you write?
Because it’s fun! I love reading (my parents had to limit my reading time to an hour a day when I was a kid), and writing is kind of like reading in reverse. You get to escape into a different world, but you also get to create that world yourself. What could be cooler? (besides a million dollars, or a Nobel prize, or a life-time supply of macaroni and cheese, of course).
I also write (non-fiction) because it helps me clarify my thoughts. When I want to form an opinion on a tough issue, I write my own little research paper about it. When I want to pray without letting my thoughts wander, I write my prayers. When I want to express something important to a friend or loved one, I write a letter or email. Writing is a more studied and careful method of communication that helps me be logical and organized.
How has writing impacted your life?
In too many ways to count. It’s allowed me to log workouts, update Facebook statuses, compose witty messages scrawled in car-window dust (‘Wash Me!’), and even buy a house, get married, and pay my taxes (none of which would be possible without signing my name).
On a deeper level, writing has given me an outlet, a way to express stories or topics that I care about to people that I may never meet. I hope I never take that opportunity for granted.
What advice would you give to beginning writers?
There’s a lot of good advice I could regurgitate here. Write a lot. Read a lot. Write about things you care about or know about. Don’t give up. These are things we all know, and they sound a lot better coming from someone wise and successful.
My most unique tip would be this: don’t take your writing too seriously.
Here’s what I mean. If you’re a writer, you probably enjoy English, which means you probably took a lot of English classes, which means you probably spent a lot of time over-analyzing the writing of famous people, which means you’ve probably fantasized about being one of those famous people, which means that when you write, someplace in the back of your head is probably envisioning a class full of dreamy eyed students crooning over the genius of your choice of verbs or metaphors or font style.
There are two things wrong with letting this type of fantasy shape your writing (OK, at least two things).
One is that it’s probably false; most people that read your work will be reading it for entertainment, not analyzing, and if it ever becomes one of those unfortunate classics ready to be picked apart by college English students, you’ll probably be dead and gone anyway.
The second is that obsessing over the literary greatness of your writing will limit your writing.
I am convinced that the majority of writer’s block and pompous, generic, or ridiculous writing comes from the writer thinking too much about what people are going to think about the words being written. This can paralyze you (like my two-year-old son gets paralyzed when he tries to draw something on his whiteboard and realizes it doesn’t look write… and concludes that he should stop drawing). It can also make you write lame imitations of what you’ve already seen in an attempt to latch on to someone else’s greatness, or alternatively rebel and write ridiculous metaphors in an attempt to be different from anything you’ve ever seen.
Don’t do it. Don’t worry about the greatness of your every sentence… at least until the second or third draft. Some of the best material I’ve written has started with me saying, “OK, I’m now going to write the worst story ever”
Author’s Book Links: