I've been writing since I was very young. I remember writing a story in 3rd grade about a boy who wakes up one day to fine everyone in his neighborhood has disappeared. He runs about in a panic trying to find someone and ends up discovering the body of his dead father in the basement of his house. Yeah, I know, a bad Twilight Zone episode if ever there was one, but I remember being very proud of it. My teacher (I wish I could remember her name) used to keep a board on the wall of quotes and she put a quote I wrote from the story that I can still remember, from when the boy in the story discovers his dead dad: "He was there alright, but dead." My teacher was in an uproar about this quote and I remember I just couldn't understand why. I don't think any of the other kids got it either. Now, maybe I do understand; it's a horribly cheesy line, but it's also story telling; it came from a need to tell a story with feeling and resonance; it also came from a part of me my little 3rd grade sell did not fully understand.
I wish I could pinpoint that moment in 3rd grade as the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer, but it doesn't usually work out that way. I wrote stories and created worlds (I liked to design video games and later became obsesed with Dungeons and Dragons) growing up, but "the Arts" were one of those things I was taught were not practical pursuits for one day "getting a job" and "makng money." Okay, to be fair, I still don't have a job writing (knock on wood) and the amount of money I've made with my writing is, well, none too great, but I still do it. Why? I'm not sure, honestly. I think it comes from the need in me to create, to use my imagination in one of the only mediums still availble to us adults (we really get screwed over when we grow up in this department). I've never been content to express myself in the conventional fashions and refuse to go through the traditional supression and mind-numbing process of "becoming adult." I'd rather die, honestly. If you want to be a writer, you'll hear a lot of different advice; this is mine: don't lose your imagination! Don't let it slip away from you. You're better than that. There are many oppessive forces in the world; don't give in to them!
Now, you might be wondering, what gives this guy the right to dish out advice on writing? And, I'll admit, I'm still very much a fledgling author in the big-wide-world of commercial publishing, but I've also been writing my whole life and am confident about this one thing above all others: imagination is the key. Without my imagination, I'd not still be writing. When you train and embrace your imagination to run in the background of your everyday - and oft mundane - life, you'll experience everything on a deeper level and, if you're like me, you'll want to express yourself by whatever means are available to you. For me, this is writing.
Writing, I've said already, is a personal process; it is the culmination of your experiences and imaginings; it is learned by practicing the art of putting words to paper (or screen or print or whatever). By the time I came to college and decided I wanted to be a writer, I'd become lost. I became so caught up in what I was "supposed to be" writing, that I lost sight of what I enjoyed writing, of what came out of me naturally when I sat down to write. I'll discuss the legistics of craft as I see them in a later blog, but what's important here is that I became so caught up in trying to write "literary" fiction, and follow the assigned story arcs, and writing detailed character studies, and overanalyzing work that is not even finished, that I almost gave up. I lost the joy of writing. What comes out of me when I'm writing and enjoying myself are stories about waking up in scary places where all the people are missing, stories about finding your dead father's body in the basement, stories like that. When I graduated college I could have jumped right into a Master's program, but I'm glad I didn't and I'm glad I kept writing. I've learned the most about my craft from reading like an obsessed maniac and writing consistently what I like to write. I hope others of you are doing the same.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience or other frustrations when it comes to writing, or even getting along in the world in other creative pursuits. It is important to express ourselves. It is important not to let things fade. Just some thought, from Out of the Jar.