The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

Joe R. Lansdale prefers habit instead of daydreaming


Scott Virtes
Andy Weir
Caleb Straus
Elizabeth Massie
Ramsey Campbell
Mathew Cade


by Joe R. Lansdale


Having problems getting started on the writing today? Ray Bradbury said about writing, "Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down."

Waiting on inspiration may be the worst idea of all time, at least from my perspective. You are your own inspiration. It isn't coming to you via cosmic rays. It's learning to sit down at a similar time each day and letting the gate to your subconscious swing open. If you only work when you're inspired, then you may not work very much. The key to inspiration is habit.

Writing for me is somewhat like the truer nature of martial arts. You don't start out to win, because then you've already lost. Your mind is on the wrong things. Winning is publication, of course, and that's a fine goal, but obsession with it can keep you from being yourself. I started out trying to be everyone's writer and that wasn't working. It made me miserable.

But when I decided to be the writer I wanted to read, to tell stories only I knew, to use experiences of my own and of people I knew, it began to click. I found then I could write a lot of different things, and I could enjoy that, and stay in the game.

So, you want to have the goal of being published and acquire the tools to do that, but there's nothing romantic about it, and always looking toward the end of a project can keep you from dealing with it in the moment. I mean, certainly, learn from the past, be in the moment when working, and plan for the future. But plan in the broader sense and less in the specific as far as story goes. That doesn't mean don't have a game plan for your career, but if it's all about that goal, the most important aspect, writing fiction that excites you, be it "pulp" or "literature" or whatever is in-between, can be lost. Enjoy the process, not just having done it.

Writing can be a form of time travel, because then we aren't forcing time into a straight line. We're gazing through our mind in an unconscious way, and our thoughts can be of the past and the present, and considerations of what we hope to happen in the future. It all blends, the past, the present, what we hope for the future. Relaxing the mind and letting the subconscious surface with the story is what works for me. Trying to figure it all out burns me out.

Who builds the world when you're not looking, and who takes it away and packs it up while you sleep, and always knows to bring it out and lay it out before you wake up? Who does that? What if you are the one that has that job? Those are not necessarily great questions, but you can often start writing this way. Or, why do I feel the way I do? Simpler, but there may well be a story in this. How can I honestly write about my home life, tell how good or how bad it is without blinking? Just anything.

Sit down, start writing, and let it take you where it wants to go. Let it leave the premise if it must, let the story start with the contemplation, but the story can be about anything else. Ride the bucking bronco, don't sit on the fence and think about it.



































































joe lansdale

Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale has written novels and stories in many genres, including Western, horror, science fiction, mystery, and suspense. He has also written for comics as well as "Batman: The Animated Series." As of 2018, he has written 45 novels and published 30 short-story collections along with many chapbooks and comic-book adaptations. His stories have won ten Bram Stoker Awards. a British Fantasy Award, an Edgar Award, a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, a Sugarprize, a Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, a Spur Award, and a Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been inducted into The Texas Literary Hall of Fame, and several of his novels have been adapted to film. 

Frequent features of Lansdale's writing are usually deeply ironic, strange or absurd situations or characters, such as Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy battling a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in a nursing home (the plot of his Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella, Bubba Ho-Tep, which was made into a movie by Don Coscarelli). He is the winner of the British Fantasy Award, the American Horror Award, the Edgar Award, and ten Bram Stoker Awards. 

His Hap and Leonard series of ten novels, four novellas, and three short-story collections feature two friends, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, who live in the fictional town of Laborde, in East Texas, and find themselves solving a variety of often unpleasant crimes. The characters themselves are an unlikely pairing; Hap is a white, working-class laborer in his mid-forties who once protested against the war in Vietnam and spent time in federal prison rather than be drafted; Leonard is a gay, black Vietnam vet. Both of them are accomplished fighters, and the stories (told from Hap's narrative point of view) feature a great deal of violence, profanity, and sex. Lansdale paints a picture of East Texas which is essentially "good" but blighted by racism, ignorance, urban and rural deprivation, and government corruption. Some of the subject matter is extremely dark, and includes scenes of brutal violence. These novels are also characterized by sharp humor and "wisecracking" dialogue. These books have been adapted into a TV series for the SundanceTV channel and a series of graphic novels began publication in 2017. Season 2 of the television series is based on the second Hap and Leonard novel, Mucho Mojo, and season 3, which premiered on 3/7/18, is based on the third novel, The Two-Bear Mambo. Much of Lansdale's work has been issued and re-issued as limited editions by Subterranean Press and as trade paperbacks by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Publications. His current new-release publisher is Mulholland Books. Lansdale also publishes with Dark Regions Press and Tachyon Publications, and with his daughter Kasey he has started a new publishing company called Pandi Press to control the re-issue and publishing of his older works.




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