Monthly Archives: February 2015

What is Your Intention?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “ A good intention clothes itself with power.”

In order to write a poem, a short story, or a novel the beginning is set by the intention. Writer’s are inevitably asked this question, “What prompted you to write this book?”

J.K Rowling, riding a train and looking out the window, had this thought: What if there was a wizard school? That one idea evolved into an empire. It made her a fortune and touched the lives of an entire generation.

She said that in her mind, she thought that the trick would be in getting it published, but after that it would be really big. She set her intention from that minute forward. Her thoughts came tumbling out, and she had nothing with which to write. As soon as she could get pen to paper though, her intention was very clear. She would write a book about a wizard school. She wrote as if on fire. An agent picked it right up, but eleven publishers turned it down. She did not despair because she focused on her intent. The rest is history.

The Irish have a saying about this topic. Throw your cap over the wall. You’ll have no choice but to go after it. The race to the moon, described in these terms, was achieved in record time.

Is it enough? Yes, if the focus is constant. A writer is essentially creating something out of nothing. It feels, at times in the dark nights of despair, that the nothing wants its nothingness back. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Books have shaped my life; they have given meaning to my very existence. Sharing our stories, telling others about the beauty of North Idaho, about the people who came before us, unearthing great moments in history and bringing them to life, that has meaning.

My father had a book of poems reprinted that were written by his grandfather. When he gave me that book, I had a glimpse of another light, one that had fallen away in the busy post-war years. I knew the heart of a man I had not had the privilege to know except through his poems.

He helped set my path. I would not dare to presume I could do the same, but it has always been my intent. I want to share what I have gleaned with someone who will never meet me or see me, but will know something of me, nevertheless.

That is why I am given to writing.


The Literary Marriage


August 19th, 1978

Howard Nicholas Brinton marries Elizabeth Irene Smythe


Very early in our relationship my husband professed his intent to see me achieve my writing dreams. He told me that it would happen. There have been many times when I have asked him if he wasn’t perhaps deluded, or just plain wrong. These are joking comments from me because his steadfast belief has sustained me from start to finish.

Many writers have described unions where both parties are committed to the literary life. Female writers joke about needing a wife, one who types each draft, brings lunch in on a tray and does not say a word while the genius is at work. If early success yielded substantial financial success, that just might work, but for most of us, it is not that cut and dried.

 The ups and downs are all imaginary.

He asks, “How was your day?”

“A new character arrived!”

“That’s great!”

Or, “How was your day?”

“My novel is falling apart. I just wasted the last decade, no the last four decades, no my entire life. I should have gone to law school.”

“How was your day?”

“My agent called. The book is going to auction. There’s talk of a movie deal too. They think it will be perfect for Johnny Depp.”

I never stop thanking God for the gift of my imagination.

If you read copious volumes of writer’s diaries, you learn a great deal about their marriages.  Lucy Maud Montgomery had a terrible time of it, and I could all but cry for her as she listed her trials and tribulations. I wanted to whack her husband over the head with a hockey stick and said so aloud to my beloved as I waded through the volumes. She created a fine fictional husband for herself in the person of Gilbert Blythe. Ted Hughes, married to Sylvia Plath, is not held in very high esteem either. Leonard Wolf, married to Virginia, tried very hard, but as it was she who wrote the diaries, he did not fare very well either. What of Zelda Fitzgerald and the Hemingway wives? If you read The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, you know what I mean.

I will state here and now that I owe everything to my husband. In changing times, I was afforded the choice to be home with my children, a decision I will never regret. In fact, I miss those days sorely. My husband has helped me with computer issues, printer foibles, discouraging setbacks and several lapses in confidence. Being a creative person himself he knows that the power of the imagination can leave artistic types rather unhinged from time to time.

Tolstoy had the secretarial sort of wife, and by all accounts, she did not exactly have the life of Riley. What would the marriage of two writers look like? I shudder to think.

“How was your day?”

“Chapter five is falling apart again. What about you?”

“Our accountant called. He said we should just pay off the mortgage with the last royalty check.”

Constant support and eternal optimism. That is what marriage has given me. Last night we watched back to back episodes of Downton Abbey.

“Should we really be watching last week’s show when we’ve seen it already?”

“Yes,” I answered. “We can discuss each developing storyline and then watch the new episode in silence.”


Do we know of any really admirable literary marriages? Stephen King writes only for his wife. She does not read each developing page, but is given the privilege of being his first and most important reader. She is very independent according to him and has no trouble filling the hours where he is unavailable. He is not to be interrupted for any reason. She once slid a note under his study door to inform him of a plumbing emergency. He considers himself lucky, as do I.