Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ON BEING A WRITER By: Gerald Gillis

George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay, Why I Write: "All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

A lot of effort goes into writing a book; enormous amounts of time and energy. There are times of great excitement and moments of suffocating doubt. There is hope and promise and turn-the-page anticipation, when creating something in the sweet glow of afternoon where nothing existed in the early calm of morning. There's also the opportunity to gage the thickness of one's skin and the stoutness of one's heart, if rejection comes knocking, at once so marginalizing and discouraging that it seems as if the very demon of Orwell's essay is laughing hysterically at the folly of such a subjective undertaking. High highs and low lows are all part of the package. And by no means is the foregoing restricted to the writing profession, but still it's all there, all over the chart, sort of like the Dow Jones nowadays.

I began writing Shall Never See So Much, several years ago while I was still traveling forty six weeks a year as a member of the corporate world. I wrote at home, on airplanes, in hotel rooms and sometimes made notes (mental mind you) while driving rental cars. I chose the year 1968 to provide a setting that I thought would be interesting. I chose a brother and sister through whom I would tell my story.

I also wanted to write a block-buster best seller, become wildly famous, extensively followed, enormously wealthy and then churn out a new smash hit on my June birthday every year for the rest of my days.

And why not? What writer doesn't covet the literary Heavyweight Championship belt? That's not the whole of it, however. So why do it? Why persevere?

Because writers have a story they need to tell and a point they need to make. My story in Shall Never See So Much, involves the bravery of my characters in their times of turmoil; my point is, my belief that the human spirit is essentially, fundamentally, demonstrably heroic. I believe it because I've studied history. I believe because I've seen it in the lives of everyday people like my grandmother and my parents. I still see it in my wife and kids and now I'm starting to see it in my grand kids. They are heroes to me, real heroes, and they inspire me by their example.

That's the story I wanted to tell and the message I wanted to impart. That's why I write. That's where I find the real worth.

That's my purpose.

Gerald Gillis is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He is married and the father of three grown children. Gerald is a graduate of the University of Tampa (MBA) and the University of Georgia (BBA). After college Gerald served for three years as an artillery officer in the Marine Corps with duty stations in the US and Okinawa/mainland Japan. He then worked as an executive in the medical devices industry where he traveled extensively, both foreign and domestically. Gerald became a full time novelist in 2009. Shall Never See So Much is his second novel. His first novel was published 25 years ago and did reasonably well, but Gerald decided that his business career would better accommodate educating kids and paying the mortgage than a career as a neophyte novelist. Hence, Gerald's writing career has resumed after a bit of a hiatus.


  1. Thank you so much for your time Gerald,and for sharing this wonderful post with us.

  2. "I also wanted to write a block-buster best seller, become wildly famous, extensively followed, enormously wealthy and then churn out a new smash hit on my June birthday every year for the rest of my days."

    I'd like for my novels to be bestsellers too. Not necessarily for the fame and fortune, but because that would mean more folks read what I wrote. For me, that's what it is about--telling stories that I think are interesting and entertaining, and others will enjoy.

    Wishing you all the best with 'Shall Never See So Much' and your other writing endeavors, Gerald Gillis