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Writing a book can be as simple as dipping into your past

January 25, 2013

You’ve long wanted to write a book. Right? Where do you start? How do you begin writing that novel, that story? You may well think: Won’t I have to plan and outline and develop character sketches out the gazoo? Won’t I have to sit before the computer and write and re-write for months at a time? Isn’t this whole idea of writing a book a project of such epic and immense proportions that it will take me years of work to pull off?
Time now for me to go off on one of my detours. But there’s a lesson here, so stay with me folks.

Meet My Friend Todd

I used to pal around with this guy, I’ll just call Todd, who loved to gamble. Or, should I say, gambling loved him. Todd, I think it’s safe to say, was a compulsive gambler.
I first met Todd back in my Air Force days. Todd was a fast-talking 19-year-old kid from New Jersey who was always looking to bet. Todd would bet on anything. A few of us would go bowling at the base lanes, but we couldn’t just bowl. Todd would insist we throw money in a pot with the losers paying the winner. There was often a poker game in the barracks with Todd in the middle of it. At 4 a.m. you might wake up to hear the plinking of coins on a floor. It was Todd and someone he’d roped into one of his gambling games. Unlike a lot of us, Todd wasn’t much interested in going to the airmen’s club to drink beer or heading into San Antonio to escape the confines of the barracks. It was all about gambling with Todd.
Naturally, the Air Force stationed Todd in Las Vegas. After he’d been there a few years, I drove out from Texas to visit him. He was still into gambling, of course. I flopped on the floor of his Vegas apartment for a week and followed him around to the casinos. I watched him at work, winning a few thousand dollars some nights at blackjack and losing it all the very next evening. His moods rose and fell given the kind of night he’d have at the blackjack tables.
Todd had a system with blackjack. He’d studied books on blackjack and employed all the right methods for trying to come out ahead in the game. He tracked all his daily wins and losses in a little book. He took it all very seriously.
Even though he had a pretty nice bank account, Todd didn’t have a girlfriend, good clothes or a fancy car. For some reason, I got along pretty well with Todd. I liked hanging around him because he was different and bright and kind of funny too. He was competitive and liked to argue and usually seemed to come out on top in most arguments. He liked to call people Jack. “Yeah Jack,” he’d say with a sly, smug grin, while sizing up an opponent just before besting him in some debate.
I was kind of fascinated by Todd, this six-foot-five inch kid from Jersey, the gambler who tracked his winnings and came off with smart-ass lines. Eventually, we both did our four years of military duty and got out of the Air Force. I looked up Todd after he moved back to his hometown in Jersey. He was still gambling, of course, spending a lot of time in Atlantic City – at the time the only place on the East Coast with legal gambling – and doing his best to avoid the nine-to-five routine of a regular job.

Atlantic City

So there you have it – a character. I haven’t told you everything about Todd, and to tell you the truth I’m sure there’s a lot more about him that I don’t know. He’s a pretty good candidate for a story. Don’t you think?
Maybe one of these days I’ll write a novel or short story about someone like Todd, a fast-talking Jersey guy who likes to gamble. Maybe I’ll concoct some colorful tales around Todd, toss a few problems into his life, develop his character a bit. The possibilities are endless.
How about you? Perhaps there’s a some guy or gal from your past, someone you can’t shake loose from your memory, a perhaps larger than life or interesting person that you could write a story about.
Get some index cards and jot down some words or phrases that quickly come to mind while thinking of this person. Do this for forty-five minutes or so. Try this for a couple of days. You might find a story creating itself.
You see, it really doesn’t take much effort to begin writing a book. The possibilities are endless. Don’t make it hard. Have fun. Write from the heart and write fast. You’re in for the journey of your life.



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