Some authors have always known that they wanted to write for a living. The rest of us may have grown up knowing that ‘author’ was just as valid a career as nurse, pilot, lawyer, or teacher, but either the dream died along with the other choices like dancer, astronaut, and superhero, or the sacrifices seemed too drastic. For others, the option to write for a living may never even have occurred to them, not even as a quickly rejected passing thought.
For me, the idea came later in life than it does for some., I was about twenty years old, taking night courses in hopes of returning to higher education after an alarmingly expanding “break”. They were remedial or core classes that I had neglected during my one directionless year at a private school I could not afford.
One of these night courses was Composition One, taught by a high school teacher named Mrs. Green. Mrs. Green was the first teacher to show me how to “find” inspiration through free-writing, and it was through her class, and the threat of her grading “chainsaw”, that I really took to heart the authorial trope: writing is re-writing.
In her class, I discovered that I loved the entire creative process. I loved the sheer volume of writing the class inspired in me. From my first illegible stream-of-conscious scribblings, through marking up computer print-outs of my 10th draft, to my final read-through for over-used commas – it felt amazing and satisfying. Like real work.
At the end of the class, Mrs. Green awarded each student a mock certificate of accomplishment. Mine was for the most prolific use of metaphor, which simultaneously made me proud and warned me against being overly eager to use that device. It read “Metaphor King” in 40-point font with an author’s quote, long since faded from memory, and it gave me far more joy than any A+ ever did.
I was inspired by the whole experience, faux-awards included. I knew what I wanted to do: take a year off of my anemic two-classes-per-week go-back-to-college schedule and start writing and submitting short stories. Mrs. Green had awakened in me a burning desire to challenge the literary world with my brilliant insights and engaging character-driven prose and prove that I had it in me to be a real writer.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was more like a flickering candle than a conflagration, and so it was easily snuffed by someone whose opinion mattered to me. The exit of this person from my daily life helped me eventually grow into an independent man, capable of dogged self-determination.
I wish I could describe an 80’s movie-style montage of me in a writing furious essays on independence, epic chronicles of solo adventures, and even my debut New York Times best-selling novel. It did not. Instead, I played it safe and went back to school, but not to become a journalist or librarian. No, my choice lead to a very comfortable existence, though not one of great inspiration or creativity.
For the better part of a decade, I played with technology, or pursued hobbies too esoteric to go into now. It was only recently that I began to dabble at writing. I wrote in fits and starts for a while, completely alone in my pursuit, just as I thought it had to be. Then I made a discovery that is changing my life–even now, as I write this inaugural blog entry.
I found National Novel Writing Month also known as “NaNoWriMo.”
Through the challenge of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days, I have learned that I can, when I apply myself, get a lot of writing done in a pretty short period of time. I’ve also proven that I have the wherewithal to keep going, even without the challenge, albeit at a much slower pace..
As of this writing, I have 3 unfinished rough drafts, all started during NaNoWriMo. The latest of these I finished a short while ago, and it is now resting in a virtual drawer, not to be looked at or fiddled with until much of the detail has faded from my mind.
This blog will be my explorer’s journal into the world of novel revision, proofing, finding a critique group, writing techniques, writing tools, new NaNoWriMo struggles and any other ephemera that I can link to the craft of writing. I am here to share what I do and what I learn along the way. There very likely will be false starts, embarrassing faux pas, bad grammar, and garden-variety rookie mistakes. I hope it proves edifying, or at the very least, entertaining.