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I’m a Goat-Herding Shepherd in Vermont

January 21, 2010

You don’t have to believe me. You probably shouldn’t believe me if you don’t know me. I love to write fiction and therefore I love to tell lies. But not in real life. No, that’s why I write fiction.

But know this: When I was a freshman in college, I was in a history class and on the first day of class, we had to go around the room and tell something about ourselves. Now, again, I don’t lie to people and I never have. But for some reason, maybe because I was a long-haired shy kid who didn’t know anyone yet,  I straight-up lied to that class. I could have said a million truthful things about me but instead all I said was this: “I’m a goat-herding shepherd back home in Vermont.” The professor, Dr.  Kumar, didn’t even blink. He just moved on to the next person. I’ve no idea where that came from but I remember saying it. In truth, I was there on a partial soccer scholarship and had never spent any time in the fields with goats. Though, yes I was (and still am) from Vermont.

One of my great friends now, who was a year ahead of me at that college was also in that class (though we didn’t know each other yet) and she told me much later how when she heard what I said during the introductions, she sort of sat up was like, “What? Who is this guy?” It was just a tiny story, a little lie. It came to me so easily and harmed no one, I thought. But it was enough to separate myself from the crowd a little at least for one sleepy person in a history class. It also taught me not to lie in real life – because people that you don’t even know are in the room will hear you and believe what you tell them and they will carry it with them. For weeks, until we met for real, she thought I was a shepherd.

So there it is…probably one of the main reasons I write fiction – because I don’t lie in real life. But fiction says yes, here is a big fat lie, enjoy it, but don’t believe a word of it! “Fiction and not-true are the same,” I remember my elementary school librarian drilling into us. I write fiction because it comes fairly easy: when I get stuck, I just have the character go outside for a drive or walk into another room or pick up a hitchhiker or go for a run or go to sleep or simply turn around…I have them do anything. Because in fiction, the whole world is open and everything is on the table.  And so when the character turns around and see’s that open window and hears the little girl outside, crying and bleeding, alone on the sidewalk three stories below his apartment, he’s going to do something about it. See how easy that was? There is no getting stuck in fiction, and I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writers getting lazy and in writers finding excuses (I’m great at both of those of course) but never stuck, never blocked.

Get over yourselves, you “fiction writers” who blame your lack of writing on being blocked: I don’t believe you. Admit you’re lazy or distracted like the rest of us, and then get back to making stuff up. There is always something to make up, even if it’s just saying you were once a goat-herding shepherd in Vermont.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Joanne Elliott aka soulsprite permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:36 pm

    LOL! Great! I don’t believe in writer’s block either. There are just too many stories to tell every where you turn and from your dreams and just plain in your head all the time.

    So I’ll get back to making things up…well editing my already made up story now. Rainy days make me lazy…that’s my excuse.

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