Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Writing Life -- Determining Your Fate

I decided to become a writer at the tender age of seven or eight. It was something I didn't have a lot of support in -- ever. It was up to me to find that place inside that knew that I could and would do this -- no matter what.

Teachers, those supposed guides to education and possibility, were often hopelessly worthless, if not actively obstructive in my pursuit of writing. I had at least two grade school teachers who were positive that I was stupid and couldn't figure it out when I did not act accordingly. The two that come to mind were also abusive, but I won't go into that. Suffice it to say, they probably didn't belong in the field.

My high school creative writing teacher said my stuff was hackneyed and cliched, and that I would never amount to anything as a writer. I had a college English professor who literally backed me into a corner over my improper use of commas. After bawling me out she never did give me any hints as to the proper use of the comma. I learned that later through a correspondence course that was a far better teacher than she was.

The one glowing exception to this parade of dismal teachers was my junior high school English teacher and writing mentor, Frank Reno. For three years he encouraged me to write and after school he would read what I was writing and try hard not to laugh himself to death. I am sure that what I was writing at that age was not exactly Pulitzer material. Still, he encouraged me. Of all the English teachers I have had over the years, he is the only one who became an accomplished author in his own right. He has researches and written several books on the historical King Arthur.

When I was a teenager my mother took me to see a psychic. The woman devastated me by saying that I would only ever write for myself. It was like telling me that my life would never amount to anything. After a great deal of soul searching I determined two things. One was that the woman was all too human for all her psychic abilities and she had allowed herself to be swayed by my appearance -- the fat girl with glasses. We weren't supposed to succeed. The second was that she was flat out wrong.

My father was very negative about my writing and tried to sway me away from it. I often commented that he would be fine with it once it came with a dollar sign attached to it. Truer words I have never spoken. I understand that it was part of his make up since he was coming of age during the Depression, but he was oddly lacking in support for the things that interested me.

During college, my stepmother was cleaning my room at home and apparently went through a bunch of my stories. She pushed me to admit that I was just playing at being a writer because none of these stories had endings. I stubbornly insisted that I was a writer. Again one more person who didn't believe.

My mother, bless her, vacillated between being supportive and not. I finally figured out that she just wasn't all that good at giving constructive criticism back then. Thankfully she learned how over the years through her own writing endeavors. She is now my biggest fan.

The point of all this is that YOU determine whether or not you can write. Once you determine that it is up to you to break your path. I kept writing. Lots -- most -- of it was crap. A lot of what I write now is crap. That is how you find out what works and what doesn't. Obviously I figured out how to get to the end of my stories. I learned to write wonderful poetry. I discovered that I could be really funny when I write. I found a talent for writing essays. When I started working for a newspaper I took a leap into the  void and talked myself into writing articles.

I proved all of those people wrong. I stayed true to my goal. Granted that when I was seven years old I was expecting to write books, but as I grew older my dreams grew too and I knew that there were many ways to write. I have written a book and it is still in the works.

In the meantime I am working as a freelance journalist now and I am loving it. The book will happen eventually. The plans for a second book is in the works. I am doing what I was meant to do and there is nothing else quite so rewarding.

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