David B. Coe: The Writing Life and What it Means to Me


200CoeJacksonThis is my last entry for this round of guest posts. I have enjoyed being back here at MW for December and January, and I look forward to returning later this year, when I have two more releases (Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth Thieftaker, in July, and His Father’s Eyes, the second book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, in August).

I have wondered what to write for this last post. Usually we ask our guest writers to give us a post about “the writing life.” But it occurs to me that this is not an easy topic. Describing the writing life is kind of like describing marriage or parenting. It’s a different experience for each of us. Sure there are certain elements of the writing process that all of us share — the frustrations of a stalled narrative, the magic of those days when the words just flow, and all those moments that lie in between. But the life itself is another matter.

SpellBlind250I can tell you about my “writer’s life.” I have those releases coming up later this year. I have one last set of revisions to do on the third (as yet untitled) Fearsson book before I hand it in at the end of this week. I have a signing on Friday, and conference and convention appearances planned throughout the rest of the year. And I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write next. All my contracted books are written. I’m flying without a net again, meaning that the security I usually have in my work and finances is gone for now. On the other hand, I have no obligations; I can write whatever I want, which is kind of cool.

But this, again, is not quite what the “writer’s life” ought to mean. Those are business issues, and yes, creative ones as well. But when I reflect on the writing life, I think of something a bit different. I think of watching a sunset not just with an appreciation for its beauty, its colors, its patterns, but also with an eye toward figuring out how I would write a description of it. I think of all the imagined conversations I’ve had with my characters, but also with old friends and lovers, with my parents, both of them dead more than fifteen years, with historical figures, conversations that I compose in my head as I would a written scene.

We writers live a good deal of our lives — some may say an inordinate amount of time — in our own heads. I know this because I have spoken of it with colleagues, and because we — the MW community — have discussed it here. We are driven by our creative instincts, by the understanding that everything we do and see and feel, everything that we experience in a sensual and emotional and intellectual way, is grist for the creative mill.

We exist, I believe, with one foot in the real world and one in the realm of make-believe. I don’t mean to imply that we are flighty, or that we pass our days in some dream state that makes us less present in our own lives. I don’t believe that’s true. On the contrary: I believe that our awareness of the world around us is heightened by our desire to capture and remember and, perhaps, use in a creative sense, all that happens to us and around us. We are alive on multiple levels. We live our lives as husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, friends and colleagues, citizens of a global community. But we also live as creators and as chroniclers of what we see and hear and feel. We live, and then we live again, and then we pass along what we have lived to the characters we create, who live it all as well, in the context of their worlds and narrative arcs.

That, to me, is truly the writing life. It is the multi-level existence of the observant and the creative. Perhaps this sounds overly self-congratulatory, and for that I make no apology at all. I believe that those of us who write — who publish or aspire to publish, or who write for ourselves, for the sheer joy of creating — live deeper, more experiential lives. That is one of the great rewards of this wonderful, frustrating, maddening, enriching, thrilling endeavor.

And so, as I take my leave of MW for a few months, I wish all of you a full and exciting writing life. Live it with pride and passion, and then write it all down, so that we can live it with you.


David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than fifteen fantasy novels. His newest series, a contemporary urban fantasy called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, debuts with the January 2015 release from Baen Books of Spell Blind. The second book, His Father’s Eyes, will be out in the summer of 2015. Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach (also coming in the summer of 2015). He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.



10 comments to David B. Coe: The Writing Life and What it Means to Me

  • […] with (which is why it’s so late in going up), but feel very strongly about. It’s called The Writing Life and What it Means to Me, and I hope you enjoy […]

  • That’s a very beautiful way of putting it, David. Fantastic post! Best of luck, and I’m sure your next project—whether it’s a continuation of something you already have out there, or an entirely new creation—will be equally awesome. 🙂

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Thank you for an interesting post, and Amen to the strange duality of experience that comes with writing. Today I was startled by coming across a dead rodent hanging in a tree right at about eye level, and my brain immediately went for the weird details: it’s hands were face up, really plump and pink, and I didn’t notice any blood even though I assume it was the victim of a hawk with a poor grip…

    Really, though, I think what you’re talking about is one of the big reasons why I write. There’s a whole chunk of my *self* that exists only in my head, and if I want to share that piece of me with those around me I have to get it out of my head, and use it to make something in a form that people can connect with and enjoy.

  • Laura, thanks so much. You’re very kind. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Hep, wow, that is totally the beginning of a story (the rodent thing). You should write it. I wonder if it was the victim of a shrike (also known as a “butcher bird). The species is known for hanging up their kills. Anyway, thank you for the kind comment — I appreciate that you get what I was discussing in the post.

  • Razziecat

    “We exist, I believe, with one foot in the real world and one in the realm of make-believe.”

    It’s not just me, then? 😉

    And this…

    “We live, and then we live again, and then we pass along what we have lived to the characters we create, who live it all as well, in the context of their worlds and narrative arcs.” …. is perfect.

    I really love this post, David. Looking forward to your upcoming books and appearances here on MW. Don’t be a stranger! 😀

  • Thanks so much, Razz, for this, and for all your kind comments on my posts.

  • Alex Pendergrass

    Beautiful post. Cheers and good wishes for wherever your writing takes you next.

  • David, great post. I’m interested to see what you turn out now that you can write whatever you want. It’ll be fantastic. Don’t stay away too long.

  • Thanks, Vyton. I’ll be back soon. This summer, no doubt.