Learning from Randy Wayne White – it’s no mystery; think like a writer

By Randall Kenneth Jones
Originally published in the Naples Daily News

Randy Wayne White Photo by Kevin Randall JonesMystery, mayhem, malfeasance, marauding bandits and the occasional murder: words that describe New York Times bestselling author Randy Wayne White’s home, the sensational Sanibel Island.

Of course, despite White’s extraordinary imagination, the crime rate on sleepy, safe little Sanibel is actually considerably less than the national average.

Since 1990, Randy Wayne White has created a series of wildly popular novels featuring adventurous marine biologist Doc Ford. He launched his latest series in 2012 with the introduction of an uncommonly resourceful fishing guide named Hanna Smith.

Almost all of his novels begin in Southwest Florida.

Eddie Albert in "Green Acres"In a scene reminiscent of Hooterville’s less-than-convenient phone service in the ‘60s television show, “Green Acres,” White—a young, resourceful telephone-service installer—“borrowed” long-distance phone lines from atop Ma Bell’s telephone poles to call around the country seeking new opportunities.

As a result, he was hired to work on the copy desk at the Fort Myers News-Press in 1972.

Later, White mixed various writing projects with his other passion: working as a light-tackle fishing guide at Tarpon Bay Marina on Sanibel Island.

As for any similarities between fly fishing and fiction writing, White suggests: “Both are very hard work. As with writing, there is an articulateness to fly fishing. Both are very procedural.”

Though a writer often works alone, interruptions and distractions are often his or her greatest foes.

In response, White advises: “Turn off the internet!” He has even been known to seek the peace and quiet afforded him by the privacy of Amtrak’s sleeper coaches.

What’s more, he has not owned a television since his sons were young.

Due to White’s celebrated literary success, the demands on his time are understandably significant.

Though “yes” may be the preferred answer when attempting to open doors, its arch rival—“no”—often becomes a necessary evil once you find yourself on the other side trying to get your work done.

White agrees: “The tough thing about writing is you go into a room alone, you close the door and you do your work.”

randy-wayne-white-home-haunted-book-coverFor a man who can turn a phrase with such incredible finesse, when questioned about the secret to success, White wastes no time in providing straightforward, commonsensical responses: “Be on time, show up slightly early, do a little more than the other person, and associate with good people.”

Then, he continues: “Do your work. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses.”

Apparently, he also has a creative well that is unlikely to run dry. “I never run out of ideas. I have too many actually. If I’m not careful, I can end up writing two or three books,” explains White.

In fact, his yardstick for a feasible creative vision is to proactively “summarize my novel in one sentence.”

Yes, writers teach us through their words, but we teach the writer though our collective actions.

Though White claims, “I have met very few ‘stupid’ people,” he is clearly more accepting than most insofar as the unpredictability of human nature.

White simply states: “I pay attention.” In fact, he also puts forward the notion that what may be considered irrational to some is typically quite rational in the mind of the beholder.

In business, everything we write—regardless of our skill at doing so—is meant to sell something: an emotion, perspective, product and/or service. Randy Wayne White taps into three of the four above and provides a great “service” to us, the reader, by doing so.

Even if writing is not your professional calling, imagine the benefits of thinking as a writer:

  • An uncompromising focus on the story and/or project at hand;
  • Enhanced listening skills and wordplay;
  • An uptick in intuitive thinking as well as a heightened understanding of—and appreciation for—the differences that exist between us.

Essentially, a writer seeks to find what is interesting and/or unique about people, places and events. Sometimes, taking life at face value provides no value.

It’s no mystery that thoughtfully sequenced words are the backbone of our collective beliefs and values.

As the skill of writing has increasingly found itself reduced to a series of hashtags, abbreviations and sound bites, the heart of the writing profession and a substantial part of the reader’s response have become compromised.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Randy Wayne White and all his similarly skilled scribes.

Randall Kenneth Jones and Randy Wayne White Photo by Kevin Randall Jones copyWith his clever juxtapositions of nouns, adjectives, action verbs and ingenuity, White has continued to excite our minds across a vast backdrop of stimulating scenarios and delectable language.

According to White: “I spend very little time hoping for praise. I prefer to listen to people than talk. You can’t learn anything with your mouth open.”

All this said, there’s one thing you will likely never see this laptop-laden outdoorsman and water-worshipping wordsmith do:

Fish for compliments.


Marketer, publicist, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida. 

Photos: TOP — Randy Wayne White photo by Kevin Randall Jones, Photo 2 — Randy Wayne White photo by Kevin Randall Jones, Photo 3 — Eddie Albert in “Green Acres”, Photo 4 — “Haunted” Book Cover, Photo 5 — Randall Kenneth Jones and Randy Wayne White, BOTTOM — Randall Kenneth Jones.