I haven’t written many blog entries regarding writing, so I thought I would go down that path today.
Writing was never one of my goals in life. I absolutely hated reading books in high school, dreaded writing reports about them, and didn’t pursue advanced writing in college. Like everyone else, I was required to take Writing 101 in college so they could prepare me to write the plethora of papers required to graduate. And yes, I liked writing those papers as much as writing the book reports in high school. I’m sure many of you can relate.
I can still remember taking Reading 101 in college. It was the second course I took and was taken immediately after Writing 101.
First, a little background...
I did not go to college directly after graduating high school. In-fact, I called college students “college dummies” because the ones I met appeared to have no common sense. I had worked since I was 14 and had some street smarts about me that the other kids could not relate to.
After several years making a living as a mechanic, I learned that many working people had no common sense either and maybe I had prejudged those college students inappropriately. I also learned that owners of car dealerships were about as corrupt as politicians. I could no longer work for them while they became rich off my back, while screwing customers ever day of their lives.
Therefore, I decided to try college. As they say, “walk before you run.” I decided to take two college courses at night during the summer break. (One followed by the other) I could work during the day and study at night. My confidence level regarding college was not at its peak, so I decided to take the absolute most dreaded course that I feared I might not pass. Yup, I took that Writing 101 course. I figured that if I failed that right up front, then I didn’t have to waste my time taking other courses.
During this time-period I was preparing to get married. Yeah, the whole timing thing was probably not perfect, but hey, nothing ever is. I’m still married to the same gal, so I guess it didn’t matter.
I began the course and was told to write something that I felt passionate about. That was an easy decision for me to make; I really disliked what the car dealers were doing to customers. I wrote two pages and really struggled to get that much written. In the next class I sat through half a class of lecture and then was told to apply the lecture to my paper for the second half of the class. That was the beginning to an entire semester of editing the same document over and over and over again. Man! I found that to be about as fun as pulling my fingernails out. Remember; I was accustomed to being a mechanic that had to make flat-rate to make a living. I remember having an attitude about the instructor, thinking he was being a slacker.
Sometime during the time-frame of taking this class the owner of the dealership came to talk to me after my lunch break. He said that he had heard that I was taking a college course and asked me what that was all about. I was the head mechanic and I could see that he was concerned. I told him that I felt that there might be something better for me someday. That I could not see myself being a mechanic all of my life.
I can still hear his response in my mind to this day. He told me I was all I was ever going to be, working at his dealership. .. that I was a person that could only work with my hands and that I would find life easier by not trying to improve upon myself. This butt-head said that people like me are best doing physical work for others.
That was all I needed to hear. I quit my job and drove home determined to not fail at college.
I passed that damned writing course and I signed up for the reading course that began the following week. And not only that, I signed up to be a full-time student for the fall. I took the proverbial plunge.
Needless to say, my soon-to-be wife had some concerns when I got home. I now had no job, would need to pay for college, and we were about to be married.
Yeah, we still got married. That occurred in the middle of my reading course. I wrote a mid-term paper in the passenger’s seat of a Volkswagen Rabbit while my new bride drove to where we would spend a few days on our honeymoon. The worst part of that experience is that I had forgotten my dictionary and thesaurus. Now… my hand writing is only slightly better than that of a walrus when I am on stable ground, and it did not improve when riding in the car… all the while dealing with bouts of motion sickness.
I timidly handed in my paper to the reading teacher, neglecting to tell her the circumstances behind the formatting. (That could have been used to create a new font called “scribble” for a word processor) She didn’t even look at it. Whew!
Upon her entrance into the next class, she promptly handed our “corrected” assignments back to us and got right to work making comments about our papers. I looked down at my grade and my heart sank. Oh man; I got a “C”! That was like a death blow to me. I had committed to college, was newly married, didn’t have a job, and I got this really low grade. The professor never made eye contact with me while she spoke, but I knew most of her comments had to be directed toward me. It was near the end of the class when she said something to the effect of, “Now I want to briefly make a few comments about the best paper in the bunch.”
Well, I was devastated and had my tail tucked squarely between my legs. I didn’t need to hear about somebody’s’ brilliant paper. She then turned to look at me. Yeah, that was one of those moments when you turn around to look behind you to see who she was looking at. There was nobody behind me. I thought to myself, “She surely forgot who the real person was.” The instructor then went into why it was the best paper she had ever read. I was floored. Again, I looked at my paper. Yup, it was CLEARLY a “C”. Then I looked at it better. It was nearly solid red from her spelling corrections. Did I mention that I can’t spell worth beans?
I looked up at her again to make eye contact. She came closer and began to speak firmly, “I don’t EVER want to see another paper from you that is so messy and with so many spelling mistakes. If you need a dictionary I’ll provide you with one. I’ll look forward to reading your next paper.”
I simply nodded and said “Okay.” I didn’t even explain the circumstances. I took it on the chin and moved forward. I passed that class with a good grade. I can’t remember the grade specifically, but it gave me confidence to continue my education. I had just completed the two most difficult classes (or so I thought) and was prepared for the rest.
“So, what does that have to do with the title of this blog?” you might ask.
I’m a writer.
More specifically; I am a story teller. Some people would argue that there is or isn’t a difference. At the end of the day it does not matter what you call it, as it is nothing but a word. However, if one cannot tell a story, then they are merely a technical documenter.
My books are not going to win any awards from the NY Times because, frankly, I am not a technical writer. I cannot write using the rigid rules and regulations that are taught at higher levels of writing courses in college. It is a sad state of affairs when the people that hand out these awards will only use the criteria they were taught in these advanced classes. They suffered through them and for that reason; they are going to apply the criteria they were told to use to identify “good writing”.
Last year I was given a book about writing techniques. Somebody read one of my books and though that they would do me a favor. I was actually appreciative and began to read it, thinking that I might have a few things to learn that I could use as a tool. Each chapter gave you rules to use and had you do writing exercises to get accustomed to using them.
It did not work. I tried to write something using the techniques gleaned from the book and the creative part of my mind stopped DEAD. Why? Because it was no longer me writing the story. It was me trying to write something down according to rules. The story in my mind evaporated. You see, the voices in my head could not speak because it was not the characters talking. And the narrative part of the book was not ME talking. It was me, modified by a set of rules.
I can still recall one of the most important things I learned from my Writing 101 course. The professor said that we could be good writers if we learned all of the techniques of fine writing, but we would be a great writer if we could write the spoken word.
You might be able to relate to what I am talking about if you were to read a book of writing techniques and then try to speak to people according to all those rules. You will simply forget about what you are talking about because your mind will keep focusing on your speaking technique instead of the subject matter.
A true writer writes what they see in their mind. It is like watching a movie in your head. I see myself as a person that somehow catches a story as it is passing by and I write down what I see and hear. In-fact, rarely do I know what is going to happen in the story until I begin to type. It then flows and I can barely keep up with it. And that is where we come to the title of this blog… Creating a World.
I wrote a trilogy that is ENORMOUS! People always ask me why I wrote such a huge story. Well… I created a world. Have any of you ever tried to create a world? It gets complicated. But man! Is it ever cool!
Yes, I actually did create a world. The characters in the trilogy are every bit as real to my mind as the life I actually lived. They have names, colors, attitudes, and personalities just as much as real living people that I know. Readers that read the trilogy become immersed into that world if they let themselves go and forget about technique. They then begin to hear the true voices of the characters and the narrative from a real person.
In a sense, the story is an escape from our reality. In my case, however, I brought the reality of our world into the world of the story. It is a melding of worlds. And yes, it “feels” VERY real to me. I think about those characters as much and more than real people. I always will.
The interesting thing is that many of the characters in that world carry pieces of me with them. In a sense, I am a part of many of them, but not all of them. Some of the characters are probably the anti-me. And then there are the characters that are just “them”. Those characters are probably made up of pieces of people I have met in my life.
The “world” I created began a very long time ago when some ass-hole said that I was all I was ever going to be by working for him. I was most fortunate to have him say that to me that day. I turned from him and not only became something much more, but I even created an entire world.
And who is my most devoted fan of my books? My wife. You see, I DID deliver in the end.
(Using spell checker)