Almost anyone can write. Software programs, like IBM's Via Voice(R) allow people with motor difficulty to convert voice into words. Other physical challenges such as blindness or muscular dystrophy, have not deterred writers from breaking through socioeconomic status, or lower education levels to write successfully. Is everyone's writing good? That is debatable, but not the point for painting or writing.
Writing, or the joy of placing pen to paper, is introspective, moving, challenging, and enables the author to open up a part of her/himself that may be too difficult orally. As an author, I have not read vast amounts of books. My choice is reading or writing, and even to write this piece, I've chosen the latter over reading. Three books I've read this year include Michael Cunningham's "A Home At The End Of The World," Henrietta Yurchenco's "Around the world in 80 years," and WG Sebald's "Austerlitz."
|"What? Are you crazy? You can't tell a story without lots of adjectives," he replies.|
These three authors write dissimilarly from each other. Cunningham's book is easy to read. One chapter, "Bobby" on page 20, is an excellent piece of writing! The balance of his book disappoints me, and I don't care for the three lead characters. They lack reality, vision, and they don't grow past their personal problems, so they become predictable.
Yurchenco's book narrates her ordeals in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, travelling in Mexico, the Middle East, and Spain to record folk music, today lost by cultural shifts. Written well, this book held my interest and is an excellent diary of Mexico's musical past.
Austerlitz reads philosophically, and Sebald's pros can be lengthy for my taste; however, the story is compelling, detailed, and I desired personal closure for both characters. In other words, I cared about them.
My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hennighan, didn't teach me to write, but encouraged me to write. I give credit to her for knowing the difference. Writing comes from within. Perhaps she saw my turmoil, maybe she assumed there was rage simply for taking the brunt of classmate's jokes. Nonetheless, writing caught-on within me. The tools, 'how to' write were built later in life. While working through issues I faced, I journaled. Today people blog. I was able to release my thoughts to pen and paper, and walk away. Today, typing replaces handwriting which is easier.
At the age of 25, I was living with my grandmother in Long Beach, CA, and spent Sunday afternoons at Belmont Shores writing whatever came to mind. Afterwards, I frequented a bar, drank a lot, and went home to put the journal in my closet on the top shelf. My grandmother (we called her Gogi) was 5' 4". Not that I cared, but the chance was nearly zero that she would reach high enough to find my writing. I forgot about the journal, and it wasn't until Gogi entered a full care facility that my mother discovered the diary. She read it.
I'm not sure how much time passed. Spending a weekend at my parent's house, the climax of dinner one Saturday evening mounted at my found journal. My mother cried. My dad left the house to walk outside. She said, "He couldn't read it all, it was too disturbing." I felt violated, but it was my fault for leaving it in public domain. Yet, I processed my thoughts quickly while my mother wrenched her hands, I was not ashamed of what was written. I was spent on shame in my life. My reply was, "I'm sorry you feel bad, but you read it without permission, so, what is for dessert?"
|Rejoining a newsroom is financially unfeasible today, unless I lose my current job.|
She returned the journal to me, indirectly. She told me where it was in her bedroom. I had to find it myself when they went to church the next day. It was a trap. Now I'd gone through her drawer, so we were even in her eyes. We never discussed the journal again.
Upon rereading the journal two years later, it was unsettling. By then, I'd moved past challenges in life, in part through writing. And I learned how to cope with the past using professional therapy. The intense swing of emotions, sexual gambles, and psychotic people in my past were only recalls on paper. Writing elevated me past the bitter acts, and into a future rendition.
Writing is powerful. A second grandmother, and a close family friend, both of whom were retired English teachers and have passed on, praised my writing. While I was thankful for their accolades, I didn't fully understand the power of words. Writers can describe details of death, happiness, love, and sexual clashes without obvious statements. The challenge for an author is to gain the readers' trust, and share experiences through words that he or she can accept.
Doubtful any writer in the United States didn't part words around September 11, 2001. Rather than scribble more about 9/11 specifically, my course took readers on a two hour walk in Manhattan on September 14, 2001. I distributed pictures of a missing man I had not met, Sal Pepe. His family had hoped he was only lost, but the emotions and conclusion arrive without stating.
Rules of writing are personal to each author. Some authors can methodically sit for six hours a day and draft a story. Other writers need the night hours. Some need a substance. I've written during most circumstances; however, I directed my style away from the night and booze, to write clear-headed during daylight. The alternative was to give up writing all together.
A friend of mine calls himself a writer. He is not disciplined. He dabbles in writing on vacations, and his first writing piece will be his novel, if you ask him. I've given him exercises that helped me compose short stories. "Write without adjectives," I said. "What? Are you crazy? You can't tell a story without lots of adjectives," he replies. He won't divulge his planned ending. He is afraid I'll take his idea. Kleptomaniac writers are known for stealing conclusions. There isn't a story you have that hasn't been written. The key is to make "your" story compelling, personal to the reader, and peppered with details that may in fact be new to the market.
|The New York Times pays entry reporters in the mid-$50,000 range, which itself is impossible to live on in New York City.|
Writing opens your mind. In developing characters, the author must understand each character as well as she understands herself. The story's villain, the story's sweetheart, all the story's players become your creation, and therefore are you. Writing as a gruesome murderer certainly doesn't make you suspect. But how can you convince a reader your character is capable of murder without knowing the details behind his motive, personality, history, and desires? There are no surprises in a story. A character doesn't suddenly appear and save the story. Any part of the story that breaks verisimilitude offends your reader.
The Internet enables writers to promote their product without the bureaucracy of publishing. You don't need an agent. You don't have to pitch your idea. You write, save into HTML, and post on-line. Writers can create and post while holding a wage-earning job.
Writing for the Dallas Business Journal from 1993-1995, I desired keeping a job in journalism. I loved working in [their] newsroom. After I graduated from college, I could write for the Business Journal, earn $25,000, which would have only covered my student loan payments, and start working my way up the print ladder. I was 31, and decided to seek financial security. I left the news business and joined a high-tech firm, writing.
Rejoining a newsroom is financially unfeasible today, unless I lose my current job. The New York Times pays entry reporters in the mid-$50,000 range, which itself is impossible to live on in New York City. I've known three writers at the Los Angeles Times, and they had nothing positive to say about the experience or the money. Newsrooms who treat employees well, so I've heard, are; The Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the Seattle Times. Considering the hundreds of newspapers in the United States, that pay a reasonable salary, listing only three spells a dismal future for this profession.
What places one author in the spotlight, even if he is not considered an excellent writer? Who you know. Having contacts with book agents, publishers, newspaper editors gives you the advantage. Occasionally, an unknown author is published, however screenwriters have a better chance of "pitching" a story to screen agents, than unknown authors to publishers. If you are fortunate to submit a screenplay, ensure formatting is correct or it won't live past the mail room.
If you want to write -- act on it. Write about what you know. Sit outside on a park bench and describe what you see. Write a nonsensical story, and write a serious story. Describe your best friend. Describe a lover. Put it down for a day and edit the piece. Re-edit again. Use a thesaurus. Play with words. Find another writer to share your projects and ideas, help each other work through character concepts. Call yourself a writer.