Nick of Time – A Free-Form Blog-Conversation

Back in my school days of legwarmers and MTV, I did a lot of free-writing. It was in English classes most days as a way to get started writing. And like the nerd I was and still am, I loved that kind of writing. It was supposed to not be read by anyone but I always assumed the teacher would take a look at it so I never wrote anything really revealing. But I liked the idea of just sitting down and writing without stopping.

When I re-started this blog I had the idea of doing a weekly series on a given topic. But that petered out as I thought my writing wasn’t where I wanted it to be on that given topic. I was writing about the past and I didn’t want it to be just a re-hash or just a straight compare/contrast. I felt like I needed some framework or way of explaining why I’m writing like I am. So I pulled back and let my mind go to work on this and eventually a thought came to my mind:

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

Then a couple of days ago, this thought came to me:

Writing is a conversation.

I have never thought of writing as being a conversation but I realize when a writer puts their words out into the world for anyone to read, they’re starting a conversation. I used to think writing was just my way of telling my story but not having a conversation that is a give-and-take kind of thing. Now I haven’t really heard from a lot of people who have read my work over the years and those that have given me feedback have been very kind and generous and thoughtful.

I have come to realize I need to face something else that I don’t think really think I’ve talked about before. I call it ‘push-back’. It’s a term from my former call-center days that I dealt with on a daily basis because it wasn’t someone just ranting and raving to you on the phones. It was being told I didn’t know what I was talking about when I did have the knowledge and experience to back me up, and it was also being told my communication skills were essentially crap. Push-back was done to wear me down, to undermine my confidence and doubt my abilities, and to make me doubt my own knowledge and experience.

This is in turn has led to a fear that still lives inside of me, the fear that if I go too far in some way, shape, or form, my world will be kicked out from under me. I used to fear losing my job all the time for any mistake I made or if I found the courage to speak out against something. I still have to work with the fear I’ll lose what little I have though I keep coming up with backup plans because that’s just what I’ve done all my life. I’ve written a lot of this off to anxiety and over-imagination but I think a lot of it was fueled by my past. I’ve had a fear that if I ever pursued my writing all the way I’d be exiled and hated.

I’m already an exile and I honestly don’t think I’m hated. I think I’m mostly forgotten and thought of as an anti-social hermit who is probably a real snooty bitch on occasion. I’m honestly not anti-social but I’ve been called a bitch when I’ve just stood up for myself and pushed back at people who were being thoughtless and cruel to me.

So do these lifelong fears and anxieties have to do with this blog?

Over the last few years, my writing has led me down some long and sometimes dark and scary paths in my mind and my heart and soul. It’s led me to go through the storage unit of my mind and open up and deal with things I’d put aside for so many years. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer or write constantly to pull myself off that dark path. I want to have fun and not feel guilty about that like I have in the past, too.

So I may or not write a blog series though I will if I want to. Mostly, it’ll be whatever is on my mind after I start my second cup of coffee. I may write about politics, social issues, or anything deemed ‘controversial’ though I’ll do my best to put a warning label on those pieces for those with delicate sensibilities. If you do want to respond and try to undermine my confidence in myself and my writing abilities, take that and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine At almost forty-seven years on this planet I’ve probably heard every variation of that bullshit and I’m still alive and kicking. Besides, I’m not writing for bullies or people who think they have the right to dictate what my life should be, or who just want me to shut the fuck up.

No, I’m writing for anyone who wants to read what I have to say. And I hope to connect with people who have been through things like I have and dealt with thoughts and feelings like I have. I want to give people something to think about, and hold on to in need. And I’d like to give out a few laughs or nail a really good piece of sarcasm.

So You Want to Be a Writer

This is an article I wrote last August but am re-posting again now.

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.