Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Showing up for downtime

Besides writing, what else do you do? What’s on your writer’s bucket list?

by Dietrich

It’s too easy to get wrapped up in a story. Even when I’m not writing, I often want to jot down notes as I think of a scene, or work out details for one in my head. So, it’s important to pry myself away and leave time for other things. Writing is solitary, so I need time to be social. And writing means a lot of sitting, so it’s important to get off my butt.

Art is entertaining, and I like anything from theatre, dance, live music, visiting an art gallery, to stopping to listen to a busker on a street corner. Whether I’m writing or not, I’m often listening to whatever music that suits my mood. I’m partial to my music on vinyl, and I know LPs are gaining popularity again. It’s interesting, I’ve been around long enough to see how we play music go full circle from records to eight tracks to cassettes to MP3s and back to vinyl again. And I still listen to much of the same music from the days when I first started collecting LPs. Does anybody remember those cheap little transistor radios we used to carry around, playing the top 40, even before the days of those suitcase-size boom boxes?

Not that I make much time for it anymore, but I occasionally paint, abstracts mostly, and I like to dabble in photography, creating images a different way. And I play guitar and create my own sound, or in my case, noise.

“I know a good many fiction writers who paint, not because they’re any good at painting, but because it helps their writing. It forces them to look at things. Fiction writing is very seldom a matter of saying things; it is a matter of showing things…Any discipline can help your writing: logic, mathematics, theology, and of course and particularly drawing. Anything that helps you to see, anything that makes you look.” — Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners 

“I basically like to apply paint onto canvas. I just like the act of it — I make it up as I go along. I really don’t analyze them that much.”  — Paul McCartney.

It’s interesting how many writers are musicians, and musicians who are also writers: Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Steve Earle, Josh Ritter, Stephen King. And many musicians and writers who are visual artists: Charles Bukowski, Miles Davis, John Lennon, John Mellencamp. Ronnie Wood, Grace Slick, David Bowie, Kim Gordon, Tony Bennett, George Frayne, and the list goes on.

"I'm a painter first, and a musician second.” — Joni Mitchell

And it’s interesting how some famous writers incorporated their outside interests into their work. Dame Agatha Christie accompanied her husband on archaeological digs, her experiences inspiring several novels. Tolkien studied languages, and Hemingway was an avid outdoorsman.

Aside from painting and music, I’m an avid reader, and I’ve always got a stack on books on the go with the occasional audiobook tossed in.

So, as you can see, I don’t live life on the edge; I don’t run with the bulls, or jump out of planes or off cliffs or bridges with a big rubber band attached to my foot. And while I’m in pretty good shape for a fiction writer, I don’t compete in many sports these days. In fact, my sports are pretty much limited to the TV. And these days, it’s down to soccer, mostly European matches and tournaments, and the world cup every four years. 

“It’s better to do a dull thing with style than a dangerous thing without it.” — Charles Bukowski

I don’t know that I really have a bucket list, but I do like to travel, and there are a number of places that I’d like to see. One of my favorite places to go once the rain clouds start to gather here in the northwest is down the coast to California, and we get down there every chance we get. In fact, it’s just about time to get out the suitcase as I get set for another book tour down the coast. 

Which reminds me, I should mention my new one Call Down the Thunder will be released October 15th. You can order a copy or find out more at or at

Here’s the short pitch: 

Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on. The land’s gone dry, barren and worthless. And the bankers, greedy and hungry, make life even more impossible, squeezing farmers out of their homes. The couple can wither along with the land, or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the other farmers. But Sonny comes up with a way for them to stay on their land and prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery.


Paul D. Marks said...

Dietrich, I think creative people like to be creative in a variety of ways. I don't paint, but I do take pictures and play music. Why just have one creative outlet?

And congratulations on your new book! And if anyone's reading this and wants to find out more, I'm interviewing Dietrich on SleuthSayers next Tuesday, 10/15/19. Come by and check it out: SleuthSayers . org.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Paul. And yes, why not be creative in all kinds of ways.