A Wellspring of Soap

Montreal, Quebec, from a visit a few years back when I could afford to do such things.

Montreal, Quebec, from a visit a few years back when I could afford to do such things.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 10:15 a.m.

Hondo Crouch was the maverick who turned Luchenbach, Texas, into a delightful little meeting place for musicians. I learned about him because he was a pal of Jerry Jeff Walker, one of my icons. I even read a book about Crouch that I picked up at the Luckenbach gift shop.


I wish I had a photo of me playing at Luckenbach. This was at a coffeehouse in Belmont, N.C., back in 2009, I think.

I wish I had a photo of me playing at Luckenbach. This was at a coffeehouse in Belmont, N.C., back in 2009, I think.

Luckenbach is kind of a mecca for lovers of Texas country music. I’ve been there three times, once to see Jerry Jeff at the dancehall and twice to just sit around, have a beer or two and play my guitar. People do that at all hours of the day and night, or did when I happened by. I wasn’t near as good a guitarist then as now, which is kind of scary. Realizing my limitations, I was a bit bashful and sat on a bench outside, near the parking lot, and played a few songs that attracted a few passers-by. A friendly woman saw me, listened a little and said, “Come on back here in the back. Hell, you’re as good as them fellers.”

This is all just to lead up to why I’m struggling to get this blog written today. Hondo used to write columns in a local newspaper, and sometimes he closed by writing, “Oh, well, I’m out of soap,” or something like that.

I’m kind of out of soap.

Yesterday, I finished off the requirements for my upcoming “blog tour.” I’m going out on the road, too, to promote my novel, The Intangibles, but for the first half of December, various notices concerning my novel are going to appear on dozens of websites. This blitz means that I have to write background pieces, provide some short excerpts from the novel and conduct interviews. Yesterday I wrote a NASCAR blog for this site and, essentially, three more blogs about The Intangibles.

Hence the erosion of my soap.

10:32 a.m.

It’s said that an artist has to suffer. I tried to figure out who said it, but it became such a tangle over who said it first that I gave up.

It seems to me that the notion has fallen into disfavor, but insofar as my novels are concerned, the suffering of life has helped. Readers of The Intangibles will likely suspect this.

Sometimes a writer has to peer into the darkness.

Sometimes a writer has to peer into the darkness.

I didn’t have to suffer to write Postcards from Pit Road, my account of the 2002 NASCAR season. The suffering came when it didn’t sell better. I’ve known that brand several times.

If my fiction were different, maybe the suffering wouldn’t help. Maybe if I wrote historical novels in which all the characters were completely based on real people, I could approach it from a detached viewpoint. If I wrote by a formula of some sort, maybe it would be a matter of just cranking out the words and waiting for the check. Perhaps I might get more of them if I did it that way. Perhaps that would be possible if I weren’t so hardheaded.

Perhaps it’s a matter of what kind of suffering. I don’t suffer when I write. In fact, it’s just about as happy as I get. I love to follow my story line and try to think through the minds of the characters as I write about them. I get to know them as a means of making their actions plausible.

When I wrote The Audacity of Dope, I was imagining myself as Riley Mansfield, and it was a cool place to be. Most readers liked him, which was good to know because so did I.

But, no, I don’t have to write with a bucket of ice and a quart of bourbon at the ready. I’m positive that wouldn’t work for me. I’d undoubtedly write passionate, sloppy nonsense. I read a fair number of biographies, some of which provide at least as much horror as Stephen King. The vision of Tennessee Williams, staggering around his Key West cottage, drinking from the bottle and cranking out Orpheus Descending, is astonishing in one way but farcical in another. I imagine waking up with my head resting on the keyboard and “h” printed 300,000 times on the manuscript. I think headache. And nausea. I can’t see it working for me.

What I do believe is that it’s helped me as a writer to have lived through so much craziness. While writing The Intangibles, I remembered incidents that had been buried deep in my past, and some of them found their way into it.

Thanks to my life, and my times, there’s plenty more where that came from.

I appreciate your taking time out from your busy day to read what comes to my mind.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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2 Responses to A Wellspring of Soap

  1. Andy DeNardi says:

    The pictures that accompany many of your posts are often as interesting as your text. Your life doesn’t move any faster than the rest of us, but always seems more fascinating. You make us proud to have known you before you were on the Times bestseller list.

    I want to go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

  2. Monte says:

    I’m a long way from that list, but I’ve got aspirations.
    Thank you, Andy.

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