Writer in Residence

The sweet spot

By Dietrich Kalteis

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First off, it’s an honor to be here. Thank you to Graham and Grace and all the good folks at Open Book for inviting me to sit in this month. I thought I’d start by telling you how I came to writing, and more importantly why I keep coming back to it every day.    

It started out as a creative expression, something I wanted to try. In the same way I picked up a brush and took it to canvas, or strapped on a guitar and assaulted the silence, or took a camera and walked city streets taking photos of scenes and people. I’ve always been drawn to finding ways to create, and I still am. 

“Writing is its own reward.” – Henry Miller  

Starting with mostly short stories, I played with different genres and I learned what worked, what didn’t, and where my kind of writing fit. And along with style, I found desire and inspiration, both of which have stayed in good supply these past dozen years.

I sit at my desk early every morning and lay down whatever ideas drifted in overnight, and I find that rabbit hole to disappear into a world that I create. To make the connection, I stay away from social media until later, and I don’t go out of my way to read, watch or listen to the news. Without all that noise in my head, I don’t get bogged down, and I’m able to slip into the story. 

 

Dancing with the muse

“As our eyes grow accustomed to sight, they armour themselves against wonder.” — Leonard Cohen 

Have you ever watched a kid walking down the street talking to an imaginary friend, or running along with his or her arms out, making propellor sounds, flying like an airplane? Or sitting still and looking at a spider’s web, or blowing at a dandelion gone to seed, watching the little parachutes float off – the kind of things that would likely land the average adult in therapy? Well, to me, that’s an uncluttered mind at work, a kid connecting with imagination. Ask most kids if they can dance or sing? Not only will you get a resounding yes, but likely a demonstration. Now ask an adult the same thing.

So, I make a point of noticing the simple things, taking my time with the details that the busy me would glance past, and I try to consider these things in new ways. And I’ve learned it’s better to be bold than safe.

“I'm not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work.” – Ray Bradbury

The muse doesn’t care about book deals, or how many copies were sold last week, or about reviews and rankings, or how many stars I have on Amazon. It just wants me to jump into the story I’m working on and play with those imaginary scenes.

With the muse ready to roll first thing in the morning, there’s nothing for me to do but to show up. 

“Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. Or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” — Stephen King

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.


Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, Poughkeepsie Shuffle, and Call Down the Thunder. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, entitled Shootout, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. Cradle of the Deep is his eighth published work. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast.