instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Scott Lax Blog

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger died. He gave us great literature that changed the way America and the world thought about stories. As for his personal life, he wanted to keep that private. I know a member of his immediate family, and my thoughts go out to that person and anyone else associated with J.D. Salinger who cared about him as a man.

Salinger gave voice to my generation's disaffection with established cultural values, decades earlier than they manifested in the culture itself; that influence continues. He certainly influenced my writing and my view of life and he entertained me. I couldn't have asked for more of him as a writer.

At a writers' conference last year, I gave a presentation. A young man, maybe in his early twenties, came up to me after my talk. He told me that CATCHER IN THE RYE and my novel, THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED, were his favorite novels. While I would never compare TREMBLED with CATCHER, he was likely saying that both coming-of-age stories evoked something important in him.

The larger point is: a writer is charged with trying to evoke something in his or her readers. It's not to be a role model -- as a writer. (As a father, husband, etc., that's different.) That's ultimately the writer's job - to evoke feelings and thoughts. And that's all. May Salinger rest in peace.  Read More 

Mere Cleverness

My earliest influences were the American Transcendentalists, particularly Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. They began writing in mid-nineteenth-century New England. The essence of their work was to push back against the Puritan ethic and materialism, and they celebrated freedom, individualism, inquiry, experiment and intuitive spirituality. They were at the literary center of American letters for half a century.

I think it helps to have some sense of where you write from in an intellectual and spiritual (or religious) sense. When I teach creative writing, I spend the first couple of classes working with students to access their writerly selves, so that they can supplant what’s been called “the icon of The Writer” with their own writer’s sensibility.

Real writing – that is, writing that lasts, that can take readers somewhere they’ve never been – usually comes from a writer’s core. Not from mere cleverness. Cleverness that affects intellect and hides honest feeling is like weeds growing where nothing else dares: in the cracks of a culture’s spiritual and intellectual sidewalks. It’s there, sure, but often ugly and ultimately abandoned, withered and forgotten.  Read More 

Writing Wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt

Maybe you agree that one of the biggest blocks to having a career as a writer, or even submitting your writing, is fear. Fear of rejection; fear of failure. I can't think of better advice than that of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said:

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

What are you afraid of as a writer? When you identify it, you can face it and work and write through it.  Read More 

The Golden Globes

Like many of you, I enjoy watching the Golden Globes. I respect actors, directors, set designers, production assistants, and the hundreds of other people that go into creating a film or TV show.

But I never forget one thing: every one of those shows or movies was written and/or conceived of by a writer. Story trumps all. Thanks to actors and all the rest for bringing them to life; but believe me when I say that they know where the story begins: with the writer.  Read More 

A Good Reason to Write No Matter What

(Please substitute she for he, or woman for man, as needed)...

"The significance of a man is not in what he attains but in what he longs to attain." - Kahlil Gibran

If we apply that to writing, it's the act of writing - of reaching our writerly selves and allowing it to flow into our work - that matters. Most of us want to be published, and read, and so forth, but what gives our words significance is what we long to say. Writing from the heart makes that longing come alive.  Read More 

You Have to Care

Graham Greene said, "Talent, even of a very high order, cannot sustain an achievement, whereas a ruling passion gives to a shelf of novels the unity of a system."

In other words, you have to care about what you're writing if you hope to achieve anything that matters to you -- and your readers.