After attending the Tucson Festival of Books last month, one of the biggest nuggets of information I gleaned from the various workshops was Kristin Lamb’s idea that authors of fiction shouldn’t blog about how to write fiction. Particularly if they are not experts in teaching fiction to newer writers. The reason: my target audience for selling his books is not other writers. My target audience is readers.
Well “Duh!” and slap me upside the head, but that made sense. Readers of books are not necessarily interested in how to write a book. Much like lovers of sausage are not necessarily interested in how to make sausage.
I felt as if a door had been opened that I’d been looking for as far as my blog posts are concerned. I read dozens of writing and publishing blogs, most by “experts” of differing levels, but the blogs I stop reading are the blogs about writing by unknown or newer writers. Why? Because I can’t possibly learn as much from reading ten posts from an aspiring writer about the art and craft of writing as I can learn from one post by James Scott Bell, Kristen Lamb, Larry Brooks, Ray Rhamey, Margie Lawson, Janet Reid, or any other professional in the publishing biz.
So instead of competing with the experts and writing my blog with the idea that hundreds, or dare I say thousands, of readers will follow me because I know so much about writing (which I don’t, I assure you), I’m going to be true to myself, but also blog about the sort of characters I want to star in my books: Well-read, lifelong learners, skilled in a variety of areas, knowledgeable to the point of intelligent conversation with an expert in any field, perhaps excelling at one or two skills, but being competent in many.
In other words, my heroes and heroines will be Renaissance Men and Women. Some of my villains may be Renaissance Bastards. By definition, a “Renaissance Man” is someone who is proficient in a variety of subjects, first observed during the Renaissance period of Western civilization back in the 14th through 17th centuries.
Leonardo da Vinci is possibly the greatest example of a Renaissance Man. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are two Americans that standout as great Renaissance Men of their day. Others are Michelangelo, Copernicus, Galileo, and Isaac Newton. Sorry ladies, but the repression of women until the last century or so means there are almost no women on that historical Wikipedia list. The only one I found was Maria Gaetana Agnesi, an 18th Century Italian university professor, a linguist, geometer, theology, logician, algebraist, mathematician and philosopher. Not bad even compared to da Vinci.
These brilliant people are more accurately described as “polymaths,” a person whose expertise spans a significant number of subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable.
I don’t belong anywhere near the great polymaths in history, but at various times I have been recognized in relative terms (meaning my circle of friends, family and business associates) as an “expert” in a variety of fields. Since I started school, my concentrated studies include the American Civil War, the trumpet–specifically jazz, music in general, golf, baseball, wilderness canoeing and camping, cooking and gourmet food, wine, financial planning, Austrian economic theory, politics, and stock market investing.
I also know how to change tires and oil on my cars, build a brick patio, construct a cement sidewalk, paint a house inside and out, put up sheet rock, play chess, complete the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle in less than an hour (sometimes), conduct a band or orchestra, sail a small sailboat, pilot and navigate a houseboat, and I used to be able to speak just enough French to get myself in trouble in France. I’m not bragging, since I do none of these activities on a world-class level, just showing the breadth of my interests.
What this means for the blog is that I will write about a variety of subjects and topics depending on what may be timely and what suits my fancy that particular day. I’m still working on becoming an expert at writing novels. But I’ll showcase my novel characters, their interests and expertise; hopefully to get you the reader interested in my books if/when they’re published. I’ll encourage discussion, dialogue, suggestions for new blog posts, debate on all sides of an issue that may arise from my posting.
So look for a cornucopia of topics, keep an open mind, and we can learn from each other and teach each other how to become better world citizens by being more educated and informed about all the wonders of the world we inhabit.
I will also write about my beloved home state of Minnesota. This is where I intend to set most of my novels, or if not, then somewhere in the Midwest. I know parts of Minnesota intimately, have been to virtually each corner of the state, and am a genuine part-Scandinavian, all-Midwestern, hard-working citizen of flyover territory. You East- and West-coasters have no idea what you’re missing!
My question this week for you is: Do you have any suggestions for a new title for my blog? “Chitrader’s Blog” is awfully mundane. I was thinking along the lines of ‘The Renaissance Writer” or maybe “The Literary Polymath” (ugh!). Any suggestions?