Saturday, March 28, 2009

Okay, okay, the writing.

Bells kicked it off, I think. Then Amy Lane started up with the fan fiction (today's 'Coda' entry is quite cool, and educational), and now Louiz is writing about her writing. So, as Louiz said, either jumping on the bandwagon or some kind of cosmic zeitgeist (or possibly a form of commiseration), here you go.

I started writing when I was, literally, a kid. I remember writing a joke in yellow marker on a piece of cardboard, sometime before I started kindergarten. (Typically, my audience didn't get it. Story of my life.) I learned to read at four, and in my usual fashion, figured if other people could make stuff up, by golly, I could too. (This was reflected much later when I learned to knit - others design, by golly, I can too.)

I remember in grade school writing some story, getting a C on it, and having the teacher tell me it wasn't 'what she wanted'. Looking back, I'm still mildly enraged at the idiot teacher, who should have been thrilled a kid turned in ANYTHING, let alone something three times longer than the assignment was for, just because the kid enjoyed writing it.

Later, in high school, I had several nice teachers who gently encouraged the writing, usually by reading my work and making gentle suggestions. I'm sure as English teachers, they were pleased by any kid who ENJOYED writing and would cut their tongues out before discouraging that. I wasn't any good, but by churning out huge volumes of stuff, I developed a solid foundation in grammar and narrative voice.

Plus, I had an op/ed column in the school paper. I kicked off the end of my senior year with an editorial reminding all the teachers that they existed to teach us (not give lazy students A's, I was careful to point out, but to TEACH), and suggested that perhaps some of them needed to remember that. Nearly got suspended for it. Interestingly, the good teachers told me they liked it, and the lazy teachers who needed to hear it screamed for my blood.

And so I learned the power of the written word. Also the valuable lesson that very often, the people who most need to hear something, are the most resistant and hostile when it is said.

When I went to college, directly from high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do (going straight to college was an insanely stupid move, but that's a post for another day), so I went as an English major. A friend of mine recently told me that being an English major is like being a Marine. Once you've signed on, you're in it for life. Damn if it isn't true. What's the English major version of Semper Fi? Carpe diem? In college I realized there's more to writing a story than just good grammar. So I began studying literature and fiction more actively, seeing how other people did it. I read Joseph Campbell. I wrote a lot of papers of all sorts, for all kinds of classes. And eventually I realized that being a good novelist is not something you learn in college, so I quit school. Well, that and I still didn't know what I wanted to do, so staying seemed like a waste of money.

Over the next ten, fifteen years or so, I worked as an accounting clerk, got married, moved around, and wrote novels. No one wanted to publish them, but that seemed about par for the course; all writers had piles of rejection letters. I just kept on writing. At that point I think I had the wit to understand that for most writers, it's about the act of writing, of creation, not making money. As long as I enjoyed the writing, I was going to do it. And I did. I still do.

The novel writing gradually morphed into short stories, fan fic (yes, Amy, fan fic), smut, article writing, and then to KNITTING article writing. At about the same time, I went back to school and began writing papers there. And I began blogging, which was another lovely, enjoyable outlet for the writing. It turned out I was some kind of idiot savant for tech writing, and impressed my professors, my readers, and others. (If I have some amazing ability for explaining things, it's because I assume my audience is smart, but knows nothing about the topic. I don't talk down, but I explain EVERYTHING.)

This brings us to now. Most of my writing these days is limited to short things; articles or blog posts, or fan fic (which I consider a brain twinkie). I blame it on the Goober, but really, I think part of it also comes from all the medication I'm on for the hand problem. I have trouble concentrating for long amounts of time. That seems to be changing, though, and I'm thinking of going back to the novels. I never quit studying fiction, and how other people write things. It's time, I think.

Maybe when the Goober's older, I'll look into doing more tech writing, for more of a living. But, honestly, tech writing for other people kind of sucks. They micro-manage it down until they might as well write it themselves; they'd hire me for the humor that I put into my tech stuff, and then edit the humor out later. So, I don't know. Maybe I'll stick to articles on what I want, when I want.

But either way, for pay or for personal enjoyment, writing has always been something I do, and something I enjoy. I've got no plan to quit; in fact, it's my fallback plan to remain sane. If and when my hand finally craps out and I can't knit any more, it will be writing I will turn to for comfort.

Kind of boring, but there you go. Probably only Bells, Amy, and Louiz have stuck with me this far. Haha.


Galad said...

Nope - I made it all the way through too.

I'm just excited for all of you to start writing again!

WakterKnitty said...

I made it through all the way too. Maybe if someone were to hire you as a tech and for your humour they'd keep the humour and edit everything else out.

Emily said...

I made it through, too. Your writing personality (I think there's a term for it, but I can't find it in the clutter in my brain)is wonderful. If you are like this in person, your family is lucky indeed.

Mandy said...

Emily, I think the term you want is "voice", not that I'm an English major or anything. I have the even more useful degree in Cultural Anthropology, which is why I work in retail. I just say that every day is fieldwork!

I'm right there with you on the stupidity of going straight to college out of high school when you don't know what you want to do - I wanted to take a year off, and got pressured into going straight on by two parents who never went at all. I regret it to this day, and I STILL don't know what I want to do when I grow up (of course, I don't particularly want to grow up, either, but that's another story!)

Spam word: anest ... what they push you out of to make you go straight to college.

Louiz said...

Cool. Maybe we should start up an additional, joint, blog where we can post our writings

Barbara said...

I stuck it out too. I'm at a weekend writing conference in Madison, WI, just made my first agent pitch (she asked for the first 3 chapters!), and I'm rewriting the opening to make it better before I send it.

I only started writing about 8 years ago. Nothing big published. Yet. Julie, I love the Goob but I read your blog for the writing.

(spam word-elpersh: the people who help a drunk to bed)

Bells said...

Oh we had similar college experiences, only I stayed. I wish I hadn't gone straight from school either and I learned what you learned.

I envy that you worked out earlier that the process and act is the important bit.


Bells said...

I like Louiz's idea, too.

Amy Lane said...

Awesome-- you were the kind of kid I'd love to teach! (I love creativity and thinking outside of my box!)

You'd better keep writing, sweetie--I depend on you daily! (And I'd love to read your fiction!)

Alwen said...

I was actually signed up to be an English major when I started college.

Then I was thinking about "And after college I'll ...", looked at the picture of myself attempting to teach English, screamed in terror, and switched to Horticulture at orientation.

One of the requirements for graduation was a Journalism class. The poor TA teaching that class said to me sadly once, "Why are none of my best writers English majors?"

Verification is "prolisi", which has something to do with "prolific", I'm sure!

Deb said...

Not just Amy, Bells, and Louiz, you always suck me in and I have to see where you go.

NeedleTart said...

I made it all the way through, too. Even after Amy's posts on fan-fic. Hmmmm. Watching last weeks Sunday Morning about Mensa. The commentator (sorry, I was reading when they said who it was) said Mensa people like to play. The Husband and I are former members. Hmmmmm

Roxie said...

Another happy follower of yours is Roxie, who also writes novels - with knitting magic and a heroic heroine. Blogging is great writing exercise. What are your novels about?

Roz said...

You have a voice, which is why I read you every day. It's commanding and funny and anyone who tries to edit out the funny is jealous.

My word: "peaut," French for "skin" with a "t" added on. Hmmm.

Samantha said...

I'm in high school, and I'm considering taking a year off after I graduate. Why do you think it's such a bad idea to go straight to college? My parents aren't entirely in support of this idea, they think if I don't go to college right away I'll never end up going.

historicstitcher said...

A little late to the party, but I read all the way through, too. It was actually almost like reading my own writing bio! Some days I'm sure we're long-lost sisters. (I'd say twins, but we're not the same age...)

I'm writing a novel right now, after joining NaNoWriMo last Novemeber. I'm doing it again this year - maybe we could all join? Coax each other on...

Oh, and my verification word is 'xerist'. Is that someone who studies strangers? Or someone who studies copies?

Hannah said...

FanFic, eh?? I'm a big fan of fanfic - it really helped me discover my "voice." :-) And its a heck of a lot of fun - all you have to concentrate on is the story - the characters are already there for you to play with! :D Do you post them anywhere? If you do what's your alias?