I avoid writing. I always have. In grade school, I drove my teachers crazy. In high school, it was worse. I openly rebelled at any suggestion that I was a good writer. I had a journalism class in my junior year of high school and really connected with the teacher (I am not naming names to protect the innocent from my poor memory). I enjoyed the class and the teacher must have brought something out in me, because I ended up writing for the school paper. However, without that teacher’s influence, things didn’t go so well.
My relationship with my senior English teacher was a bit different. I clashed with him constantly. It always seemed like this teacher had it out for me and I never understood why, despite the fact that he pretty much flat out told me: I didn’t try hard enough. There were other students who would get worse grades than me on tests and assignments, but had better averages. He told me that I didn’t perform up to my potential and he would hold me to a different yardstick.
Now, I knew I was lazy. Admittedly, I had fallen behind and when I met with the teacher near the end of the year, he painted a grim picture of my chances for passing his course. If I failed senior English, I wouldn’t be walking down the graduation isle with my class. He told me that it all rested on the grade of my final paper, a historical biography. He made it clear: I needed an A. I pulled out all the stops and spent hours at the library doing research on my subject, Ludwig van Beethoven. He gave me a B+ … I flunked senior English … didn’t graduate with my class. What a jerk!
The summer school teacher that I had while missing senior week and most of that summer couldn’t believe that someone with my writing ability had flunked high school senior English. Most of his students were drop-outs, so he didn’t generally get many good writers coming through his classes. He was teaching competency in English. I was much more proficient than most of his GED and tutoring students. In the crystal ball of hindsight, I view my senior English teacher’s strong-armed tactics in a slightly different light. I truly think he was trying to wake me up. He was still a jerk about it, but I think he was trying to tell me something. I know my mom will disagree with that point.
Fast forward to college, where I never did poorly in English. It was one of my stronger subjects throughout most of my start-and-stop college career. I had an English professor early on tell me that she thought I was a pretty good writer. I ended up with a B in the class and she told me that I may have even gotten an A, had I bothered to read course material. Ahem.
Fast forward again – post tech school Associate’s degree … post dropping out of music school … post dropping out of Penn State (yeah, I have history). I decided to take some online courses with the intent of finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I was pretty motivated at the time and was really focused on getting good grades. In tech school, I preformed well and I got used to excelling in my studies. I carried this enthusiasm through to my first formal class in a long time, English. I ended up just crushing it. Every paper, every assignment, class forum discussions, team assignments – everything. I just poured myself into it and was rewarded with top marks and encouraging feedback from my teacher. On top of that, I was having fun writing again. Go figure.
At the end of the course, the teacher contacted me and told me that I was one of her best students ever and wondered what my career path was. I told her that I was pursuing a degree in technical management. She responded that she felt like that was a huge mistake and urged me to consider a career in teaching English and writing. I was a bit shocked at the time. I had never really considered myself a “writer”. I mean, I could write, but not “write”, right? Besides, what would I write about? I mean, I always had a lot to say, but who would want to hear it? I dismissed the idea of writing and instead chose to continue to focus on my Information Technology career. Or to try to focus on IT is a better way of putting it. Unfortunately, the more time I spent working for large corporations doing non-creative things, the more I became convinced that I had no place in that world.
So, I toyed with doing something creative with my life for years, and sometimes, my thoughts turned to writing. I thought about trying blogging, the new journalism, but I had trouble settling on one topic, so I just never started. That is the trouble with starting new things: You actually have to start. Oh, I had ideas for fiction that I did move on, but they didn’t exactly come out as prose. The first was a comedy scene about a tough guy who finds his girl in a compromising situation and ends with someone getting shot with a bb gun. I originally imagined it as a movie scene, but I wasn’t going to start mailing out scripts or anything. So, I did the next best thing. I turned it into a blues song. Hence the title Big Black BB Gun. Here it is, if you’d like to hear it. Parental warning, this is about an adult theme, but the only “bad word” is the grown-up word for “butt”. It’s really pretty mild, but just thought I’d give a heads up. If you listen to the words, you can hear the kernel of fiction writing in there:
Later I came up with an idea for a novel. No. A trilogy! I know. Ridiculous. Well, I already told you the rest of that story in my second post, which can be found here – How did I get here? if you need to read it.
That brings us up to speed. At least it brings me back to my current excuse for not writing, which I started alluding to a few posts ago: I am easily distracted. No, that’s not quite right. I am easily waylaid by the highwayman of creativity. A good example of this is what happened when I started writing my last post, An Overdue Update; parts 1 and 2. In the midst of writing, I decided to check the recording of Ride one last time before putting it online. That one action sent me careening down the rabbit hole. Six days later, I finally emerged with fresh mixes and masters of both Ride and O7O. Then I got back to writing those posts.
It’s not that I intended to do that. It’s just what happened when I went in to tweak one thing. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Art is never finished, only abandoned” – Leonardo da Vinci (I mis-attributed that quote to Van Gough for years). I will tweak and adjust things almost obsessively. Experimentation is part of the process, which is why I get so lost when making music or doing graphics, but I still need to work writing in. That is why I decided to start writing daily.
Besides the fact that I need the “exercise” of daily writing, it has become apparent that I need the routine to write at all effectively. That seems to include blogging and writing fiction. Without structure, I will make any excuse not to write, including distracting myself with things that are more immediately satisfying. I have been telling myself that it’s been ok to focus on music and graphics because it will be easier for me to make a living sooner with those two pursuits, but I have been neglecting writing because of that. I can’t do that, because writing is an essential piece of my puzzle. It ties everything together and will help me market myself, and my other skills. It’s also pretty therapeutic.
Writing fiction is a whole different set of challenges for me. I do need to get back to the long form stories that I have started, but I also need to figure out how to integrate writing fiction into my routine without sapping too much energy away from freelance creative enterprises I am starting. The problem with creative writing, especially since my story ideas are novel length, is the same one I have with music and graphics. I throw myself into it. I get lost in it. Especially when I write fiction … when I am outlining a plot, or sitting down and writing scenes, time has no meaning. I think it may be even worse than music. Well … its close. The other thing is that as far as generating income, writing long-form fiction is as effective as hopping up and down on a rock in the forest on one foot all day. In the rain.
So in order to balance my creative endeavors better, Not only am I going to try to make writing part of my daily schedule, I am going to try writing first before I do anything else (besides research). No, that doesn’t mean I will be updating my blog on a daily basis. In fact, this article has been written over two days (and edited and proofread over a third and forth). However, I should be making more regular updates. Feel free to hold me accountable if I’m not blogging.
So that’s the latest plan. I am reviewing my outlines to determine what fiction project I want to pick up first. In addition, I will also try to finish writing for the day by noon, then move on to other work. Of course, that plan could go right down the drain when I get into a story, or a song, or … Well, I have to allow myself some time to be obsessive.
In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line and let me know what you think so far. Any comments are welcome, please use the comment section below. Even if you just want to tell me that I use italics too much, or that you hate my use of parenthesis, or to tell me that I have no clue about colons, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, if there is a particular topic you’d like to see me write about. Let me know!