Grist for the Mill by Jay Caselberg

I am a writer. So what do I do when I haven’t got my rear firmly welded to a chair somewhere in the middle of Europe tapping away at my keyboard or on endless conference calls for the day job? I travel. In fact, I travel fairly extensively. In the next few weeks I will be in the UK, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and China, with maybe some others thrown in. In the last year the list extends to many others, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, South Africa, Korea and then a few more. All of that is great material, background for world-building, insights into various cultures and mere observation about how different people interact. All of it feeds the lizard brain and helps shape worlds, characters and story. Things happen along the way, and these too hang around in the back of my head and, from time to time, pop out onto the page when I least expect it.

Would that I had the luxury to do all that under my own steam, but it’s all part of that day job that does things like keep the rent paid and allows little side excursions when I’m on the road. That brings me to the next thing I do. I read. I do so pretty broadly, across genre, mainstream fiction and mysteries and crime. I love short stories. Immersing yourself in the field gives you access to what’s happening in fiction, also the mechanics of what works in storytelling and what does not. I was one of those kids with a book and a torch under the blankets at night. For a while there, I could not read properly for pleasure, because I was so bound up in the mechanics that it was impossible to remove myself from sentence structure, word choice, all sorts of things that interfered with proper immersion in the story itself.

Thankfully, I got over that. Not having anything to read is like the ache of a missing limb. Technology is advancing at a pace, and the electronic form, for both short and longer fiction makes my life a joy. Personally, I own a Kindle. Before that, for a while, I used to read on my Palm. Being on the road, having a reader is the greatest blessing. A library of hundreds of books and stories at my fingertips, but without the weight. The sheer practicality of it all. At home, I have shelves and shelves of solid, material books, but e-books are really starting to come into their own, and I am thankful. I need to be able to read wherever I am and whenever I feel like it. I’ve long been a proponent of the electronic form, and you can find older stories and novels of mine all over the place online. They’ve been there for a while. Hopefully, they will always be there.

I don’t watch television. Well, not strictIy true. The only television I do watch is in hotel rooms when I’m just too brain dead to do anything else. I don’t own one. Television, not fear, is the little death for a writer. The big death is online gaming, but that’s another story.

One of the joys of stories, of reading, is that it’s interactive. The writer gives you images and scenes, but as a reader you add your own colour, shape and texture to them. You draw from your own experiences, picture the character, hear the voices, have your own image in your mind and join in the creative process thereby. It’s more intimate. With television, it’s just there, shoved into your face, and all you have to do is sit back and absorb.

Reading, however, reading helps you create.

In the end, it helps me create, and that’s what matters.


* * *


NRP will be publishing Jay’s short story, Want, this April. For more information about Jay, check out his website.


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