Turtle Time

I have spent the past three days on Amelia Island, taking walks and resting. I’ve been fighting a cold or a sinus infection. I don’t know which — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. All I know is that I’ve been congested, enervated, and had a tendency to crankiness. Even worse, I haven’t been feeling the thrill of this journey. In my defense, it’s hard to be wide-eyed with wonder for weeks on end (eight weeks so far!), especially if one is fighting to breathe.

Still, this has been a lovely place to roam around — walks on the beach and hikes through Egan’s Creek Greenway, a 300-acre nature preserve. On all those excursions, the biggest joy, besides the lovely scenery of course, was catching glimpses of turtles. Often they were shy and slipped into the water before I could get a photo, but a couple of times they stopped and pretended to be rocks. One fellow even posed for me.

Despite signs warning about the presence of alligators, I didn’t get to see one. The rustling in the bushes that I thought might be an alligator turned out to be a rabbit, but I did see a lot of dragonflies and one lone cardinal.

My idyll on Amelia Island is coming to an end. Tomorrow I head into Georgia. I hope I can ditch the crankiness and muster the enthusiasm necessary to make the most of the opportunity. There is so much to see and experience and be grateful for.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Do Writers Need To Be Supportive Of Each Other?

Do writers need to be supportive of each other, as if we are all part of one big dysfunctional family, as if all writers are the same, or at least connected in some way? I can see that it’s important not to be envious of those who make it big, since envy destroys the envier, but I see no reason to be glad of the success some writers attain, especially those who write books I would not read if they were the last books left on the face of the earth. Nor do I see any reason to celebrate the success of someone I have never met or have never exchanged so much as a single eword. Nor do I see any reason to encourage writers to write. Those who want to write, write. It’s as simple as that.

To some extent, almost all people are writers, even if they just jot shopping lists, post status updates, and respond to email messages, but this doesn’t make me connected to them except in the cosmic sense that we are all connected. (To be crankily honest, some who call themselves writers should have stayed with writing shopping lists.)

I’ve never felt any great bond to other writers, perhaps because I never really considered myself a writer. I don’t always write — sometimes I do, more often I don’t. I have no great passion or deep need for writing, no burning desire to create, no characters that scream to be born, no story that demands to be written or that writes itself. I don’t define myself by what I’ve written or what I might plan to write. My books are not my children, my characters are not my friends. When I write, I do have moments of being in the “zone,” but mostly I have to dig for each word, which is okay since that’s the part of writing that’s fun for me — finding the perfect word to say exactly what I mean. (The other day someone posted a question in a writing group asking for help figuring out a word since he didn’t have time to find it for himself. To me, that’s not a writer. Words make a writer. If you have no time for words, what’s the point of writing?)

Speaking of words, I don’t understand why so many writers brag about their word counts. What does a word count mean? It doesn’t impart anything about the quality of writing. For all I know, the authors could have been stringing nonsense syllables together or writing shopping lists, so why should I care how many words they wrote? Word counts mean nothing, what counts is the meaning of the words.

I really do sound cranky, don’t I? Well, perhaps I am, but it does irk me that just because I’ve written a few books and gotten them published, I am supposed to accept other writers as my “family.” Someone who slaps together a draft and posts it on Amazon as a published book doesn’t have anything in common with me. Someone who sits down and spews out thousands of words — good or bad — doesn’t have anything in common with me. Someone who scribbles an erotic book that catches the fancy of the masses doesn’t have anything in common with me. (Nothing I write will ever go viral. I have taste.)

Still, I do what I can to be supportive of other writers. I have two blogs that cater to writers — one is for book excerpts, and one is for interviews. (Feel free to send me an interview or book excerpt according to the instructions on the blogs.) I also have a writing discussion group on Facebook to help writers develop their craft, and I host a self-promotion extravaganza every Saturday to give writers a forum to promote. So maybe this is a case of my actions speaking louder than my words.